In April 2012, Gilbert decided it was high time to return to his home province of Quebec to visit with family. He flew in to Pierre Trudeau Airport (formerly Dorval) on the “red eye” from YVR, and was met by his older brother, Albert Roy, a well known horseman with a ranch in St. Jean de Matha, Quebec, north of Joliette. Once there, Gilbert was caught up in a whirlwind of activity related to Albert’s business of boarding, training, selling horses and running a tack shop. Albert is known for his involvement with the RTPQI (Regroupement Team Penning Quebec International) and was on a team that finished 5th in the world championships in Germany. (There’s a photo of Gilbert on the “bienvenue” page of Albert’s website – can you find him?)
Soon after his arrival, Gilbert’s “healing hands” were put to the test when he worked on two of the horses in his brother’s barn. One was a trail horse who had started kicking out when asked to go forward and didn’t want his face touched. Gilbert understood that it was a pain issue and went to work massaging the horse. The owner, a chiropractor for humans, told Gilbert, “Merci Gilbert pour le temps que tu as pris pour m’enseigner à relaxer l’esprit et le corps de mon ami-cheval Vegas.” (Roughly translated: Thank you for taking the time to teach me how to relax the spirit and body of my friend, Vegas.) The other horse was a reining horse belonging to Gilbert’s sister in law, Debra Roy, who is a top level “coach for coaches” certified by the FEQ. Her horse was high-headed, worried and wouldn’t let anyone touch his head, so he was very difficult to bridle, let alone ride. After two hours with Gilbert, Chunky Monkey was so much improved that Deb said the change in her horse was like night and day.
By the next weekend, they had loaded up Albert’s trailer with equipment to take to a horse expo in St. Tite, Quebec, north east of Trois Rivieres. Unfortunately, partly due to the cold weather, the attendance was down, but Gilbert enjoyed checking out the famous rodeo town of St. Tite. He had competed there himself many years earlier in bareback bronc riding, and again in 2000 in the team penning finals against competitors from around the world.
It’s an attractive town, with many interesting old fashioned buildings. One of the things St. Tite is famous for, is that it’s home to the internationally known Boulet cowboy boots.
Back at St. Jean de Matha, Gilbert enjoyed some shopping at the store run by Albert’s daughter Natalee, and watching some of the boarders at Albert’s barn, including a young girl who had trained her pony to lie down and play dead, among other great tricks. Sadly, it was indoors and most of the photos didn’t turn out very well. If it had turned out, one of the best shots would have been the pony giving her a “high five” as he lay on his back and she straddled his belly.
Then Gilbert, Albert and Natalee drove all the way to Matapedia on the Gaspe peninsula to visit their mother, who was recovering from a stroke. They had a great visit at the old farm where they had lived as children, although it had changed a great deal since they lived there during the 60’s. Some of the old horse drawn farm equipment that Gilbert had learned to use as a child is still there on display.
Back at Albert’s ranch, it was time to prepare for an auction. When Gilbert was in his early teens and even smaller than a jockey, he used to make a few dollars riding horses for people who wanted them to look good at the weekly auction. He was such a good rider he could make almost any horse look good, and the auctioneer could point out that even a child could ride the horse. Now Albert decided to challenge Gilbert to ride one of the horses he wanted to sell The young Quarter Horse mare had never seen a rope, but Albert challenged Gilbert to do a roping demonstration on her at the auction.
Gilbert worked horseback with Royale, the mare, for a few hours, getting her used to having the rope whirl around her head, then used to him throwing the rope and catching things from her back, and finally to dragging odd things, including a plastic barrel, around the arena. Next day at the auction, watching Gilbert warming up the little mare outside, a woman made a good offer on her before the auction even started. Gilbert went on with the demonstration, however, in order to publicize Albert’s own upcoming auction, and had the crowd whistling and stamping their feet as they enjoyed his cowboy roping demo. Albert could have sold the little mare four times over! He was so pleased that he’s planning to fly Gilbert out to prepare horses for his own annual auction next spring.
All too soon it was time for Gilbert’s return flight home. He had enjoyed visiting his family and was not only proud of his brother Albert and what he’s accomplished as a horseman in Quebec, but also of his niece Natalee Roy, who is now the fourth generation of Roys to be successful horsemen, or in Natalee’s case, a horsewoman!
There’s an interesting thing about Gilbert and his older brother Albert, who was almost like a father to Gilbert since their dad, Valmont Roy, died in a tragic accident when Gilbert was only 3 years old. Unbeknownst to each other, they both got Jack Russell terriers a few years back. Gilbert’s little JR, Snickers, used to ride Rambler, the farm’s palomino gelding. Albert’s little JR, Cowboy, has a full vote at family meetings when they’re gathered around the dining table. He sits on a chair with his paws on the table, and if anyone says “let’s vote”, he raises one little paw!
All in all, Gilbert says he’s proud to be a trans Canada cowboy!