Experience Pincher Creek
At the southern end of the Cowboy Trail sits the town of Pincher Creek. Founded in the early days of European settlement in the west, Pincher is a town proud of its cowboy past and present. It features a rancher’s rodeo where local cowhands get to show off their skills, as well as a professional rodeo that can help competitors get to the big shows like the Calgary Stampede or the National Finals Rodeo.
Small town rodeos are crucial for cowboys like bronc rider Dustin Flundra, who, along with his trick-riding, horse-whispering wife Niki, is among today’s professional rodeo elite. The prize money from every sanctioned rodeo adds up to become your ticket to the bigs, explains Dustin. “It was that last $600 I won at the rodeo in Hanna, Alberta, that gave me the score I needed to qualify for the national finals.” And if you don’t qualify, you can’t win.
Travelling from his ranch south of “Pincher” for over 12 years to compete, Dustin finally won the famous $100,000 cheque from the Calgary Stampede in 2014. And Niki has performed as a trick rider at national events all over the US and Canada.
Like most rural folks, though, they never lose touch with their roots. Which is why at 2015’s Pincher rodeo, over the August 14th to 16th weekend, Niki will be the headline entertainer, showing off her amazing relationship with horses. “In the Liberty Horse Show the horses perform with nothing but my body language and vocal commands,” she explains. “No saddles, whips, or gear of any kind!” It is, she says, a huge display of trust and of the horse and human relationship which audiences love.
“Pincher has a small town, friendly vibe that’s so welcoming,” enthuses Niki, “and it’s a beautiful setting for the rodeo, with the hill and the river right there.”
“It’s special because everybody’s there,” adds Dustin, “my first mentor, my chiropractor, my trainer – people who’ve had a lot of influence on my career.”
It’s not hard to imagine that a chiropractor could be an influential person for a guy whose job consists of flying through the air with a horse. Sometimes on it, sometimes not!
All in all, the pro rodeo sounds like one of the more amazing things to see this year in Pincher, but it’s not the only one.
There are a number of good family diversions in the area, from the famous Head- Smashed-In Buffalo Jump to the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in the heart of Pincher. The village has rave reviews on TripAdvisor, mostly because you can get up close and personal with the displays, and there’s lots of room to roam for the whole family in the recreated historical town site. It even features Kootenai Brown’s original cabin. And if you don’t know who Kootenai Brown is, it’s a piece of history worth a look. How many people, after all, were almost killed in a gunfight, and by Sitting Bull, and then went on to help establish Waterton Lakes National Park and be a champion of nature conservation.
Kootenai Brown is a great example of the old wild west. The Flundras are living examples of today’s slightly more civilized cowboy life. And horses are the constant that connects them all.
By Allen R. Gibson