A Maple Ridge cow wrangler is trying her best to get to the mecca of rodeos in Canada: the Calgary Stampede.
Aspen Ledger, 20, competes in team cattle penning, an event where a team of three riders herd specific cattle from a large group into a pen.
There are three riders in team cattle penning: a first, second and turn-back.
At one end of the arena are 30 cattle, numbered from zero to nine, and three of each number. At the other end of the arena, there is a pen with a foul line.
A number is called and the three riders have to single out the three cows with that number, get them out of the herd and to the pen at the other end of the arena without a single wrong number cow crossing the foul line in less than 60 seconds.
The first rider pulls the first cow, the second rider pulls the second cow, then the first rider pulls the third cow and the turn-back holds all the wrong-numbered cows on the other side of the foul line.
“It’s super fun,” said Ledger, who was introduced to the sport when she was invited to watch a friend’s sister compete in Langley.
Ledger, who was three when she first started riding horses, started penning when she was nine.
“It’s my favourite thing to do with riding because you have to react super quickly in really high-stress situations,” said Ledger.
“I have to make split-second decisions in order to get a quick time and it’s based on skill.”
Ledger, who works in teams all over the Lower Mainland, Canada and the United States, usually takes on the role of the first or second rider.
She rides her “little mare” Sugar, 8, a quarter horse that has cow-working throughout her bloodline.
“She super catty, which means that she loves to chase cows just as much as I do. She actually reads them better than I do and she has moves like no horse I have ever seen.”
Ledger has won six “buckles,” or titles, at Pacific Coast competitions and British Columbia sanctioned events. She also competes at the nationals every year in Calgary and has placed in the Top 20 a couple of times.
To qualify for the Stampede, Ledger had to compete in six shows during the season, which runs from March until May.
Now she just has to raise the money to be able to go.
“It’s honestly one of my most desired dreams,” said Ledger, who is to compete at the Calgary Stampede July 2-8, but must pay her entry fee by June 16.
“Even to be able to have the opportunity there, winning or not, is just such a big deal to me. It means everything to me, honestly.”
A fundraiser for Ledger is being held 7-11 p.m. on June 1 at the Anavets Unit 379, 22326 North Ave. in Maple Ridge. Local singer/songwriter Rocky Swanson will be hosting the event and performing.