• dinasutherland

If only we could win the lottery…….

Well, it is that time of year when most chuckwagon drivers are working hard to secure the financial support they need in order to head down the road this summer. Before we know it, the chuckwagon community, drivers and sponsors, will be gathered at Stampede Park in Calgary, AB for the first and most important canvas auction of the year. The Calgary Stampede tarp auction provides approximately 70 per cent of a driver’s annual budget. Just think how difficult it is for those drivers that don’t get to compete in Calgary.


This time of year is very stressful for most drivers, as teams try and figure out if they will be able to afford to operate in the 2019 season. I can guarantee you that there are many drivers and family members going through their daily routines continually thinking about their annual budgets, not knowing if they can afford to go down the road this summer.


So, what does it cost? Keep in mind that yes these costs can vary, but so does the sponsor proceeds.

· 35 head of horses that cost on average $5,000 each = $175,000

· One year of feed = $40,000

  • Grain - $16,000 / year

  • Hay - $12,000

  • Straw - $7,000

  • Feed supplements $5,000

· Farrier Services – 35 horses x 7 times a year at an average of $100/head = $25,000

· Veterinarian Services - $30,000 to $40,000 per year

· Fuel Costs – $50,000

· Wagon - $20,000

· Harness – $5,000

· Holiday Trailer – $80,000

· Liner - $100,000

· Big Truck to pull the liner - $20,000 to $40,000

· Two pick-up trucks - $160,000

· Hired Hands – $20,000 to $50,000

· Outriders - $30,000

· Horse Trailer - $20,000 to $30,000

And the list goes on……


I started to add the numbers of what a first-year driver would need in order to purchase the required equipment and pay his operational bills ­and the number is astounding! The total is over $1 million and it doesn’t include the land, the barns and all of the other necessities needed in order to operate a chuckwagon team. How can they afford to do this? Well, some have to make that hard decision that they can’t, some rely on the support of family and friends and some gamble by going into debt on the hope that they can work the rest of the year to recover. Side note: It is not easy to work the rest of the year and recover because a driver only has approximately seven months of the year to work. There are not a lot of employers that want an employee for only part of the year.


To keep things a bit simpler and not so overwhelming I decided to focus on the yearly operational budget which totals over $200,000. That doesn’t even take into account the repair and maintenance on all of the equipment and facilities. Think about what the average driver sells for in Calgary – the top typically sell right around the $100,000 and some for as low as $40,000. If this is 70% of your budget, remember I stated that the Calgary tarp sale is about 70% of the driver’s annual budget, the numbers just don’t add up.


So, why do we do it? Good question and a question that is debated around every chuckwagon family’s supper table. It’s hard to justify, but we love the horses, we are proud of our western heritage and we cherish the lifestyle. And for some, it is all that they know, they have grown up on the chuckwagon trail.


So when you hear of a chuckwagon driver throwing in the towel it is not for the lack of desire to race, the lack of appreciation for the lifestyle and the lack of love for their beautiful horses – they just simply can’t afford to carry on.


Here is hoping to a successful canvas auction season and seeing everyone down the road in 2019! Please help promote the sport and the upcoming tarp auctions.

We were very fortunate to have the support of Air Canada and Arizona Tourism in 2018.

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