By Guy Weadick
During the spring Horse Show at Calgary last April, probably the most discussed horse, in general conversation, was “Bouncing Buster,” the veteran, tried and true, grand old high jumping horse who as always was one of the outstanding stars of the show.
More than one of his admirers asked the question, “how much longer are they going to jump him, before retiring him?” The prevailing opinion seems to be that the old warrior should be retired now, before he cripples himself or someone riding him. Recent instances prove that no matter how good a horse was once, nor how willing and loyal he may be now, there is a limit to when they can be considered safe and not considered a risk both for the horse and rider.
So many stories have made the rounds regarding Bouncing Buster: what is his breeding, where he came from; his age; how he came to be a high jumper; who trained him and where; how long has he been jumping?
The public interest appeared so great that I thought for the book, I would start at the beginning and ask the man whose brand he carries on his jaw and next ask the man who first broke him to saddle, and arranged to start him on his jumping career.
Hon. John J. Bowlen, Lieut. Governor of Alberta, more intimately known to Canadian stockmen as Jack Bowlen, owned a ranch of something in excess of 50,000 acres near Ronolane, Alta., upon which in addition to cattle he ran a bunch of 2,000 horses, which carried his brand 9 Bar on the jaw and hip.
Regarding Bouncing Buster, Governor Bowlen has this to say: “Bouncing Buster is by a Thoroughbred sire and Standard Bred dam. There were three good Thoroughbred stallions on the ranch at the time and I don’t know for sure which one of them sired him, as they ran in a large pasture. I also had a good Quarterhorse stallion in the same pasture that I had obtained from Addison P. Day of Medicine Hat, Alta., but I do not think Bouncing Buster was his son. We raised many colts of top quality, like Bouncing Buster, but they never got the same breaks as to handling and training that he received. Walter Kane of Winnipeg is the man who deserves credit for the development of this horse. He was and is a fine animal, honest, faithful and at his present age and considering his long and active jumping career cannot be expected to last much longer.”
And from Walter Kane comes the following authentic data on the horse. Walter, as many are aware, in the years back, along with his brothers Jack and Ray were well known cowhands at the earlier cowboy competitions held in the Canadian West and Northwestern States. For many years now Walter has resided at Winnipeg where he heads the Walter Kane Equipment Co. Ltd. Here is what Walter says about Bouncing Buster.
When J.J. Bowlen sold the 9 Bar outfit to Belkoski & Finklestein, the new owners shipped several horses from the outfit direct to Winnipeg, where at the time Walter Kane was operating the Cambridge Riding Academy and Josie Welch (son of the late Peter Welch) was in charge of operations for him.
During the fall of 1931, Walter purchased three yearling colts from the 9 Bar outfit, a bay and a brown, both geldings and a grey filly for $20.00 each. They were loaded in a truck and sent out to the country to a farm owned by Mr. Duncan MacIver, a friend of Walter who was to raise the colts on his place, until they had attained an age when Walter would break them to sale.
While the colts were being unloaded at the farm, the brown gelding (Walter had reckoned was the best of the three) broke his leg. Leaving only the grey filly and the bay gelding, which Mr. MacIver named “Buster.”
When the two colts were just past three years of age, Walter brought them to Winnipeg and himself broke them to saddle and rode Buster for about a year, and then turned him over to Josie Welch at the Riding Academy to train him for jumping.
Josie, as is well known, had plenty of experience and ability in training jumping horses, having been boosted up on them, when he was yet too small to climb aboard by himself.
At the Riding Academy they had an excellent jumping chute which they used to loose-jump their colts, before anyone was ever allowed to ride them over a jump. By this method their horses became more or less natural jumpers. It was in this manner that Josie started the jumping education of Buster.
From then on they started jumping him at various Horse Shows in Manitoba and other Western Canadian Horse Shows.
All the time Buster kept improving until they moved him into the high jumping classes and Josie worked him up to where he cleared 6′ 5″ with him over an exhibition high jump.
They kept the horse until he was 12 years old and in the interval Walter sold and bought the horse back on three different occasions, but during all that time he was kept at the Cambridge Riding Academy until the supervision of Josie Welch.
It is probably safe to say that Buster won more first prizes than any jumping horse in Canada.
In 1941 when Josie Welch resigned his position to return to Alberta and open up his dude ranch at Bragg Creek, Walter decided to sell his jumping string.
In selling Buster he was more or less looking for a good home for the horse and he selected Gordon and Lillian Willamson as the purchasers, and as he recalls it sold them the horse for $150.00.
The Williamsons have jumped him continuously since 1942 up to the present time and there can be no doubt that he has won several thousand dollars during the past eight or nine years for his owners and continued to win a good percentage of all performances for high jumping.
In the opinion of Walter Kane, Bouncing Buster is an iron horse, if ever there was one, and yet he possesses the sweetest disposition of any horse he ever knew, and knows as much as a human being, and a great deal more than some.