My Canadian Adventure

It all started Tuesday morning.  My original plan was to fly from Des Moines to Chicago to Calgary to Vancouver to Kalowna.  Kalowna is about an hour from Butterscotch Castle Farm where a lovely, petite woman named Bonnie has an approved Trakehner stallion for sale.  She offered to pick me up at the Kalowna airport and have me stay in her home while I was visiting (which I greatly appreciated and will offer to my future customers.  It not only gave us plenty of chances to talk, but also made it possible to go outside and brush a horse at 1:00 am Iowa time, which we horse people have been known to do from time to time).  Up until now, all was going well.  I was on the last plane of the day and minutes away from Kalowna.  In fact, we were only 100 yards above the runway, but the fog was so dense, that the pilot couldn’t land.  I later found out that this happens occasionally in Kalowna, approximately for one or two days a year.  I guess I just got lucky and picked the right day.  An announcement came over the speaker (in French as well as in English) that we were being rerouted to Victoria.  WestJet, God bless them, was willing to put us all up in a hotel in Victoria for the night and try to fly us into Kalowna again in the morning.  Now maybe you already know this (although I certainly didn’t previous to my adventure) but Victoria is on a flippin’ island in the middle of the freakin’ Pacific Ocean.  In other words, it wasn’t possible to just hop on a bus or rent a car and drive to my final destination.  I was stuck.  I had to call Bonnie, who had taken the day off work just to come get me, and explain the situation.  She was so nice—she said she had friends in Victoria that would put me up for the night and entertain me (I imagine they were dancers, maybe?), but since the hotel was at the airline’s expense, I opted to stay at the local Travel Lodge (free continental breakfast included).

So now my modified plan was to wake up, shower, eat breakfast (which turned out to be a rather disappointing orange-coconuty type muffin), and hop on the earliest flight to Kalowna where Bonnie would pick me up, whisk me away, and off we’d go to see the horse of my dreams.  However, upon arriving at the airport, an announcement was made to all passengers on Flight 832 from Victoria to Kalowna that due to fog, the plane may or may not be able to land in Kalowna after all.  If unable to land, it would continue on to Edmonton in Alberta and WestJet would see to it that eventually we would all safely end up in Kalowna.  I phoned Bonnie (that’s how they say it in Canada—“phoned” instead of “called”) and she urged me not to get on that plane.  She had stayed the night at her daughter’s home near Kalowna and said that the fog was even worse than the day before and no planes were able to land.  If I ended up in Edmonton, it would be too far of a drive for her to come get me by car. A decision was made that the best option was for me to take a ferry to Vancouver.  A ferry.  We don’t have ferries in Iowa.  Not much of a demand for them.  This would be an adventure!   Maybe I’d see whales and dolphins playing in the ocean.  Maybe a few pirate ships, too. (As it turned out, I saw seagulls and seals and beautiful scenery, but no pirate ships.)  Bonnie would pick me up at the terminal and we’d drive the five hours back to her home in Oliver where I would FINALLY be able to see this horse.  If all went well, we’d arrive at her place by 9:00 that evening.  (By the way, ferries are big.  They not only hold people, but the bottom couple of decks are full of cars and trucks that people actually drive onto them.  And if you are hungry or feel like shopping, there are restaurants and shops inside the ferry.  It’s like a mall that floats on water complete with parking lot and everything.  If the people in Iowa only knew what they were missing.)

Even though I was now on my way to the mainland and my accommodations (including mediocre breakfast) had been taken care of, this led to another problem.  I had only allowed three days for this trip- one to get there, one to see the horse, and one to get back home.  Plus, Bonnie had made arrangements for ourselves and a trainer to take Prelude to a nearby indoor arena so we could ride him and for the veterinarian to come out.  All this was scheduled to happen on Wednesday, but now my Wednesday would be spent in boats and cars (although the good new is, I hadn’t been on a train yet).   Fortunately, after many, many phone calls (on “roam”, mind you-Sprint does not offer local service to British Columbia), all appointments and plane reservations were rescheduled so I could stay for another day and do all the things that I came all this long, long way to do.

I enjoyed my car ride with Bonnie.  It’s fun to talk with other horse people.  We can relate to things that “non-horsey” people can not.  For example, Bonnie told me a story about a mare she once had that was afraid of cows.  Because Bonnie liked to trail ride and do endurance rides in places where there would often be cows, it was necessary to help this horse to get over her fear.  She explained to me how they tried everything but nothing was working.  So they bought a cow.  The sad part is, purchasing a cow seemed like a perfectly logical solution to me.  At what point in my life did buying a cow become “normal”?  Not sure what the answer is to that one.

During our drive, she pointed out places on our route where she typically sees bears and she was watching the winding roads carefully for deer and elk.  Bears. Elk.  They’re about as common in Iowa as ferries.  Just another part of my great Canadian adventure!

We arrived at Butterscotch Castle at approximately 9:00 pm (which is 11:00 pm Iowa time-- WAY past my bedtime).  Bonnie’s husband, Bryan, had a nice dinner ready for us.  Shrimp cocktail and all.  I was being wined and dined to the nth degree.  They really made me feel welcome.

Now back to the horse.  After dinner, I went out to the barn to meet Prelude.  I was instantly impressed.  Here before me stood a stallion of legendary bloodlines (he is by Mozart and out of a Condus mare) with perfect conformation.  He was big but not clunky, powerful, yet respectful.  He has an incredible presence, but is not intimidating at all.  Bonnie had raised him from birth and had never let him get away with anything.  He knew how to behave.  And he loved attention.  Even though he didn’t know me from Adam, he stood still on the crossties while I groomed him and picked out his hooves.  Hmmm.  This horse has definite possibilities.  I couldn’t wait to ride him.

The next day (let’s see now, that would be Thursday), we took him to a farm with an indoor arena.  Olivia came with us.  She is a young lady who has ridden him from time to time and takes her dressage very seriously.  (I guess that’s rather redundant, isn’t it?—everyone who rides dressage takes it very seriously).  She rode him first so I could see him go and then I got on.  What an amazing horse!  I could feel the power in every stride.  His canter was like none I’ve ever ridden before.  I felt the same way I did when I was a little girl and cantered for the very first time.  This canter was so big and powerful that it was like I was cantering for the first time all over again.  Bonnie took some photos of me on him (please see above) and she and Olivia commented on how the two of us looked good together.  Then Olivia got on him again and I watched him jump.  We had to create some “makeshift” jumps out of construction barrels and cones and a big stick.  (Hey, where there’s a will, there’s a way, right?  If you want to jump a horse badly enough, you will find something over which to jump him. That’s my motto, anyway.)  I think this was the deciding moment.  Watching Prelude jump was like a dream.  Here was a horse with both the talent and the desire to jump.  His form was perfect and he loved it!  And the jump we built for him was not nearly big enough to test his talents.  This horse has more talent in the frog of his left front hoof than I do in my whole entire body.  He’s capable of going much further in his jumping career than I am capable of taking him.  I made a mental note to add “Professional Jumper Rider” to the list of things to buy for Prelude.

I had the opportunity (thanks to Bonnie’s tireless efforts and several tankfuls of gasoline in her van) to see 3 of Prelude’s offspring.  Each was unique, and each was very correct with straight legs, big knees and hocks, nice shoulder angles, and Prelude’s eyes.  They all had Prelude’s beautiful eyes.  Eyes with an expression that was dignified and aristocratic and at the same time soft and kind.  They impressed me as being horses with enough talent to take them to the highest levels of dressage and jumping and with dispositions that were easy to handle and suitable for an amateur owner.  The perfect combination!  I started imagining what foals would look like out of my mares and by Prelude.  Oh, the possibilities!

The vet came out and we collected Prelude (even though it was January and therefore earlier in the year than we would normally be breeding him).  But I figured I needed to see the routine that Bonnie and her vet had established so that I could reproduce it at home.  Again, I was impressed.  Prelude is definitely a stallion with a strong libido, but is manageable and well behaved.  He was easily ground collected in his stall and then we examined his semen under the microscope.  Everything looked wonderful.  His numbers and morphology were great.  This horse was really shaping up to be the horse that I was looking for!

The next day was spent traveling home.  I had one scare in Calgary when the plane was delayed twice—once due to a mechanical issue and once due to fog.  But I did make it home by Friday night.  Somehow my luggage ended up in Atlanta.  I was never in Atlanta.  I don’t plan on going there (or anywhere else) in the near future.  I’ll be busy getting ready for Prelude’s arrival.  He passed his pre-purchase exam and will be traveling to Iowa in early March.  Imagine what an adventure that will be for him!

*Prelude arrived safely at Stopek Stables in March 2005 and is busy breeding mares and showing.  Please visit his website at for more information.

Prelude by Mozart is owned by Karen Stopek/Stopek Stables. 

For more information, phone 515-988-2700 or


or write to Karen Stopek at 246819 270th St., Adel, Iowa 50003.



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This page last updated on June 07, 2009