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Canadian pride is through the roof

Lifelong love of horses helped keep Saskatoon businessman on the right track

photo: edna manning

Bruce Taras is proud to be Canadian and his new riding arena illustrates that very well. The businessman, horse trainer and owner of the Lazy T Ranch west of Saskatoon recently expanded his boarding facilities by adding a large indoor arena with a special feature.

“My wife Marjorie and I thought if we were going to build a new indoor riding arena, we should do something different,” says Taras.

With his knowledge of graphics and help of some highly skilled labour, Taras created a Canadian flag design that covers the roof of his arena. The flag, which measures 30 metres by 15 metres, is possibly the largest flag-roof design in North America.

The flag was designed to exact scale at his business, Qwik Signs in Saskatoon. The roof has two bars of red at each end and the maple leaf in the center. It was constructed from pre-painted, ribbed sheet metal roofing. No paint or decals were used in the fabrication.

“We joined sheets of roofing metal inside the facility on the ground. The maple leaf was drawn onto the sheet metal, cut out with a special metal-cutting tool, and all the pieces were numbered. We placed the numbered pieces on the roof in proper sequence. That was the easy part — the installation took us about four hours. The design and cutting took 30 hours,” Taras says.

The arena opened in time for Canada Day celebrations July 1, 2013.

A small barn has since been re-roofed and now displays Saskatchewan’s provincial flag in complete detail.

Raising Tennessee Walkers

Taras has been raising registered Tennessee Walking horses for the past 20 years and currently has eight registered Tennessee Walkers of his own and 25 boarders of various breeds.

“The Tennessee Walking horse or gaited horse was developed as a specific breed for plantation owners in the southern U.S. to monitor the slaves picking tobacco and cotton. They wanted a saddle horse with a calm disposition that was comfortable to ride. Tennessee Walking horses are noted for their smooth gait and easy-going disposition,” Taras says.

Taras has more than 53 years of experience in training horses. His love of the animals began when he was a 13-year-old working a paper route on the west end of Saskatoon. “The last stop on my route was a riding stable owned by Gordon Spence. From my paper money, I purchased my first horse when I was 13.

“Horses kept me off the streets as a youth,” says Taras. “After school and after delivering papers I stayed busy with horses and went home at night. My weekends were always occupied with the horses. It was a great benefit to me.”

The stable owner, cowboy named Gordon Spence, became his mentor. “He was an old rodeo cowboy and a very skilled horseman who had travelled the rodeo circuit for many years. His skill with animals was unique. He was a very knowledgeable individual and knew more about horses than any person I’ve ever known. He was a fine man and a great teacher. He not only taught me a lot about horses, but also about life and what work was all about.”

Always loved horses

In his teens and youth, Taras spent a great deal of his spare time around horses and developed the skills necessary to teach and train the animals. “I was breaking horses when I was 14 and absolutely loved it. When I was 21, I had the opportunity to help round up a herd of wild horses near Ashcroft in the mountains of B.C. That was a great experience for a young ‘prairie boy,’” he says.

When he was young, Taras also participated in bull-riding and bareback rodeo events at the encouragement of another one of his mentors, Ralph Claypool and his wife Ellen. Taras taught his horses to perform a variety of tricks to entertain audiences at halftime during rodeo events, which helped with road expenses.

“I’ve gotten a lot of bumps and bruises over the years that come with the territory, but if you take the time with the horses, you’ll be amazed what they can do and how well they respond,” he says.

Taras says patience and kindness are two of the most important factors to remember in working with horses; also body language. “If you watch a horse — they’re all body language — how they move and how they gesture, this is how they mostly communicate with other horses.”

In 1992, Taras took over his uncle’s farm, which originally belonged to his grandfather. He got back into horses simply for the love of the animals, though he was still operating his textile business at the time. He decided to retire from the business in 2001, but says he just couldn’t sit still. He started the sign business in his garage as a hobby, which was eventually relocated in Saskatoon. He credits his success to Marjorie, his wife of 40 years, who has supported his every effort; his three children, Mitch, Chris and Amanda who have been equally supportive; and his parents Peter and Francais, who made sure the horse board was paid when the paper route was a little short of funds.

Taras also values the influence of Gordon Spence, who taught him how to have a strong work ethic and more about horses in seven years than most people learn in a lifetime. “With a good work ethic, I think anyone can be reasonably successful in life,” says Taras. “The world is open to you — people have to seize the opportunities at hand and work hard. If you run into obstacles, which happen in everyone’s life, you’ve got to overcome them and move on.”

Boarding and training

The Lazy T currently boards about 30 horses but the facilities are available to accommodate 50 animals. With two barns, Taras has 22 box stalls along with several private outdoor paddocks with shelters. He has 70 acres of pasture for the animals. Boarders are entitled to the use of all the facilities. “We also have a young lady who trains horses and provides riding instructions at the Lazy T Stables. Rachael Johnson is an accomplished horse trainer from England with 14 years of training horses. She has a great deal of experience and a wealth of knowledge. She loves horses and is a dedicated, competent and capable gal.

“We live in the greatest country in the world,” says Taras. “The huge Canadian flag roof and the provincial flag roof on our barns are a reminder to everyone who either drive by or fly over the Lazy T Stables of how fortunate we all are to be able to enjoy the freedom our country offers us.”

For more information, contact Bruce Taras at the Lazy T Ranch at (306) 229-6651, or send him an email.

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