For several weeks, Bayleigh Choate has been escaping the usual Texas heat in foreign land–the mystifying nation of Canada. She has found her stride, placing at many of the rodeos in her Rookie season after taking horses to Canada. Choate currently leads the dirty-tough Resistol Rookie Standings with $37,246 in earnings, a nearly $7,000 lead above Wynne, Arkansas, native Taycie Matthews.
To many ProRodeo barrel racers, crossing the border is second nature—but it was uncharted territory for this 19-year-old Resistol Rookie contender. Choate has plenty of advice to share about the realities of traveling to Canada for newbies, and she visited with Barrel Racing Magazine while traveling in Alberta to help us put together a guide for what to expect if you’re planning on rodeoing north of the United States border.
Things you'll need for you
The first and most commonly known paperwork for the humans in the vehicle is a passport, which allows access into Canada and many other foreign nations around the world.
“I didn’t have a passport,” Choate explained. “But you need one. There’s only 26 passport offices in the United States and they were all booked besides this one office in El Paso (Texas). We made an appointment there and I had to get on a plane from the rodeo [where I was competing], fly down to El Paso and get one made in a rush.”
- COVID Vaccination Card
Whatever your stance is on the COVID vaccine, if you plan to cross into Canada you have to play by that country’s rules, which means getting a COVID vaccination and showing proof that you’ve gotten the shot.
According to the Government of Canada’s official site (Canada.ca) this is the required checklist to ensure you are able to enter Canada as of June 30, 2022:
To enter or return to Canada as a fully vaccinated traveler, you must follow all of these requirements.
“Whether you’re driving or flying, have the following items with you for assessment by a government official at the border (land border crossings do not provide WiFi for travelers):
- ArriveCAN receipt with letter A, I, or V beside the vaccinated traveler’s name
- Proof of vaccination that was uploaded into ArriveCAN (original or paper copy)
- Prepare for arrival testing if selected
- Travel document entered in ArriveCAN (e.g. passport)
- ArriveCan App
As mentioned above, downloading the ArriveCAN app is vital to ensuring you can enter into Canada on your way to the rodeos.
“You basically fill in all of your information, your passport details, and there’s a series of questions to answer,” Choate explained of the ArriveCAN app. “Once you fill it out, you have 72 hours to cross the border.”
The good news is that at the time of publication, pre-entry testing is no longer required before entering Canada provided the steps on the ArriveCAN app are followed, and unless you are selected for random, mandatory testing upon arrival at the border.
Things you'll need for the horses.
- Veterinary Health Certificate
According to the Canada Border Services agency, all horses entering Canada must be inspected by a veterinarian and have proof of said inspection within 30 days of entering the country, and be free of contagious diseases. The document must be completed and signed by your veterinarian and the CFIA or USDA Veterinarian. (Note: Your veterinarian will most likely have to send these papers via FedEx to an approved veterinarian for their signature, so be sure to allow extra time for this paperwork to be processed.)
- Negative EIA (Equine Infectious Anemia) Test
That’s right, a good old Coggins. Make sure your Coggins is current within 180 days of entry.
For additional equine information visit this site.
For your dog: Yes barrel racers, even your mini Aussie needs paperwork, too.
“If you have a dog, you have to have records of their rabies shots,” Choate said. “Then, all of their vaccination records as well. So make sure you check into that.”
At the Border
If you’re anxious about crossing the border when taking horses to Canada, you’re not alone. Every border is different. Some horror stories have circulated of border officers tearing through living quarters and trucks, but for the most part, these officials want to make sure you and your animals are healthy and accounted for and that you don’t have any illegal persons, substances or weapons on board.
“We crossed in Sweetgrass, Montana,” Choate recalled. “When you pull up, it’s really intimidating. They have all these lights, this big port–when you come across that hill, it’s scary. You’re thinking ‘Oh my gosh, do I have everything together?’ We pulled up to basically a toll booth, and they asked about all your paperwork. You pull up your ArriveCAN, tell them how many passengers you have, give them your passports, and then we were asked to pull up and go into a little building where one person takes all of your paperwork.”
It can be helpful to ask fellow competitors which border crossings are the simplest to navigate in order to avoid any possible conflicts. Certain crossings are not as knowledgeable as others regarding the paperwork relating to rodeo horses (racehorses and some other sports require additional paperwork.)
After your paperwork is checked, an officer typically asks you to drop your horses’ windows down and remove any fly masks or facial coverings to check their facial markings. At some crossings, you may be required to unload your horses, remove blankets, boots and masks, and allow them to check over your animals. This is when it becomes important that your horse matches the information appearing on their Coggins and health certificate exactly.
“I was so nervous, I even made sure I took new photos of all of my horses for their Coggins so the pictures were accurate,” Choate added.
Tip: Know your cell phone plan.
Canada may share many similarities with the United States, but it is still a foreign nation. Choate mentioned that her mother has an AT&T phone, which came equipped with a plan for Canadian travel, but she and her father have Verizon and had to adjust on the fly.
“So Verizon only gives you a small amount of data per day,” Choate explained. “I went and got a Canadian SIM card for my phone. I still have my Verizon SIM card, but I also have my Canadian SIM card in there, so I can use unlimited data up here and have two numbers. Before, I couldn’t hardly get my day sheets loaded before Verizon was texting me that I was over my data limit.”
Tip: Not all dollars are created equal.
Consider using an electronic payment system that automatically converts to Canadian dollars, or exchange your U.S. funds at the border. Canadians will likely be enthusiastic if you pay in American money, but will charge you as if you were paying in Canadian dollars. Depending on the exchange rate, you could end up costing yourself a lot of money.
“I went to a little jackpot and won my first Canadian money,” Choate excitedly stated. “That was the first time I’ve seen Canadian money. Let me tell you, it was so different. It looks like Monopoly money, like plastic. It’s kind of cool.”
Enjoying Canadian Rodeos
Great news: once you complete all the necessary steps and make it to the maple leaf nation, you might just love rodeoing north of the border. Choate has found that the committees seem to go the extra mile in every setup to care for the ground, and barrels are run at the beginning of the show, so the dirt is freshly drug.
Boozer, Preacher and Dash are the three weapons of choice that Choate took north with her, and they are loving the chance to experience different types of weather and arenas.
“We’ve run in big outdoor arenas, small outdoor arenas, sloppy mud for the first time—I ran on my first racetrack,” Choate said. “I’m loving those. It’s so cool because on the way out, there’s no closed gate. I don’t have to slam them in the ground, I can break them down and let them ease down the track.”
Looking ahead, it may be harder to get Choate to come back to the United States as she finds her groove up north.
“I’ll come back on the fourth of July for Cody, then return to run Calgary at on the 8th,” Choate said. “I’m loving the people and rodeos here. I was bummed to miss Reno and Sisters and some bigger U.S. rodeos, but I’m really excited for Ponoka, Calgary and some of the other big ones here. I’m happy with my choice to come up here. I feel like I’m handling the setups up here well, and the ground is just phenomenal. They work their butt off on the ground, so I’m really grateful. They also run the barrels first, which I love. We get to run and leave, and the ground’s not all torn up before we get to go.”
WPRA Rookie Standings
June 28, 2022
|1. Bayleigh Choate (R)||Fort Worth, TX||$37,245.15|
|2. Taycie Matthews (R)||Wynne, AR||$30,497.34|
|3. Presley Smith (R)||Denham Springs, LA||$25,792.78|
|4. Kailee Murdock (R)||Litchfield Park, AZ||$18,584.82|
|5. Jamie Olsen (R)||Brock, TX||$16,187.76|
|6. Katie Chism (R)||Tiskilwa, IL||$15,759.81|
|7. Jennifer Neudorf (R)||Grand Prairie, AB||$12,299.31|
|8. Chelsie Stodghill (R)||Prineville, OR||$9,849.50|
|9. Laura Mote (R)||Llano, TX||$9,436.84|
|10. Bugg Beeler (R)||Terrell, TX||$7,219.65|