Battle for the ages

TODD SAELHOF, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

The Battle of the Breeds is a war of -- and for -- the ages at the Masters every year.

That's as long as 70-year-old Doris Heintz is competing in the clash to decide which of the 13 equine breeds performs the best in a five-event Olympic-style competition at Spruce Meadows.

And that might be for some time yet, promises the veteran cowgirl from High River.

"Probably about 15 years ago, somebody asked me if I was still riding, and my husband asked the other day if I would compete again next year, and I said 'probably,' " Heintz said.

"I've been riding since I was a baby -- I think I was born on a horse."

Heintz, who turns 71 tomorrow, certainly knows how to handle the four-legged creatures -- as evidenced here by her performance in the 2006 Telus Battle of the Breeds.

In one capacity or another, the mother of five and grandmother of nine has been a part of the competition since its inception 16 years ago.

And that experience always makes her one to beat during the battle that pits the 13 breeds against one another in compulsory skills, show-jumping, barrel racing, trail riding and precision driving.

"We're all friends until we walk through that gate," said Heintz with a smile. "And it's got nothing to do with age -- they go out there to beat me, and I go out to beat them."

For the last nine years, Heintz has competed in the battle atop her 14-year-old chestnut Quarter Horse named Pokey's Peppy Princess.

"She'll do any event you ask her to," said Heintz, who's qualified on Pokey's Peppy Princess for the Canadian Senior Pro Rodeo in October in Medicine Hat.

"She'll do cow horse, reigning and cattle penning, and she's a grand champion halter mare."

Heintz and her beloved horse hold the Battle of the Breeds' record barrel-race time at 19.99 seconds and recorded the second-best trip here Friday in 22.83 seconds.

While this year's quick time put the Quarter Horse team in position to charge for the overall title, the Connemara breed staved off their push to claim its first championship.

It was a surprising win for the Connemara horses and the third time in three years a new king has emerged to claim the Battle of the Breeds.

Last year, Team Welsh Cob & Pony took the title away from three-time reigning champ Team Appaloosa.


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