Two-time world champion chuckwagon driver Rick Fraser and his wife Sue took a break from their busy, equine filled lives to speak about their experiences in the chuckwagon world at Pipestone Cowboys Church’s cowboy/cowgirl tribute, April 11.
Rick Fraser cannot pinpoint what exactly his love of chuckwagon means but the passion has been with him for as long as he can remember.
“I was actually born into a chuckwagon family. It’s just something we do,” said Fraser. His stepfather is former world champion Dave Lewis and his grandfather is the famous chuckwagon legend Tommy Dorchester.
Fraser says behind every good chuckwagon operation is all those who help care for the horses and the backbone of that is family. He explained his camp is like a wagon wheel, each individual person is just one spoke that helps make it go round. “I’m just one spoke.”
Being a dedicated family man, Fraser made sure to mention his son Cody started racing this year as well.
Part of that family unit is the horses themselves. “Our horses mean a lot to us. Not as much as family but very close.”
Fraser says a driver cannot expect to be successful and win without healthy, happy horses. He continued they are taken care of as the high performance athletes they are. “We’re not the athletes, they are.”
In order to maintain the health of his horses Fraser has chiropractors take a look at them when needed and they have annual dentist checkups. “Probably the single most important thing you can do is get a dentist out to see your horses.”
The rodeo and chuckwagon industry gets a back reputation regarding animal treatment and Fraser says, while he understands activists’ passion for what they believe, because they truly believe they are correct, the passion is “misdirected.”
Along with the the 53 racing horses — between him and his son— Fraser has also taken in thousands of other horses over the years from chuckwagon racing associations with the goal of prolonging their lives and keeping them away from slaughterhouses.
“The do-gooders, they have a passion and they really believe … They’d rather see a horse go to the slaughterhouse than what we do,” said Fraser, referring to the chuckwagon industry.
“When (rescue horses) come to us they’re not stuck in a box stall every day, they’re turned out every day,” he added.
When asked about strategy on the track Fraser says while so much of racing is luck he uses different horses for different barrel positions. He added, while a drivers’ position is luck of the draw he prefers barrel one, as it is the shortest distance around the track.
Fraser added being a chuckwagon driver and spending so much time around the horses, he has the opportunity to get to know them all. “The really neat thing is you get to know their personalities. It’s like meeting 50 friends.”
Sue Fraser grew up in the Grand Prairie area and says she married into the fast-paced, sometimes tumultuous sport of chuckwagon racing.
“It takes a good man to drive the lines,” said Sue, referring to her husband. “It hasn’t always been a bed of roses,” she added.
Sue told the church attendees when she and Rick first married they did not have a lot of resources and subsequently he had to quit racing for about 10 years. She recalls every time the rodeo came to town he would get involved as an outrider and every time it left he would have to stay behind.
That changed around 1998. “Finally I said I think we can do this,” said Sue. “Every marriage, you have to be together to do this,” she added.
For five years Sue pulled the couple’s three children our of traditional school and home-schooled them so they too could be raised in the chuckwagon world. “I’d never change it for the world.”
Sue also spoke about the Stu Grant Memorial Award she won at the Ponoka Stampede in 2014.
Every year the Black Aces Chuckwagon Promotion group rewards an individual who goes above and beyond the call of duty to support rodeo and chuckwagon racing. Approximately six years ago Sue started writing a blog called The Travelin’ Trailer about her experiences and views of life on the road and the chuckwagon industry. She says it started out small but is now read worldwide.