Two world-class sporting families have swapped reins and continents to take on the challenge of trying out very different driving disciplines for a new series on H&C TV.
The Bowman family moved from Cumbria to Canada to fulfill a life-long ambition of racing chuckwagons at the Calgary Stampede. The legendary carriage driving team is comprised of 76-year-old George Bowman, his brother Robert and George’s two sons Young George and Barnaby.
Handing over the wagon reins were the Sutherlands, a family of cowboys who are considered to be chuckwagon racing royalty. There is King Kelly, who is 12 times world champion, his son Mark, Kelly’s brother Kirk and his son Mitch – all of whom are all larger than life and highly competitive.
The highs and lows of their lifeswap experience has been made into a two-part programme called 'Changing Reins: Calgary Stampede", which premieres on H&C TV on Monday 10 September.
Episode one shows the Bowmans arriving in Calgary, where they take a tour of the Stampede Park before flying up to Grande Prairie to meet the Sutherlands at their pre-season training ranch. It’s here that the Bowmans quickly learn that chuckwagon racing is a very different carriage driving, and the enormity of their task ahead really hits home.
Following some essential training with the Sutherlands, the second episode sees the Bowmans taking part in the Calgary Stampede. One by one they are welcomed on to the racetrack to the roar of 20,000 spectators. According to Young George the experience was “like being tied to a spaceship with a piece of string”.
George and co then get their chance to show the cowboys how the Brits drive, when Kelly and Mark fly to the UK to watch them compete in the national carriage driving championships. From here both families head to the Bowman’s home in Cumbria, where the Sutherlands have to drive a 120-year-old stagecoach from Newcastle to Carlisle, along Hadrian’s Wall.
They may be tough cowboys, but Kelly said it’s the “hardest thing I’ve ever done with four horses”.
According to Jonathan Rippon, head of programming for H&C TV, what makes this programme such compelling viewing is the uniqueness of the situation.
“The two families, who compete in adrenaline-pumping sports, display their fascinating personalities and an incredible in-built desire to win," he said.