Horse-loving William Shatner plays it safe as Stampede parade marshal

Published on July 3, 2014
Calgary Stampede Parade Marshal William Shatner speaks to the media about the upcoming event at a news conference in Calgary Thursday. — Photo by The Canadian Press

William Shatner says he will choose the captain’s chair in the back of an automobile as opposed to a captain’s saddle on the back of a four-legged steed as he presides over the Calgary Stampede parade as grand marshal Friday.

Shatner, 83, played Capt. James T. Kirk in the original “Star Trek” series as well as in the movies, has won several Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe and is an avid horseman who has competed in a number of events.

Traditionally, Stampede parade grand marshals travel the route on horseback. But Shatner is choosing to ride in an antique car with his wife Elizabeth and says that while he would like to get in the saddle, it just isn’t practical.

“I don’t know the horse. I’ve ridden a horse in parades before. ... It’s long, it’s hard on the horse, the surface is very tough even with shoeing,” Shatner said.

Shatner said he rode one of his horses in the last parade he was in and was placed behind the UCLA marching band. In order to keep the horse calm his trainer gave it a sedative.

“But how much do you give a horse who is behind the UCLA band? So he had to guess,” he said with a chuckle.

“The band started up, the horse was very calm. But the band took a right turn because it was going to go around again and I was leading the parade. By about the third block the horse got real sleepy and the fourth block I had to get off and lead the horse. That was the last time.”

Born in Canada, Shatner said his immediate family is joining him from California. He then intends to go on a trail ride in Banff on Saturday.

“Riding has become a spiritual event for me. My ability to guide a horse in competition has improved dramatically over the years because I’ve begun to understand a horse’s nature,” Shatner said.

Shatner was given a silver Stampede belt buckle for agreeing to be parade marshal. He said he didn’t exactly need his arm twisted to agree to do it.

“How much cajoling and coaxing? Well, Canadian steaks are grass fed for the most part and so they dangled a little rib-eye and that’s all it took.”

There’s also the lure of watching rodeo.

“I go to rodeos and I watch rodeos on television. I love to see a guy on a bucking horse and the bulls.

“You sit in the stadium and wonder how can a guy be so crazy, how stupid is he to get on a bull? And then he goes eight seconds and everybody cheers.”

Shatner is keeping active into his 80s.

He just finished a movie last week entitled “Sunday’s Horse.”

It’s about Touch of Class, which was on the United States equestrian team at the 1984 Summer Olympics, winning the gold medal in the individual and team show jumping events.