The name Neal Walgenbach has almost always been associated with some kind of achievement in the world of professional chuckwagon racing.
Just to name a few (and this could be a long list) he was named the Rookie Driver of the Year by the World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA) in 1987, the year he started to drive chuckwagons; in 1995 he received Orville Strandquist Award (Calgary Stampede Top Rookie Driver); he won championships, more than once in several local events (Medicine Hat, Ponoka, Grand Prairie, Lethbridge, Strathmore); in 2001 and in 2007, he was WPCA Dodge Pro Tour Champion; twice holder of WPCA Equine Outfit Of Excellence title;- Champion Left Leader; 2008 CPCA Champion; 2009 CPCA High Point Driver, CPCA Prairie Racing Series.
And to top off all these successes, Walgenbach received the 2010 Richard Cosgrave Memorial Award, becoming the Calgary Stampede Aggregate Winner, crowning his retirement with a very prestigious trophy.
His official biography as provided by the WPCA also says that he is “co-holder of the track record at the Calgary Stampede GMC Rangeland Derby, a time of 1:13:26, and has the highest sudden death final win percentage of any active WPCA driver.”
Continuing to detail his achievements on the race track may block the whole space reserved for this article, so now to his story:
Neal Walgenbach’s success in the race track is no coincidence; he comes from a family that has adopted chuckwagon driving almost as a lifestyle. Neal’s father Hally Walgenbach is still described as “a legend” in the WPCA annals with his four world and Calgary Stampede championship titles.
“I started a little bit when I was young with my dad,” said Walgenbach telling the story of his career.
“And then he quit and I went to work in the oil patch. A guy named Bob Bolin started to drive in Stettler and I started helping him and then when he quit, I kept going.”
“I think it was making it to Calgary Stampede and racing against the top guys in the world in the first year of chuckwagon driving,” said Walgenbach when asked what he considered as his biggest achievement.
“After that, when you made a dash, it didn’t matter what show you were at, it was always competitive and everyone of them has got a highlight; every one of them has a special meaning to them.”
To seal his retirement from the sport, Walgenbach sold 15 of his horses, his chuckwagon and most of his equipment in an auction immediately after the end of this year’s Calgary Stampede.
And his love of horses came back to reward him even when he was parting with them:
Western Roller, a steel grey five-year-old thoroughbred that works the left wheel, sold for a record $55,000 during Walgenbach’s auction at a Calgary Stampede barn
The horse was not one Neal Walgenbach had willingly included in his own lot.
Western Roller was offered to Walgenbach at a time when he was pursuing an opportunity to buy another horse named “Western Ruler.” The horse was not even in a good shape when the offer was extended to Walgenbcah, Having been thrown over the rail during a race, Western Toller had a seriously injured knee.
Despite that, Walgenbach did not turn down the elderly gentleman who was trying to sell the Western Roller and in the loving and patient hands of the Walgenbach family, the horse quickly pulled together and became a very great racer.
His retirement does not mean that Walgenbach will stop being involved in the sport for good.
He says he retired because he felt it was time to call it quits due to advancing age as well as declining sponsorships.
“I always play around and break a few horses for some drivers,” Walgenbach said.
“But it is time to do some work and then when you take holidays, it is time to see some of the world, travel a little bit, some hunting, some