Back to my roots in my cowboy boots

In the summer of 2002, at the age of 14, I set out west to discover Canada with my backpack. I purchased a Via Rail pass and travelled to Vancouver where I began my journey. After a few weeks in British Columbia I made my way to Alberta where I was enchanted by the majestic Rocky Mountains.

Having spent some time in the lush wilderness it was time to head to Calgary for some rodeo action. On a very hot summer day I found myself at the Calgary Stampede watching tie-down roping.  As I stood leaning on the white fence that separated the action from the crowd, everything around me stopped. It was as if the world had gone silent and transitioned into slow motion. As I watched the cowboys nod and their quarter horses race out of the chute with all that power, I was left in awe. The way they threw up their loop and started swinging that rope… Catching and stepping of in perfect synchronized motion with their horse - it was love at first sight!

This was not the first rodeo, I had been to in my life, but it was the first in a long time and the most important. My father was a rodeo cowboy and horseman who gave me my name due to its meaning. Derived from a Spanish King, Filipe holds the meaning, “A friend or lover of horses.”

When I was nine-years-old, my father sold everything we owned in Brazil and brought my family and I to Canada in the search of a better life. Growing up in an immigrant family had its challenges. The life we once knew back home of farms, rodeos and horses was no longer reachable here. Due to the expenses involved with moving a family to North America we were forced to get by with the little money my parents made. This distanced me from my roots that lie deep in the customs of the old west.

After returning home from my adventurous summer, I immediately began to search for a place where I could learn the art of tie-down roping. I found a roper who lived only 30 minutes away from my house and for the next four years I immersed myself in his world. I didn’t have money to pay for lessons so I mucked stalls and cared for the livestock in exchange for the knowledge all-around cowboy, Jason Thomson offered me.

After a few months roping the hay bail over and over again I was ready for my first roping horse. Due to my family’s lack of money I was unable to buy a seasoned roping horse, but that did not stop me. I purchased a 5-year-old broke quarter horse and spent the entire winter lugging a railroad tie around the arena and working on my pony. With “Amigo,” I managed to win a few roping competitions and rodeos in Ontario and even qualified for the National High School Rodeo two years in a row.

After high school I moved to Toronto to study Journalism at Ryerson University. Due to the amount of work the course required me to do, I was forced to sell my horse “Amigo,” and put all my energy on my future career. During my time studying I wrote many articles, produced and shot two international documentaries (Peru and Kenya) and backpacked Central America.

Now I am about to set off on the journey of my life - a 16,000 km horseback trip from Canada to my home in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Starting this July, I will ride two horses through 11 countries in North, Central and South America - a lifelong dream passed down by my father and inspired by Aime Tschiffelly’s 1925 ride from Argentina to New York.

Armed with a video camera, I will document the entire journey producing weekly video blogs and a feature Documentary at the end. During the ride I will bring awareness to human rights issues I encounter along the way while my horses trek for the respect and love these animals deserve.

Originally I had planned on leaving from Toronto, but after much research this past year I have changed my plans and will be departing from Alberta. Ending the journey inside South America’s largest rodeo, Barretos, as 30,000 people watch and cheer from the stands.

Since it was at the Calgary Stampede that I stepped back to my roots in my cowboy boots, it would be a dream come true to start my journey from the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

Let’s Ride Together!

Filipe Masetti Leite