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Three World Champions For Canada!

It might have been the greatest fifteen minutes in the history of Canadian Professional Rodeo.

For the first time ever Canadians have ridden away from the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo with three world titles. Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler in the Team Roping and Zeke Thurston in the Saddle Bronc Riding are all sporting the coveted gold buckles of World Champions.

Simpson from Ponoka (via Claresholm) and Buhler from Arrowwood had already made history when they became the first all-Canadian team to qualify for the WNFR. But that apparently wasn’t enough for the Alberta duo as they put together a 4.3 second run in the tenth and final go round at the Thomas and Mack Arena to split 1/2 and pick up a cheque of $23,480.77. That was good enough to take the team to the average title and a whopping $67,269.23 per man.

Put all that together along with the fact that some of the teams they were chasing struggled in the final round and the first-time qualifiers were World Champions—Levi with $249,133.31 in season earnings and Jeremy, sporting the most famous beard in rodeo, earning $258,311.13.

The talented twosome roped nine of ten steers, placed on seven, winning the first round and splitting first and second in two more including the critical tenth round. When the announcement was made, both cowboys were close to speechless, unlike the Canadian fans, both in the arena and back in Canada. The roar of approval was long and very loud.

Barrhead’s Kolton Schmidt, and American partner Shay Carroll, after winning the ninth go-round with the fastest time of the entire WNFR (3.6) took a no time in the tenth round.

The saddle bronc riding event follows team roping on the NFR program which meant that almost exactly fifteen minutes after Simpson and Buhler had laid claim to their title, Big Valley, Alberta cowboy, Zeke Thurston, climbed down in the chutes on the back of the Andrews Rodeo bronc, Fire Lane. The second generation qualifier, who came into the final round two points out of the lead for the average put together another solid ride for an 86 score to split 3/4 in the round and a cheque for $13,326.92. When Jake Watson posted 82.5 points and world leader/defending champion, Jacobs Crawley missed his horse out, Thurston vaulted to first place in the average and a season total of $265,449.45 to edge Crawley for the world title by just $2831.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” the recently married Thurston grinned. “I just can’t believe it. It’s crazy. I had a good week. I started off a little slow but things picked up. Luckily I was able to stay on nine of them. I knew the only way I could beat Jacobs was if they got him down or they missed him out and that doesn’t happen very often with Jacobs. It just goes to show you that anything can happen.”

For Watson, the Hudson’s Hope, BC cowboy, the 82.5 on Frontier Rodeo’s Short Stop was enough to split sixth in the round and finish up second in the average. The twenty-three year-old had a brilliant WNFR in his own right, as he climbed all the way from 15th place going in to fifth place in the world standings.

The third member of the talented Canadian bronc riding trio, Canadian champion Clay Elliott, captured fifth place in the final round on Frontier Rodeo’s Delta Force to collect $6769.23. The Nanton cowboy finished up 11th in the world with season earnings of $139,759.79.

Jake Vold ended his Wrangler National Finals Rodeo almost exactly the same way he started with a sixth place finish, this time with an 84.5 score on J Bar J’s All Pink. In between the first and last rounds, Jake won three go-rounds and finished the WNFR with $165,339.75 in earnings to end up second in the world standings with $240,161.06.

Manitoba’s Orin Larsen who re-injured separated ribs in the first round of this Finals, finished strong – placing in the last five rounds including a go round win in round #8, and wound up third in the world standings with $219,372.59

That means that of the eight competitors who proudly rode for the maple leaf, there were three firsts (two in one event), a second a third and a fifth, and a total WNFR haul that exceeded one million dollars – making this group easily the most successful in Canadian rodeo history.

Tim O’Connell of Zwingle, Iowa won both the average and the world title in the bareback riding.

There was a Canadian connection in the Tie Down Roping as well as three time Canadian Champion Tyson Durfey, the Weatherford, Texas hand, roped his way to the world title with $212,445.46 to slip by the Brazilian Marcos Costa by less than $4,000. Riley Pruitt of Gering, Nebraska was the average winner.

Tyler Waguespack, from Gonzales, Louisiana, was the average winner and world champion steer wrestler as well as the Top Gun winner, emblematic of being the highest money winner of the finals.

One of the very popular wins took place in the barrel racing where 68 year old Oklahoma barrel racer, Mary Burger, hung on to win her second title with just a five thousand dollar margin of victory over first time qualifier Amberleigh Moore of Keizer, Oregon. Four time Canadian champion, Lisa Lockhart of Oelrichs, South Dakota won the average title with ten clean runs.

And in the bull riding, it was Sage Steele Kimzey, the mega-talented Strong City, Oklahoma cowboy, making it back to back to back titles as he finished up with earnings of over $300,000 and a $24,000 margin of victory over fellow Oklahoman Breenon Eldred. Former world champion, Shane Proctor, of Grand Coulee, Washington won the bull riding average title.

Team roper Junior Nogueira was the All-Around champion with $231,728.33.

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Arena Chatter Courtesy of CPRA Results

How To Spell Relief… W-I-N

For Barrhead’s Kolton Schmidt and American partner, Shay Carroll, it took nine rounds to get the monkey off their backs and win their first cheque of this WNFR. But when they did it, they did it right, making that cheque a first place payoff ($26,239 per man) while recording the fastest time of the rodeo through nine rounds—a sensational 3.6 seconds.

Schmidt, riding the PRCA/AQHA Heading Horse of the Year, Badger, and Carroll had come to the Finals with a legitimate shot at a world title but encountered a series of frustrations though the first eight days of the rodeo.

“It’s kind of funny,” Schmidt chuckled. “This was the fastest time of the week and the slowest I’ve gone in my mind. I think I’ve just been going too fast up until now. I knew with my horse and my heeler if I did my job, it would work out.”

Carroll agreed. “I picked this guy for a reason at the start of the year,” he said of his heading partner. “I’m not surprised at all. I knew he’d rope like he can and I just wanted to be ready.”

Ponoka’s Levi Simpson and his Arrowwood, Alberta partner Jeremy Buhler bounced back from their first no time of this Finals in the eighth round to post a 4.6 second run to place 4th on this night and move up a notch in the average race to second spot. The Alberta cowboys are 8 of 9 and just 1.6 seconds out of first place in the average and the $67,000 first place aggregate cheques.

Leading the world standings heading into the final round are Luke Brown of Stephenville, Texas and Jake Long of Coffeyville, Kansas.

The phenomenal comeback story of this WNFR, bareback rider, Orin Larsen, placed in the round for the 4th night in a row. He’s had to battle back from re-injuring the rib-tear he suffered back in September. After being blanked through the first five rounds, he made the statement, “I have no choice – I have to win.” Since making that pronouncement, winning is exactly what he’s done, including taking his first-ever victory lap at the Thomas and Mack Arena in go round number eight.

Tonight the Manitoba cowboy was 86.5 on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s former world champion bareback horse, MGM Dirty Jacket, to collect a third place cheque of $15,653 and give him $62,190 over the last four rounds.

Three time Canadian champion Jake Vold continued his outstanding WNFR, placing 4th for an $11.000 payday. The Ponoka product has also climbed to 3rd place overall in the average at a finals that has seen him win three rounds and place in six overall.

Tanner Aus was the top gun in the round with an 88.5 score and Tim O’Connell continues to hold a comfortable lead in the world championship race heading to the final day. Wayne Vold Rodeo’s outstanding grey, True Grit, carried Ty Breuer to 83.5 and a sixth place cheque of $4230 to kick off the go round.

The saddle bronc riding wasn’t as good to the youthful Canadian trio as it had been in recent rounds that saw all three place on each of the previous three nights. In round nine, Big Valley’s Zeke Thurston was out of the money with a 77.5 score while both Clay Elliott (Nanton, AB) and Jake Watson (Hudson’s Hope, BC) were bucked off. The silver lining in this cloud is that despite bucking off for the first time in nine rounds, Watson will go to the last go round in first place in the average, with 663 points on eight rides, just one point ahead of reigning world champion and overall leader, Jacobs Crawley. Thurston is another point back in third spot in the average.

Eighteen year-old Ryder Wright has ridden five horses at the 2016 WNFR. And he’s won all five of those go-rounds. This time around, the youngest of the remarkable Utah family, posted an 88.5 on Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Vitalix Alpha Dog for the win.

2012 World Champion (and Ryder’s uncle) Jesse Wright rode Calgary Stampede’s Tokyo Bubbles to an 85.5 for second place in the round.

A couple of races tightened up in this second last round of what cowboys call ‘the Marathon’. In the bull riding, Brennon Eldred posted the third highest score in the history of the WNFR – 94.5 points – to win the round and close to within shooting distance of two time champion Sage Kimzey for this year’s title. The Sulphur, Oklahoma man rode D and H Cattle’s SweetPro’s Bruiser for the $26,230 cheque and forces a showdown with Kimzey and third place man, Shane Proctor, on Saturday night.

In the barrel race, Mary Burger who brought a sizable lead to the Finals has seen that lead eroded by the amazing performance of Amberleigh Moore. Mary, the 68 year-old former champion hit a barrel in round nine while Moore, the Keizer, Oregon cowgirl, won the round with a 13.49 and like the bull riding, the barrel racing championship will come down to the final runs on the final night to determine the 2016 title holder.

The steer wrestling go round winner was Riley Duvall in 3.6 while Tyler Waguespack of Gonzales, Louisiana leads the average and the world standings heading to the final round. And in the tie down roping it was Marty Yates and former world All-Around champion Ryan Jarrett sharing the victory lap with a pair of 7.4 second runs. Brazilian Marcos Costa leads the world with Yates who started in 15th place now sitting second but neither man is in the average. That gives a bit of an edge to the third place man, Oklahoman Hunter Herrin, who is holding down 4th place in the all-important, and very lucrative, average. This race too will be decided in Saturday night’s tenth and final go-round.

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Arena Chatter Courtesy of CPRA Results

Canada Night – Half a Million and Counting

The Canadian contingent went into their night at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo needing just $38,000 to top the half million dollar mark in take home pay from the ten million dollar event, easily surpassing the best previous Canadian performance.

And Orin Larsen wasted no time in getting ‘Team Canada’ closer to that milestone payoff as he made his best ride of the 2016 WNFR with an 87.5 score on Frontier Rodeo’s Full Baggage to win his first ever go-round and the $26,000 plus first place cheque. The talented Manitoba cowboy has fashioned an inspirational story as he re-injured a painful rib tear in the opening round but has refused to give in. And over the last three days, Larsen has placed in all three rounds to win almost fifty thousand dollars.

“Full Baggage – he’s a big, strong horse that I’ve always wanted to get on and there’s no better place to do that than right here,” Larsen noted with a smile. “That trip to the South Point (nightly go-round buckle presentations) is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid – that’s going to be an emotional roller coaster for sure.”

Referencing the pain that has been an unpleasant accompaniment to every one of his rides at the Finals, the two time WNFR qualifier was philosophical. “It’s not too bad during the ride other than the popping and crunching that’s happening. But after the ride, that’s when I can feel it. But tonight I won so I feel pretty good.”

Airdrie’s Jake Vold who won three rounds in a row earlier at this Finals, had some trouble with the Pickett Rodeo bareback horse, Top Notch and had to settle for just 70.5 points.

Canadian bareback horses had a big night as C5 Rodeo’s Virgil packed Winn Ratliff to 86.5 and second place while Big Stone Rodeo’s Call Me Kindra carried JR Vezain to an 85 point 3/4 split.

For the third night in a row all three Canadian saddle bronc riders were in the money. The ‘kids’ (the oldest is 23) were led by Nanton’s Clay Elliott who rode Burch Rodeo’s Lunatic Fringe to an 86 point second place finish and a $20,730 dollar payday. Big Valley cowboy Zeke Thurston spurred out an 85 point effort on Pete Carr Rodeo’s Manhattan Moon for third place money of $15,653 and the guy who has been Mr. Consistency through the first eight days in Las Vegas – Jake Watson of Hudson’s Hope, BC – made it eight for eight with an 82 point ride on JK Rodeo’s Dakota Babe for 6th place and $4230.

Watson sits in top spot in the average and Thurston who has bucked off only one horse (at 7.92 seconds) is right behind Watson in the average with just two go-rounds remaining.

Two time World Champion, Cody Wright turned back the clock on this night and rode like his two sons Rusty and Ryder who are among the five Wrights qualified for Las Vegas in 2016. The elder statesman of the family was a brilliant 88 points on Lipstick and Whiskey from Powder River Rodeo, a horse that eighteen year-old Ryder rode to a go round win earlier in the week.

The lone disappointment for the dedicated Canadian fans, who had the flags waving with attitude tonight, came in the team roping as Levi Simpson (Ponoka) and Jeremy Buhler (Arrowwood) took their first no time of the rodeo and fell to third place in the average. Barrhead’s Kolton Schmidt went after it but broke the barrier to take him and Texas partner Shay Carroll to a 13.9 with the ten second penalty.

The 2016 Canadian champion team of Dustin Bird from Cutbank, Montana and Russell Cardoza from Terrebonne, Oregon were picture perfect in making the fastest run of the week, a sensational 3.7 seconds to win the round and keep Bird in the #1 spot in the All-Around standings.

Terrell, Texas bulldogger Clayton Hass won the round in his event with a 4.1 second run and remains in contention for both the steer wrestling and all-around titles. And in the barrel race, Oregon cowgirl, Amberleigh Moore, equaled the arena record with her 13.37 to win the round while former champion, Mary Burger, at 68 years young finished third in the round with a 13.66 to inch closer to her second world title.

Three Canadian champions finished atop the tie down roping leaderboard for the eighth go-round. Sulphur, Louisiana’s Shane Hanchey topped the round with a 6.8 second run; Blackfoot Idaho’s Matt Shiozawa (the reigning Canadian Champ) was second at 7.1 and the new dad from the state of Washington, Tyson Durfey, finished up in third spot with a 7.3.

It was fitting that in the Canada Night finale, it was a Canadian bull, Wayne Vold Rodeo’s Cooper’s Comet, that carried Fruita, Colorado cowboy, Tyler Smith, to an 89 point win in a round that saw only two men able to ride. In two trips at the 2016 WNFR, Cooper’s Comet, the 2016 Canadian Bull of the Year, has been 88.5 and 89 points and his riders, Smith and Roscoe Jarboe have both won the rounds.

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Arena Chatter Courtesy of CPRA Results

Solid Night for Team Canada

Canadians continued their assault on the Wrangler National Finals’ chequing account and their own all-time earnings record in Wednesday’s seventh round.

The big move for the Canadian contingent once again came courtesy of the team roping duo, Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler. The talented twosome, from Ponoka and Arrowwood, Alberta respectively, roped their steer in 4.3 seconds to split second in the round and add $18,192 to their earnings total. More importantly, they moved to first place in the average and are the only team to have roped all seven of their steers. The average or aggregate – which is the total time on ten head – pays $67,000 to the first-place finisher.

“We just missed getting to the Finals last year,” Simpson commented, “so we changed a few things so that wouldn’t happen again. We went to fewer rodeos so we could be rested and focused for the ones we did go to.”

“We’re just trying to stay aggressive and take it one night at a time,” Buhler added. “Levi’s turning ‘em just great and I’m just trying to do my job on the back side.”

Matt Sherwood and Quinn Kesler won the round with a 4.1 while the third Canadian in the team roping, Barrhead, Alberta’s Kolton Schmidt along with Texas partner, Shay Carroll continued to struggle and finished out of the money in round seven.

Jake Watson is quickly becoming one of the very cool stories of the 2016 WNFR. On a night that saw all three Canadian bronc riders cash some chips, the 23 year old Hudson’s Hope, BC cowboy stuck an 83.5 point ride on the three time Canadian champion saddle bronc, Get Smart from the Northcott Macza firm. Watson, who barely squeaked into 15th place to qualify for his first WNFR, split 2/3/4 in the round, for a $15,794 payday. He’s climbed all the way to first place in the average and 7th in the world standings with over $143,000 won. Watson split the round with world leader and defending champion, Jacobs Crawley and Jake Wright who was aboard the Calgary Stampede’s Waning Moon. Another Stampede bronc, Tiger Warrior, ended the perfect run of first time finalist Allen Boore who was 6 for 6 before tonight’s encounter with the Grated Coconut son.

Reigning Canadian champion Clay Elliott put together an 81 point effort on Stace Smith’s Pretty Boy for a fifth place $6769 cheque while Zeke Thurston, who won round six, teamed with Burch Rodeo’s Angel Slings for 6th place in the round and $4230.

Orin Larsen followed up his 2/3 spilt and first cheque of the Wrangler National Finals rodeo in Tuesday’s sixth go-round with a split of sixth place in round seven to add a $2215 cheque to the $18 thousand plus he collected the day before. The Manitoba product, who came to the WNFR in second place, was 78 points on Rafter G Rodeo’s Ankle Biter. Meanwhile the blazing pistols of Jake Vold cooled slightly on this night. The Ponoka cowboy who had won the previous three rounds was out of the money in round seven as he managed a 76 score on Beutler and Son’s Nod Big .Com Wonderland. Vold remains in second place in the average and fourth in the world.

The California man and Canadian Finals Rodeo qualifier, RC Landingham won the round with an 84.5 on a horse called Scarlet Fever while Tim O’Connell continues to enjoy a commanding lead atop the bareback riding leaderboard. On the stock side where going into round seven, $240,000 had been won on Canadian horses and bulls, the Calgary Stampede’s Trail Dust carried Texan Richie Champion to 79 points and a fifth place cheque for $6769.

Defending average champion, Dakota Endridge won the round in the steer wrestling with a 3.4 second time. Leading the world after seven rounds is Louisiana cowboy Tyler Waguespack with $204,000. Mary Burger came to Las Vegas leading the world and the 68 year old grandmother continued her storybook year as she and her tremendous gelding, Mo, posted a 13.58 to win the round and consolidate her lead for the world title. Canadian champion Matt Shiozawa of Blackfoot, Idaho won his first round of this WNFR with a 7.3 second run one night after he suffered the misfortune of having his rope break to force a no time.

And in the bull riding, all eyes were initially focused on Sage Kimzey and his quest for a third world title. But former world champion, Shane Proctor, has become one of the big storylines and tonight he made it seven for seven as the Washington cowboy was part of a three-way split of first with 85 points. Joining Kimzey in the Winner’s Circle were Garrett Tribble and Cody Rostockyj.

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Arena Chatter Courtesy of CPRA Results

Big Bucks Go North of 49

The Canadian saddle bronc riders have been watching the bareback riders and team ropers getting all the headlines. And in go-round six of the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, they decided to do something about it.

The youthful trio enjoyed their finest hour to date as all three Canadian bronc riders placed in the round for the first time at this Finals. It was Big Valley’s Zeke Thurston leading the way as he put together a spectacular 88.5 on C5 Rodeo’s Black Hills for his first-ever WNFR go-round win. The win gives him $49,923 in earnings to date and third place in the slot machine-like average.

Right behind the second generation bronc rider was Hudson Hope, BC’s Jake Watson with his 87 point effort on Frontier Rodeo’s Times Up. The second place cheque meant the very consistent Watson is now 6 for 6 and has moved to the overall lead in the average. The third member of the Canuck threesome, Canadian Champion Clay Elliott, saw his 82.5 on Big Rafter Rodeo’s Pearl hold on for a split of sixth place and $2115.

“That’s just a really nice little horse of Vern’s (MacDonald),” Thurston grinned after his ride. “I’ve had her a couple of times before and I’ve won quite a bit of money on her. She felt really good out there.”

Thurston had to put the disappointment of a 7.92 second buckoff earlier in the week behind him and is definitely in a groove now. “Yeah, Killer Bee is one of the buckiest horses I’ve ever been on.” Thurston acknowledged. “I set an arena record on him at Tucson but here he got me. You just have to put those things out of your mind and get ready for the next one.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

“It’s not over ‘till I win.”

Those were the words of Canadian bareback rider, Orin Larsen. The talented Manitoba cowboy had not had the finals he had hoped for, particularly as he came into the Wrangler NFR in second place in the world standings and was coming off a terrific Canadian Finals Rodeo that saw him win three rounds.

But it was clear almost from the outset that all was not right with the soft-spoken two time WNFR qualifier.

“I’d torn some ribs back in September but after the CFR I thought I was pretty well home free. But about two or three jumps out on my first round horse here (Frontier Rodeo’s Night Watch) I felt a pop and knew I’d tore them again.”

Not one to look for an excuse, Larsen was quick to accentuate the positive. “The Sport Medicine Team has done as awesome job of keeping me in one piece,” he stated. “ I’m really looking forward to the last half of the Finals.” That despite admitting to ‘feeling it crunch and pop’ as he rides.

Larsen noted as well that he’s aware of the support of Canadian fans both here in Las Vegas and back in Canada. “That means so much to me; I really appreciate it,” he smiled. “I don’t have any choice. I have to go out there and win.”

It turns out that those fans and Larsen’s attitude were just the combination to get his week turned around.

In tonight’s round six, he climbed aboard Bar T Rodeo’s Ruby’s Girl and did what he has done all season long, spurring out an 85 score to split 2/3 in the round and pocket his first cheque of this finals, a sizable $18,192 payoff. In fact only one man was better.

And that man, fellow Canadian, Jake Vold, was a half point better on Burch Rodeo’s Jim Dandy to post his third go-round win in succession. Vold’s $91,000 plus haul has moved him to 4th place in both the average and the world standings with four rounds remaining.

“I had Jim Dandy here in 2014; I think it was in the same round,” Vold recalled, “and I knew he was good. But I think I rode him better this time.”

As happy as he was with his own performance, Vold was equally tickled to see his countryman enjoy some success. “Orin is as tough as nails – riding with separated ribs; I was really excited to see him win a big cheque tonight.”

A couple of Canadian horses grabbed a share of the spotlight in the bareback riding as well. The Calgary Stampede’s Tootsie Roll carried Tanner Aus to an 84 point ride and 4th place in the round while Kesler Rodeo’s Starburst was the mount for Jake Brown’s 84 point 5/6 split.

The all Canadian team roping duo of Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler kept their streak of qualified runs going with a 9.3 to finish just out of the money but maintain their hold on second place in the average. Lady luck continued to plague the third Canadian team roper, Kolton Schmidt, and his Texas partner, Shay Carroll as the team is still without a cheque to date.

The $416,000 won by Canadian competitors at the 2016 WNFR has made this finals the most lucrative for Canadian contestants in the history of the event.

In the bull riding, Outlaw Buckers’ Chip Shot carried Rexburg, Idaho’s Garrett Smith to 82 points, just outside of the money in a round that saw Minnesota’s Brennon Eldred ride Championship Pro Rodeo’s The Duke to a 90.5 score for the win.

There was a three-way split for first in the steer wrestling between Billy Bugenig, Riley Duvall and Tyler Waguespack – all with 3.6 second runs. Two time Canadian Champion Tyson Durfey was the quickest of the tie-down ropers with a 7.4. And in the barrel racing, Utah cowgirl Kimmie Wall ran the fastest time of the finals to date – a 13.46 – for her second round win this week.

Courtesy of the CPRA*

Arena Chatter Courtesy of CPRA Results

Show Me the Money

Canada Night doesn’t happen until Thursday at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. But apparently the Canadian contingent of WNFR qualifiers either didn’t get the memo or they just plain couldn’t wait.

The first all Canadian team roping team hasn’t just showed up at this Finals, they have been a factor in every round, including a win in round one. Tonight the Alberta twosome, Ponoka’s Levi Simpson and Arrowwood heeler, Jeremy Buhler, had their fastest run to date, a 4.0 to split the round with Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira, each of the four men pocketing $23,480. Simpson and Buhler remain in 2nd place in the average and have moved to 7th and 6th respectively in the world standings.

“We just missed the WNFR field last year,” Simpson commented. “This year, we worked harder at it, put in more practice time and prepared mentally for every situation in the arena.”

That preparation served the Alberta duo well in Round 5. “Like Levi, I don’t get caught up in the show,” Buhler, the man sporting the most famous beard at this NFR added. “I don’t hear the music, I just keep it simple and watch the feet.”

It took Jake Vold 14 WNFR rounds to win his first go round buckle. It took him one to win his second. Twenty four hours after winning round four with a sensational 89.5, the Airdrie (via Ponoka) three time Canadian champion came back with a spectacular 89 score on Hi Lo Pro Rodeo’s Wilson Sanchez. The back to back wins have propelled Vold to 4th place in the average and fifth in the world.

Before the twenty-nine year-old talent nodded his head tonight, there were already three scores of 86 points or higher on the board. No problem for Jake Vold.

“I want someone to jump out there with a 90 so I can go get them,” he confided. “Seeing big rides before me fuels my fire.”

The Calgary Stampede bucking sensation Xplosive Skies lived up to his name as he pitched Manitoba bareback rider Orin Larsen to the Thomas and Mack turf before the eight second klaxon en route to winning the Rank Horse of the Night Award.

And not to be outdone, the three Canadian bronc riders brought their A (Eh!) game with Canadian Champion, Clay Elliott grabbing a 3/4 split – courtesy of his 86.5 ride on Bar T Rodeo’s Son of Sadie. And right behind his countryman was the Hudson Hope, British Columbia man, Jake Watson who took home a 6th place cheque with his 85 score on Stace Smith Rodeo’s Resistol’s Top Hat. Watson has quietly fashioned a solid Finals to date after qualifying in fifteenth spot. He is now five for five and has climbed to third in the average.

The third Canadian bronc rider, recent bridegroom Zeke Thurston was 81 points on the appropriately named Maple Leaf of Frontier Rodeo. The Big Valley cowboy was just out of the money in Round 5. Reigning World Champion, Jacobs Crawley, from Boerne, Texas, bounced back from a Round 4 buck-off to mark a spectacular 89 on Frontier Rodeo’s four time world champion, Medicine Woman. The Monday night go-round also marked the end of 18 year old Ryder Wright’s record-tying run. After four consecutive go-round wins, the Milford, Utah cowboy bucked off Flying 5 Rodeo’s Spring Planting.

Minnesota bull dogger JD Struxness continued his hot streak with a 3.5 second run. Over the last three days, Struxness has two go-round wins and a 1-2 split. In the barrel racing, go-round winner was Keizer, Oregon cowgirl Amberleigh Moore with a 13.62 second run. And in the bull riding, Scottie Knapp of Albuquerque, New Mexico made his first ride of the 2016 WNFR a profitable one. His 87 on Rafter H Rodeo Livestock’s Breaking Bad was good for the go round win.

Courtesy of the CPRA*

Arena Chatter Courtesy of CPRA Results

Canadians Impressive in Round 3

 

The all-Canadian matchup of three time Canadian champion, Jake Vold and the Big Stone bareback horse Spilled Perfume, netted the Ponoka cowboy 83.5 points for a 4/5 split and $8884. For Vold, who now lives in Airdrie, it was his second placing in the first three rounds.

“I’ve had that horse before,” Vold commented, “and it’s been kind of a love-hate relationship. But I went back to one of my older riggins tonight and it felt really good. It’s early yet but I’m happy with the way the Finals have gone so far.”

And for the second night in a row, it was a Canadian horse grabbing a share of the spotlight as C5 Rodeo’s Virgil carried Minnesota talent, Tanner Aus to a spectacular 88.5 and a share of first place. Aus shared the winner’s circle with Clayton Biglow, the California-bred PRCA bareback riding Rookie of the Year who so far has split first and second in two rounds and been second in the other for total winnings of over $77,000 and top spot in the average.

The second Canadian bareback rider, Orin Larsen, put together his best effort so far with a 79.5 on Corey and Lange’s Tripwire but finished out of the money.

In the team roping, Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler had a five second penalty rob them of another big cheque as their 9.0 (with the penalty) left them out of the money in the round but the Alberta duo sits in third place in the lucrative average race after three performances. Barrhead’s Kolton Schmidt and his Texas partner, Shay Carroll, continued to struggle and were blanked for the third time in three nights.

Zeke Thurston, the second generation Water Valley, Alberta bronc rider shook off the disappointment of round two’s 7.92 second buckoff and spurred out an 85 point ride on J Bar J’s Julia for a 2/3 split in the round and his first cheque of the finals—a tidy $18,192. Thurston split the round with Rusty Wright but it was the youngest Wright, Ryder, who continued to be the story of this finals as he rode Powder River Rodeo’s Lipstick N Whiskey to 86.5 and his third go-round win in a row. The eighteen year-old’s earnings to date are a whopping  $88.000; he holds a commanding 14 point lead in the average and he’s climbed from 14th place coming in to the WNFR to second place in the world standings, hot on the heels of season leader and reigning world champion, Jacobs Crawley.

It was a split of first place in the steer wrestling as well with Tyler Waguesback and JD Struxness (Louisiana and Minnesota respectively) bulldogging their steers in 3.9 seconds for $23,480 apiece.

Apache, Oklahoma’s Hunter Herrin and Winnie, Texas cowboy Cade Swor split the round in the tie down roping with identical 7.0 second rounds. And four time Canadian champion Lisa Lockhart and the ever-dependable Louie blazed the cloverleaf pattern in 13.92 seconds for her first go round win of this finals.

And in the bull riding, the much anticipated matchup between reigning world champion Sage Kimsey and the Calgary Stampede bull, Night Moves was as advertised. The two time world champion won the confrontation to score 87.5 and finish second in the round. But it was another former World Champion, Shane Proctor of Grand Coulee, Washington who brought the Thomas and Mack faithful to their feet. Proctor matched up with the 2016 Bull of the Year, Midnight Bender, for a spectacular 91 score and the round win. A second Canadian bull, Spotted Demon from the Big Stone Rodeo Company made short work of the Sulphur, Oklahoma hand, Brennon Aldred.

Courtesy of the CPRA*

Arena Chatter Courtesy of CPRA

Canadians Make History at Wrangler NFR

 

Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler had already written a page in Canadian rodeo history when the pair became the first all-Canadian team to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in the team roping. But they might have written an even cooler story when the duo blistered a 4.4 second run to win the opening round and collect the go-round winner’s cheques of $26,230 each. Simpson, the Ponoka (via Claresholm) header and Buhler from Arrowwood, showed almost no sign of first-time jitters as they backed into the box at the hallowed Thomas and Mack Arena for the first time.

“To tell you the truth,” Buhler commented after the run, “the money wasn’t on my mind at all. It was just awesome. I’ve run that steer in my head ten million times. It was nice to run him in real life tonight. And the way it went, it couldn’t get any better.”

His partner was equally thrilled, “When we were on stage getting our back numbers, it kind of hit me right there,” Simpson admitted. “Well, maybe we could be back here getting a buckle. But to have it happen in round one is pretty exciting.”

Both cowboys were especially appreciative of the support they have received from the Canadian rodeo community. “You have a whole country standing behind you, Buhler noted. “The messages, the calls, everything we got from our families, friends, acquaintances… it felt awesome knowing that there’s that many people pulling for you.”

Unfortunately, Kolton Schmidt of Barrhead, Alberta and his Texas partner, Shay Carroll took a no time as, like Simpson and Buhler, Schmidt made his debut appearance at the WNFR.

Jake Vold was the first of the eight man strong Canadian contingent to display his wares at Thursday night’s first round of the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The Ponoka native posted an 81 score on Sankey and Robinson’s Sozo to earn a 5/6/6 split and $3666. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as well for Inglis, Manitoba’s Orin Larsen as he and Frontier Rodeo’s Night Watch combined for only 66.5, not the start the number two man in the world coming into the NFR was looking for.

Recently married Tanner Aus, the Minnesota bareback rider, won the opening round with an 85.5 score to collect $26,230

The saddle bronc riding was the other event that featured Canadian contestants and like the team roping there were three Canucks three in all. Clay Elliot had a tough start to his ten days in Las Vegas as he was bucked off a nasty bronc from Dakota Rodeo called Bridal Shower. Jake Watson, the BC man who just made the WNFR roster in 15th spot, spurred out a 77.5 on Bar T Rodeo’s Heart of Gold. That left it up to Zeke Thurston on Sweet Maria from Pete Carr Rodeo and Thurston, at his second consecutive Finals managed an 80.5 to finish just out of the money in a round that saw the amazing Wright family finish one-two-three. It was 18 year old Ryder, (Dad) Cody and (Uncle) Jake with 87.5, 86.5 and 85.5 respectively. First man out, Alan Boore, of Ardell, Utah, was 4th in the round with an 85 on a Canadian bronc, C5 Rodeo’s Black Hills.

Other winners included travelling partners Clayton Hass and Tyler Waguespack in the steer wrestling, each with 3.8 seconds on the clock; two time Canadian champion tie-down roper and 2013 World titleist, Shane Hanchey of Sulphur, Louisiana with a 7.1 second run; Cheney, Washington’s Pamela Capper with a an arena record-tying 13.75 in the barrel race and in the bull riding, two time World Champion, Sage Kimsey did what Sage Kimsey does, posting a sensational 86.5 on Frontier Rodeo’s Aftershock to win the round. A couple of Canadian bulls made their presence felt. Outlaw Buckers’ Chip Shot carried Brennon Eldred to an 83 points and a third place cheque. And Kesler Championship Rodeo’s Flight Plan bucked off Garrett Tribble.

Courtsey of CPRA*

Arena Chatter Courtesy of CPRA

Pro Rodeo Contestants Take Regina by Storm

 

Regina’s Canadian Western Agribition Rodeo returned to its professional rodeo home for the first time in over a decade and the move was greeted by huge crowds and excited competitors.

No one was more excited than Pouce Coupe, BC cowgirl Chelsea Moore who dominated the barrel racing leaderboard and the pay window in her event.

“It’s a relief for sure to get the season off to this kind of start,” Moore smiled after the Regina, Saskatchewan win. The twenty-seven year-old trainer/rider comes from a rodeo family with brother Clayton Moore, the 2013 Steer Wrestling champion of Canada and cousin Timber who makes his home in Aubrey, Texas, winning the Canadian Tie Down Roping title that same year.

But for Chelsea, the last two years have been a bit of a struggle. “We really didn’t get it going until August of both of those years. The first year my horse was green and it just took some seasoning to get him really working. Then this year we had a few injury things going on so again it was tough in July and August. Then he was really awesome for the last couple of months of the season but it was too late to make the CFR. That’s why having a start like this really takes the pressure off. As one of my friends texted me – you’re half way to Edmonton.”

Moore posted a first, a second and won the average, collecting a whopping $6615 (unofficially) at the lucrative kickoff event for the 2017 Canadian pro rodeo season. The BC domination of the barrel racing saw fellow competitors – Savona’s Sarah Gerard finish second ($5264) with three times CFR qualifier Katie Garthwaite of Merritt capturing third spot ($4013).

Moore spoke glowingly of the effort by event organizers. “I was very impressed with the production, with the ground and especially the way we were treated there.  It was just a great rodeo and a lot of fun.”

Some of that fun came on the back of her ten year-old sorrel gelding, Badger, (Badger’s First Play) a cutting bred horse, sired by Reys Dual Badger out of Play Shorty Play by Shorty Lena – that her grandfather had been urging her to start training for barrel racing for two years. “I kept telling him I didn’t really want to ride the horse but one day he brought Badger to the house and said ‘just ride him’. So I finally did and there’s been no looking back. I think from now on I’ll listen when Grandpa tells me about a horse.”

Two time Canadian Bull Riding champion, Dakota Buttar, saw his bid for three titles in a row come up short at the recently completed CFR. The Kindersley, Saskatchewan native bounced back with authority at the four day Agribition rodeo finishing second in the first round and splitting 1-3 in the other to give him the average win as well and a $6010 kickstart to the 2017 season.

When Cody Cassidy laid claim to his fifth Canadian steer Wrestling championship just two weeks ago, he made it clear that he hoped to win a few more. The Donalda, Alberta dogger wasted no time in taking a major step in that direction by winning the Regina event in commanding fashion and collecting $5255 in returning to his customary spot atop the Canadian standings.

Other Agribition winners included Albertans: bareback rider, Ky Marshall of Bowden with earnings of $5001; Lane Cust, the Sylvan Lake bronc rider ($4496) and tie down roper, Riley Warren who rode in from Stettler to pocket $5001. And in the team roping, the duo of Chase Simpson (Claresholm) and Braidy Davies (Medicine Hat) teamed to take home $4855. For complete (unofficial) results, go to rodeocanada.com

Next up on the roster for pro rodeo athletes and stock is the Wrangler NFR – which runs December 1 to 10 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Watch for daily results, highlights and releases at rodeocanada.com

Courtesy of the CPRA

Arena Chatter Courtesy of CPRA

Champions Decided and Races Tighten With One Day Remaining at #CFR43

EDMONTON, AB (November 12, 2016)

Three 2016 Canadian champions were declared at the Saturday night performance of the Canadian Finals Rodeo and one of those champions was a home town hero.

For Kolby Wanchuk of nearby Sherwood Park, there was never any doubt about what he’d be doing with his life. With a barrel racing mom and a rodeo clown dad, the only real question was just what part of the rodeo industry he would be concentrating his efforts on.

“I always wanted to ride broncs,” Wanchuk admitted. “When I was little, the Thurston Gang (contract act) were at a lot of the same rodeos my dad was working and that’s a bronc riding family so I think that had something to do with it.”

When the time came the young man decided to attend a bronc riding school in Stettler. And to add a little incentive to his efforts at that school, he had already entered a high school rodeo for the next week.

It all worked out for the young talent as this year he made finals in seven different associations winning two before the Canadian Finals Rodeo. But there’s no doubt what the second generation cowboy considered the brightest jewel in the crown.

“This was my goal for the year,” he noted. “There’s such great guys and cool horses here that I just wanted to come here, do well and be the champion.”

Wanchuk was right in assessing his fellow qualifiers. 2016 saw a great crop of young bronc riders travelling together and all of them enjoying a successful 2016. But none better than Wanchuk who’s already thinking about next year.

“I have another year of novice eligibility,” Wanchuk stated, “but I might go into the open next year—that’s a decision I’m going to have to make.”

Over on the novice bareback side, Tanner Young was winning a title of his own.

“I had a great year,” Young acknowledged. “I was able to win the Calgary Stampede Novice Tour but I was pretty focused on being here at the end of the year.”

He did just that coming into the Finals as the season leader, then adding two CFR firsts and two second place finishes to give him $11,365 for the year and a $3200 margin over the second place man, Chance Barrass.

“I had a bit of a slow start this week but I went back to doing things the way I’d done them all summer.’ The strategy worked, culminating with his winning both rounds on Super Saturday on his way to the title.”

And for the young man from Sylvan Lake, this is just a jumping off point. “I want to be back here next year in the open. I’ll be in the practice pen this winter; then I want to go after my permit and maybe the rookie title as well.”

He works as a welder with veteran bronc rider Jim Berry and two time novice bronc riding champion, Lane Cust. The three will be on the rodeo trail together next year.

“Jim is a great mentor. He’s so good with the mental aspects of rodeo,” Young noted.

And in the steer riding, where the youngest competitors are featured, the drama was palpable. The steer riding title was decided by a differential of just $85.00 ($6974 for Tattrie to $6889 for Taylor).

And it was the fourteen year-old from Youngstown, Alberta who made the highest marked ride of his career in the final round of the CFR—a spectacular 84 pointer that gave him the victory.

“I had that cow once before at the FCA Finals,” Tattrie smiled “and I won the round there. “She’s the one everybody wants, she’s just so honest.”

Of his battle with Parkland, Alberta cowboy, Quinten Taylor, he said, “I knew we were close coming in to today but after I saw his ride (77 points), that’s when I started to worry.”

And with good reason as rodeo secretaries, Judy and Burva Dawn Kesler calculated the money three times before declaring the tight race official.

The new champion was quick to credit his dad, former CFR bareback rider, Troy Tattrie for having a role in the win. “He keeps me relaxed; it’s really helpful to have him around.”

And Dad gave the credit right back to his son. “’He tried as hard as he could all year,” the elder Tattrie noted. “And he never stopped smiling. It’s cool to win but to me the attitude is everything and he has that smile all the time. I’m pretty darn proud.”

You know you’re watching a great section of team roping when a 4.3 second run wins only a fifth place cheque. In what was easily the toughest round of the week, it was the young American duo of Jacob Minor (Ellensburg, Washington) and Garrett Rogers (Baker City, Oregon) who posted a blistering 3.8 to win the round.

“It happened fast. I actually thought we were faster,” Minor admitted. “It was awesome. We thought the steer was pretty good but we didn’t know how good. He went straightaway and it happened really fast. It felt good.”

“It was the best round of team roping I ever watched for sure,” Rogers added.

The Pacific Northwest cowboys are the only team with five steers caught giving them the lead in the average and a legitimate shot at the title tomorrow.

“We kind of took a look at things today and knew we had a chance,” said Minor. “Dustin Bird and Russell Cardoza, they have the lead but we have a chance, that’s for sure.”

Rogers was more philosophical about the game plan. “I don’t really pay attention to the standings and stuff. I just want to have fun and catch as many as we can.”

If the American duo can catch one more, it could be very interesting when it comes time to hand out the hardware for the team roping on Sunday afternoon.

Other Saturday night winners included Manitoba’s Orin Larsen for his third bareback riding go-round win in succession, this one an 87.5 point ride on the Calgary Stampede’s six year-old  bay gelding, Xrated Dancer; Stony Plain bulldogger, Derek Frank with a blazing 3.8 second run and Big Valley, Alberta cowgirl, Kirsty White who held on to second spot (behind Callahan Crossley) with a round winning 14.773 second effort on her dynamic mare, Racey.

In the saddle bronc riding Lane Cust, the two time novice champion of Canada, teamed up with the Saddle bronc of the Year, Northott-Macza’s Get Smart to collect an 86.75 mark and the $12,000 first-place cheque while in the tie down roping it was Eckville’s Clayton Smith who bested the field for the first time this week with a solid 8.1 second run.

And what looked for a while like a runaway in the bull riding has suddenly become a race courtesy of Okotoks, Alberta cowboy, Jordan Hansen. Coming back from a broken leg that sidelined him for most of the second half of the season, Hansenis four for five at CFR 43. In Saturday night’s fifth round, he rode Big Stone Rodeo’s Sugar Smack for an 86.25 to climb to within $6000 of the leader coming in and two time Canadian champion Dakota Buttar who was bucked off on Saturday night by another Big Stone bull, this one Attitude Dude.

With Hansen ahead in the average the stage is set for a last man standing shootout for the title.

Courtney of the CPRA*