The world’s number one bareback rider, Caleb Bennett, showed he’s as much at home in Canada as ever, by going three for three in the June first rodeo run. With four CFR’s already to his credit, the Utah riggin’ man looks like he’s gunning for a fifth.
Bennett clicked with a fresh Calgary Stampede hot prospect, Arbitrator Joe, at the historic Hand Hills Lake Stampede, for 87 points and $1,053 and first place. Then he split the honors at Leduc with Jacob Stemo, by spurring out an 83 on the Northcott-Macza horse Coors Original, for a $1,438 payday. Plus he got some pocket change at Grande Prairie for last hole, to make it a $2,568 weekend, moving him to the top five in the Canadian standings.
But those just above him in the race won’t make it easy to be caught, as leader Ty Taypotat placed at two of the three shows, for $2,446, while Ky Marshall also found the bank at all three shows, for $1,345, with his best finish a second from Hand Hills.
Eclipsing all of them in the earning department was Texan Richmond Champion, who made his CFR debut last November. He and Taypotat matched scores and results from Grande Prairie and Leduc, but he added in another $526 for third at Hand Hills, giving him $2,972.
But there were a couple of other interesting stories in the weekend bareback results. Three-time Canadian champion Jake Vold showed up behind the chutes for the first time since having surgery to repair the knee torn apart at last December’s NFR.
“Once I reached the five month mark, I just needed to try it,” Vold said. “It was starting to bug me that I hadn’t been on yet. Everything felt pretty good, but you never know till you try it.”
His first ride came at Grande Prairie, and Vold calls that one ‘pretty rusty’.
“Everything else was sore, but my knee,” he chuckled.
Then it was off to Hand Hills for a Calgary horse called Y So Dusty. It didn’t take Vold long to knock the rust off, as he spurred to an 83.5 point ride, catching last hole for his first earnings of the season.
“I felt like I made a pretty good ride on a horse that wasn’t real easy, so that felt good, like I could get back in the swing of things.”
“It was a good horse to go back to the basics on, and just go by feel. I was happy when I got off, and everything felt great. It was what I needed. I didn’t even care what the score was. It just felt good.”
Another great comeback tale played out when Kody Lamb nodded his head at Grande Prairie, excited to have eight seconds aboard the Vold great Mucho Dinero.
“I actually had him at the short round in Wainwright last year,” said Lamb, who marked an 86.5 to claim the Stompede victory. “You just have to show up and do your job. He’s always phenomenal.”
“I’d never seen this trip before. He bucked in one spot, then turned back to the left. It was a lot of fun.”
Lamb was encouraged and relieved to kick off the busy part of the season with a win.
“It’s been a trying time the last fourteen months or so,” admitted the Sherwood Park cowboy.
Lamb had only been on two horses before Mucho, sitting out the last three months. He’s struggled with concussions, suffering one in Williams Lake last summer, and then seeing some symptoms return this winter. That gave him the motivation to work on strengthening other areas of his body, to help with prevention of further head injuries. He also turned a negative into a positive by using his own experience to add to research for his master’s thesis, which he completed in May, graduating from Tarleton University with an MS in Applied Psychology.
With everything feeling good, and schoolwork behind him for now, Lamb is looking forward to a busy summer on the rodeo trail.
“I took bareback riding for granted. Now I’m more grateful every time I get on. I enjoy the experience, and I’m not so worried about the end result.”
“This weekend I tested the waters, and I’m feeling really good, so I’m pretty excited about how this year’s going to go for me. I have some pretty big plans,” he smiled. “I’m excited to go after it, after having to take most of last year off.”
They definitely kept the ‘wild’ in the Wildwood Bronc Bustin’, as the event marked its 15th year, complete with characters like Batman, ‘Boxhead’, and ‘Outlaw’ Wanchuk in the Wild Ride contest. But when the dust and smoke settled, the lion’s share of the cash went back to Big Valley, as Zeke Thurston claimed the title for the second time in his career. The 2016 World Champion finished off his Wildwood experience with an 89 point ride on the C5 horse Big League, for $5587. Then he added to his weekend tally by splitting third at Grande Prairie, and finishing fifth at Hand Hills for a $7,061 weekend.
The bronc riders did spread some of the winning around. Sam Kelts was top man at Grande Prairie on Prime Time’s Stack Em Up, placed at Leduc, and in the Wildwood finals to collect $3,778; while Canadian Champion Layton Green won Leduc, and got a little out of Wildwood to add $2,662 to his tally; with Clay Elliott finishing second in the Wildwood finals and place at Hand Hills for a $3,555 hit. Cort Scheer was second at Grande Prairie and won the long go at Wildwood on his way to $4,410.
While eight-time Canadian Champion Rod Hay was busy at the hometown event which he helped found in Wildwood, his boys were carrying on his spurring legacy. Dawson Hay picked up $1,806 from ‘Dad’s deal’, along with $1,186 out of Grande Prairie, while Logan Hay was second in the open bronc riding in Hand Hills, and he won the novice saddle bronc at Grande Prairie.
Spin your partner…
Sometimes spring is a good time to change things up, at least it seems so in the team roping world. Some interesting new combinations showed up in the winner’s circle on the weekend. Canada’s Tie-down Roping Champion Logan Bird and Stacy Cornet were the fastest team at Leduc in 4.7 seconds ($1,460) and also placed at Hand Hills ($191). Veteran Rocky Dallyn showed up with Dustin Bird and they took second at Hand Hills. It was Riley Wilson handling the heeling duties for Levi Simpson at Grande Prairie, and their 5.3 second run was good enough for third place and $1,318 apiece. The big question now is whether some of the team roping duos were trial runs, or a new deal.
One partnership that sticks closer than a brother, because they are, is the McCarroll’s. Brett and Justin found the paywindow at both Leduc and Hand Hills for $1,137 each.
Laye-ing ‘em Down
Consort steer wrestler Brendan Laye made his rodeo miles count, splitting first at Grande Prairie in 3.8 seconds for $2,047, and then finishing second at Leduc in 3.5 seconds for another $1,848. Tanner Milan wasn’t far behind, after he took Leduc and placed at both Hand Hills and Grande Prairie, for a $3,284 haul.
Laye split the northern honors with Curtis Cassidy, who also figured in the payoff from Hand Hills, with an 8.1 second run. The $2,761 helped keep him at third in the world rankings and gives him his first Canadian bulldogging dollars. As well, he caught $1,175 in the tie-down roping for second at Hand Hills.
Long way from LA
There are few shortcuts from Sulphur, LA to Grande Prairie, but Shane Hanchey must like the long daylight hours for driving. The 2013 World Tie-down Champion had some crazy 8’s on the weekend – winning the Stompede in 8.8 seconds and then only placing 8th with another 8.8 in Leduc. But he also tied up some cash in Hand Hills, for a cool $3,036 run.
Stettler’s Riley Warren parlayed a third and a second into $3,676 for his rodeo account, while Kyle Lucas placed at two of the three stops, for $2,302. Shane Smith also got a pair of cheques, including first at Hand Hills, totalling $1,830.
Carman, Come on
BC barrel racer Carman Pozzobon showed versatility by winning money in the biggest pen and the smallest pen of the weekend. She was second in Grande Prairie and fourth in Leduc, for $3,622. Brett Wills and Taylor Manning were the other two to do the best at more than one of the weekend stops. Wills got $2,295; Manning earned $2,405.
Lonnie West capped off an amazing weekend on the bull riding scene in dramatic fashion, by winning Leduc as the last man out at the rodeo on Sunday afternoon, with 87 points on the previously unridden Northcott-Macza’s Orange Crush ($1,712). He’d just finished winning the PBR Monster Energy Tour in Moncton on Saturday, and then was off to the PBR Global Cup in Australia on Monday.
His teammate down under is Jared Parsonage, who won Hand Hills with an 85.5 and split second at Grande Prairie with a point more than that, to earn $2,776. Boudreaux Campbell came up from Texas, to collect $2,601 from Grande Prairie and Leduc, while Wacey Finkbeiner placed at two of the three stops as well ($1,396).
This weekend contestants head west to Rocky Mountain House, then east and north to Lea Park at Marwayne, and south to Brooks for a trio of Canadian rodeo stops.