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One year ago, Orin Larsen had one of the most successful runs of his bareback riding career in the month of August, helping pave the way to his third NFR.
This year, same month, same kind of results, only even better.
Kicked off with his big win at Strathmore, Larsen heated up his season by also taking first at Hermiston, OR and both Castle Rock and Loveland, CO, plus he placed at Lovington, NM and Lawton, OK, for a haul of just shy of $21,000.
It’s been an intense run, since the Manitoba raised cowboy has been drawing such good horses everywhere he’s entered, he can’t pass them up.
“I was kind of dropping down into that bubble and I’ve always wanted to be out of it by the time September rolls around,” acknowledged Larsen. “I wasn’t worried by any stretch but I was dang sure concerned, so this definitely helps me. I have a little more breathing room but there’s still a lot of rodeoing, so I’ve just got to keep going with it.”
“I’ve always liked August for the opportunities that are given. There’s a lot of money at rodeos still. But yea, as far as money won, this would probably be the best (run) for me.”
The biggest single paycheque came from the Hermiston win and was courtesy a fellow Canadian, the Calgary Stampede horse Special Delivery. It’s the same horse Larsen had a few years back at Pendleton, but things hadn’t gone so well.
“I was pretty happy to have him. My traveling partner Seth Hardwick got on him at Strathmore, so I got to see a little preview. I liked what Seth did with him and I just tried to carry that on into Oregon. That’s the horse you can win on no matter if you’re in Vegas or wherever, that’s just the horse to have.”
While it may not seem Larsen has been cold all season long, the 27-year-old felt like he’d hit a wall and wasn’t climbing over it. That’s why the Strathmore win on Trail Dust was so significant.
“There’s been multiple things that turned my year going to the right direction these last few weeks. My wife knows that I was not riding to my best. I was trying to re-invent the wheel when the wheel was perfectly fine. She told me ‘you’ve done it before and you’ve made the Finals for a reason. You don’t go to Vegas by luck’.”
So while Larsen credits his wife Alexa for helping get his mind right, it was his old college rodeo coach Cody DeMers who helped in the technique department. Frustrated with his trip on the C5 great, Makeup Face, at the K-Days Rodeo, Larsen sent video of it to DeMers to analyze.
“I told him something’s not right with my riding. I was trying new things with my rigging and trying things to change my riding style. He taught me to just go back to the basics. The basics are going to win you money nine times out of ten.”
“To slip away from the rails is pretty easy. I was putting in what Seth Hardwick calls ‘gimmicks’, adding things or taking away things. I took the gimmicks out of bareback riding and did the basics again.”
Something clicked and it’s been full steam ahead ever since.
With more money won than he had last year at this point, both Larsen and his wife are excited about prospects of being back to NFR for fourth time. But he’s also pumped about the possibility of all three Larsen brothers riding at the CFR, as youngest bro Kane been making a statement in the bull riding, and is within qualifying range after picking up second place at La Crete ($1,198).
“No kidding! That came out of nowhere. I don’t know what it was for Kane. I’ve asked him, to pick his brain about it, and he said ‘I’m just tired of falling off’. That’ll get you going, I guess. I’ve been proud of Tyrel, Kane and my sister since day one. It would probably be the coolest thing in my career if we get all three of us at the Canadian Finals.”
A cowboy with a similar liking for a hot August run was Riley Warren. He doubled down, winning money in both team roping and tie-down roping at all three stops over the past week, gathering up $7,378, plus over a thousand additional dollars in mount money.
“Since I went pro, I definitely haven’t got that many cheques in a row. I wasn’t really thinking about anything. I was just trying to make sure I had the Finals made,” stated the Stettler roping specialist.
While Warren was safe in the tie-down roping for the CFR, he and partner Clay Ullery felt the heat just inside the safe zone for team roping.
“We needed to win. We could’ve easily been passed this week if we hadn’t won anything.”
It’s obvious pressure only seems to make Warren rise to the challenge.
“Apparently I must like it,” he chuckled. “The last couple of times I made it to the CFR in team roping, I waited until the last round of the Grassroots to make it!”
Last year’s dramatic finish Warren was doing the heading for Stacy Cornet, making him the first Canadian to qualify for CFR in heading, heeling and tie-down roping. This year, he decided to go back to his more familiar heeling role when the opportunity came up to rope with what he considers one of the best headers in the game in Ullery.
Warren, a horse trainer by trade, has been relying this year again on his faithful horse Mona in the tie-down roping.
“She’s been really good for a long time. She’s just the same run every time, so it really, really helps having a horse that consistent.”
She’s also a source of extra cash. At Dawson Creek, Warren split first with Keeley Bonnett, who also rode Mona, as did Josh Eirikson and Mike Johnson and they all placed. Eirikson placed on her at Jasper, where Warren also won first.
The story on the team roping horse he’s used for two-thirds of the season is an interesting one. Jag has been able to go from zero to 80 in racecar speed. Warren picked up the prospect at the Innisfail Auction Market about a year and a half ago for $500. The horse had probably never been saddled, but a few months later, Warren was roping off him.
Warren started heeling on him this spring, then gave him a month off, and brought him back on in mid-July. Despite being so green, Warren and Ullery scored a big weekend, winning Dawson Creek, splitting second at La Crete, and fourth at Jasper.
“It’s one of the nicer colts I’ve ever started actually, talented. It’s a cool story to me on how that horse has come along so fast, and being able to win against guys who have been using horses 15-20 years old.”
So it was a weekend to remember, splitting first at Dawson Creek and then winning Jasper on his own in the tie-down event, helping insure he’ll be busy with two events at Red Deer this fall.
“Jasper was one of those runs that just fell together and worked. The calf I had was strong and I was surprised I was as fast as I was, to be honest. That was probably one of my better runs of the whole season.”
With Dawson Creek being a Finning Pro Tour stop, winning there meant a lot. That’s especially true for rookie bull rider Nick Tetz, who picked up $2,369 for his 85 point ride, which will put him within spitting distance of the top twelve. Jordan Hansen won Jasper and placed at Dawson for a $2,654 hit. He and Zane Lambert ($1,688) were the only two bull riders to collect more than one cheque from the three rodeos of the week. Also of note, Scott Schiffner made one of his rare but lucrative appearances in his last competitive season, winning second at Dawson Creek ($1,875) to help pave his way to Red Deer.
In the extremely tight steer wrestling ranks, Brock Butterfield made the biggest gain, splitting first at Dawson Creek and taking second at Jasper ($3,358) which should leapfrog him from 19th to top ten. Straws Milan picked up $3,700, but he’ll need to win some more big cheques to be able to join his brother Tanner at the CFR. Chance Butterfield’s Jasper victory ($1,362) and Derek Frank’s win at La Crete ($1,757) helped both their causes but they still have work to do as well.
Bareback rider Pascal Isabelle collected $1,523 from winning Jasper and placing at the other two, which edges him closer to the top twelve. Gavin DeRose also got the trifecta, with the win at La Crete, for $,2549 worth of insurance for his top ten position. Jake Vold put a $2,442 deposit to his Canadian and world rodeo accounts from his northern run. Jacob Stemo notched one of his bigger performances with an 88 on Sundance Kid from the Kesler outfit, splitting Dawson Creek with Ky Marshall ($1,920 each) who spurred to the same score on the veteran great Alley Trail.
Watch out for the wily trouper in the saddle bronc riding. Dustin Flundra found his stride in August, marking his own 88 on Outlaw Buckers’ May Slip in La Crete, but then placing at both Dawson Creek and Jasper as well, to post a $2,394 gain. He’s not there yet but the season’s not over for the three-time champion. Jake Watson got two cheques from three chances for $3,029 while Justin Berg won Jasper and got a little out of Dawson ($1,558).
Saskatchewan cowboys Tuftin and Tyce McLeod made their move in the team roping by roping fastest in Dawson Creek, adding more to their tally from both La Crete and Jasper ($2,738) while Logan and Keeley Bonnett earned $2,136 from their trio of placings to keep all of their Finals qualifying hopes alive.
Rookie Justine Elliott had a runaway weekend in the barrel racing, snatching up $3,809 by finishing first in both Dawson Creek and Jasper, and placing at La Crete. Shayna Weir found the pay window at both Dawson Creek and Jasper for another $1,648 in her earnings tally.
Did You Know?
There are two cowboys qualified for the All Around race this season – Montana’s Luke Gee and Dawson Creek’s own Jacob Gardner. Both do the bull rider / bulldogger combo. Riley Warren moves ahead of Morgan Grant in the High Point race after this week, with Bertina Olafson still the leading rookie.
Making the Miles
From the Canadian south, to the Midwest U.S., cowboys have been chasing their rodeo dreams. In the winner’s circle for the week are the likes of Clay Elliott, who hit the XTtreme Broncs Match in Faith, SD and placed at Loveland ($3,539); Tyrel Larsen, who collected at Faith, Sikeston, MO and Lawton, OK ($2,547); Dawson Hay, who took the Broncs Match Finals with a 92.5 on Lunatic from Hell ($3,102); Layton Green, placing at Jerome, ID ($1,031); Kolby Wanchuk, finishing second at Hermiston, OR ($4,086); and Zeke Thurston, who managed to get $2,175 from Faith before heading back north to welcome daughter Lucy Louise Thurston into the world with his wife Jayne.
In bareback riding, Luke Creasy kept up his steady pace to payoffs, stopping at the rodeo ATM in Jerome, and Lovington, NM, ($1,017) before heading back to his teaching job, while Clint Laye earned dough at Jerome and Lawton ($1,344). Pascal Isabelle won Missoula, MT ($1,906).
Scott Guenthner switched places with Curtis Cassidy in the world steer wrestling race, after he won Missoula and placed at Hermiston ($5,363). He also placed in the opening round of the Caldwell Night Rodeo, which is underway this week ($1,257). Tanner Milan was in good shape in the second round there, and he got some cash from Hermiston ($1,324), along with Brendan Laye, who placed at Missoula ($1,447).
The team roping duo of Kolton Schmidt and Cole Davison emerged the victors in Omak, WA, but also placed deep at Logan, UT; Bozeman, MT; and Hermiston ($7,303) for a very good week at the office.
And where are the Canucks in the world this week? Guenthner is 2nd ($82,185), Cassidy 3rd ($79,249), Tanner Milan 17th ($51,950); Orin Larsen 7th in bareback ($83,451), Clint Laye 16th (53,143), Luke Creasy 19th ($46,338) and Ty Taypotat 20th ($45,334); Zeke Thurston 5th ($95,912), Clay Elliott 7th ($94,329); and Carman Pozzobon 10th ($84,726).
There are just two stops this week on the Canadian pro rodeo schedule and chances are good there will be lots of smoke on the road, with fires in both regions. Pincher Creek features three performances of action while Cranbrook also has three days of pro competition.