CALGARY, Alberta — It’s the point of the summer when many folks hit the road to go on vacation. But there’s no rest for rodeo contestants trying to secure a spot at the season end finals on both sides of the border. And their miles now can make or break the season’s results.
One of the biggest finishers in the ‘make’ department is steer wrestler Scott Guenthner, who heated up his consistent performance by some big cheques as August got underway.
Guenthner managed to score at the Daddy of ‘Em All, scooping up a huge cash injection of almost $18,000 for finishing second overall with a total time of 28.9 seconds. The Cheyenne experience was one to remember for the Provost cowboy, who is also number one in Canada.
“Cheyenne is definitely a cool rodeo,” said Guenthner. “It’s a different format with that thirty-foot score, and the steers coming right off grass. They beller and buck, and you’ve just got to hook on, hold on and tip ‘em over!”
“It was the time of my life. I had a lot of fun there. I definitely will go back again. I could’ve won it, but I just (stubbed) my toe a couple times. My last steer dogfell, so I thought ‘just stand him up, tip him over’ and I still won $17,000, so I can’t complain.”
But that wasn’t the only place the bulldogging talent clicked as he also won the Medicine Hat Stampede ($2,800), was second in Idaho Falls ($2,049), and also second in Strathmore ($5,157).
Guenthner, who turns 27 on August 17th, is up to seventh in the world standings. That means his family can start making plans for a Las Vegas getaway in December.
“They all say I’m safe (for the NFR), but of course, I don’t think of it like that. I keep thinking I’m just going to keep going. But this will help us for sure.”
Another competitor who thrived in the August heat was bronc rider Clay Elliott. He set a new season high mark on both sides of the border when he made a flashy 92 point spur ride on Calgary Stampede’s Tiger Warrior at the new Hard Grass Bronc Match in Pollockville. His take out of the event was $5,042. But then he doubled that, by winning Strathmore for his first time, with an 86.5 on Vold’s Klondike for another $5,854. Throw in another $1,273 from a split of first at the High Prairie Elks Pro Rodeo for an 87 on Kelser’s Flash Dance, and $1,724 from Medicine Hat and it’s been a good month, even though August is only half over!
“I love riding bucking horses, and to win money when I do it, that’s pretty cool too,” grinned the Canadian champion. “For me, it boils down to the bucking horses, and that’s how I make my living so I love ‘em!”
Elliott moves up to the world’s top ten, but he’s not slowing down, planning to climb on five or six more horses a week for the next month yet.
Still with bronc riding, Canada’s ‘terrific trio’ has not let up. Layton Green has been keeping up his scorching pace. He now has the second highest mark of the year for his 91.5 on his old friend Stampede Warrior, also notched at the Hard Grass Bronc Match, where he netted $7,061. He was also just a tick behind Elliott at Strathmore, where he finished second for an 84 point ride on Vold’s Painted Saint, for $4,635. But at the Medicine Hat Stampede, it was Green on top with a 90 point ride on Kesler’s Gone Country ($2,854) and he also took the Bruce Stampede title with an 84 or Franklin’s Red Poodle ($1,257). Then you can throw in a placing from Sandpoint, ID ($1,304) as well. The man from Meeting Creek now has over $60,000 in Canada alone, and with a good CFR, could even challenge the Rod Hay bronc riding season earnings record ($101,646). He’s also climbed to fourth in the world.
Let’s not overlook the latest Zeke Thurston exploits either. The World Champ got his biggest payday out of the Home on the Range bronc riding match in Sentinel Butte, ND where he won the first round and finished second in the average for a $7,236 hit. Thurston also picked away at Cheyenne, winding up third in the average for $5,969 overall. There were also cheques from Dodge City, KS ($834) and Castle Rock, CO ($1,368) keeping him solid in second for the world.
The ’rest of summer’ plans for steer wrestler Baillie Milan changed in 3.3 seconds at Strathmore. The eldest of the three bulldogging brothers, who is known more for his hazing prowess, was languishing back in 50th, with just $2,000 in earnings. Throw in the $5,626 from his Strathmore win and things look a lot different.
“I told Straws if I could hand pick one Monday, I think that’s the one I’d want,” said Baillie. “I’d seen him go at Medicine Hat too, and that’s a good steer.”
“I was supposed to go to work on a movie tomorrow. And I’m supposed to be up in La Crete too. So I guess I’m going to have to ditch the movie for now, and go to La Crete, because I guess I’ve got a chance now to make the Finals. So I guess I’ll be rodeoin’ around a little bit more than I expected.”
(Milan made his journey to La Crete worthwhile, finishing second for $1,692)
In the same way the big K-Days record setting 2.9 second run changed brother Straws’ plans, Baillie finds himself in the same boat now. And the cool thing is at both Strathmore and at High Prairie, all three Milans placed and earned cash. Tanner Milan is second in Canada and tenth in the world.
Just as quickly the world turned, but in the opposite direction, for fellow steer wrestler Chance Butterfield. The Ponoka cowboy was in High Prairie, preparing for his turn during slack the next morning. In an unfortunate chain of events, Butterfield found himself at the wrong end of his mare’s hind feet, as she was kicking at another horse. Fortunately, Cody Cassidy, Justin Miller and Josh Harden were nearby and when Butterfield went down, came to his assistance.
“I was just really, really short of breath, so I kind of knew from where I got kicked there was likely some kind of internal damage, and something that was putting pressure on my lungs,” described Butterfield.
A CT scan in High Prairie’s hospital revealed a badly ruptured spleen, as well as some broken ribs, and a bruised heart and pancreas. Eventually airlifted by plane to Grande Prairie, Butterfield went in for surgery the next morning to remove his spleen.
“From my understanding, if the spleen is ruptured bad enough, you’re better off to just get rid of it, than try and salvage it. They just cut it out, piece by piece. Everything else cleaned up pretty good.”
By time he was out of surgery, his wife Kenda, had made it to Grande Prairie, and stayed with him. As a physiotherapist, she was brought up to speed, and is already working with Chance on his recovery. A week after surgery, Butterfield was home, and she had him out for a walk already.
Butterfield points out there are some hockey players who carried on without a spleen, but he will have to watch his immunity and already has some extra vaccinations lined up.
“It’s one of those things a guy can live without for sure. All things considered, I got out quite lucky.”
Every injured cowboy’s next question is always ‘how long before I can get back to action?’. Butterfield was no different, especially as his first CFR qualification is hanging in the balance.
“I had that conversation with the doctors there. I think one of the biggest limiting factors is actually going to be the incision. We’re conservatively optimistic that we will be able to compete at the CFR in November. As far as rehab goes, I’m going to be pretty stubborn about my goals, but pretty flexible with my methods.”
The good news is at the time of his injury, Butterfield was third in the standings, with over $20,000 in rodeo earnings account.
“From what I’m told, historically, I should be close to having my spot locked in for the CFR. To be able to sit back and take a good amount of time to make sure my body is in proper condition before I throw another steer, it’s the best situation I could be in, for what I’ve gone through.”
With the support, help and expertise from his ‘personal’ physio expert Kenda, Butterfield vows to leave nothing on the table as he gives his best shot to getting back on track. He’s also been encouraged by the outpouring of support from his rodeo family and the Ponoka community, even getting the use of an air ride suspension Jeep Cherokee for the long drive home from the local Dodge dealer.
“It’ll be a recovery story if I make the CFR this November, but regardless, we’ve very blessed, just to be here and talking today.”
Mid-summer has also been good for Canadian champion bareback rider Jake Vold, who parlayed a big cheque from his second place finish at Cheyenne ($12,042) into a bump in his status in the world race, to 11th spot. He also just added in a victory from the Field of Dreams Stampede in La Crete ($1,241), where he shared first with Luke Creasy, both with 87 point rides, to pad his Canadian lead. Plus there was a smaller cheque from Medicine Hat ($478). Creasy, meanwhile, put himself in the running for a return to the CFR with some August results. He earned the most at the Bowden Bareback Challenge where the split first in the long go ($3,016) to go along with his La Crete cash ($1,241), and his Medicine Hat ($1,381) and High Prairie ($477) paydays. Although he’s still outside the top fifteen for the world, he made some headway with placings at Cheyenne ($6,507) and Sandpoint, ID ($2,214).
Other competitors who’ve cashed in over the last several weeks include Curtis Cassidy, who was third with a tidy 3.6 steer wrestling run in Strathmore. His take from there and Bonnyville was $6,111, but he also caught money at Great Falls ($2,393) and Idaho Falls ($1,281), as well as a couple of Canadian tie-down roping cheques.
Jordan Hansen got a good hit out of the Bulls for Breakfast event at the Big Valley Jamboree bull riding ($2,444) but also collected at Great Falls ($1,398) and won Helena ($2,746) to move into the world’s top fifteen bull riders. At La Crete, he was the only bull rider to make the whistle, for a $1,567 payday, but he doubled that total with an additional $3,838 in ground money.
‘Mr. August’ himself made his annual appearance in the Canadian tie-down roping run, as Erik Dublanko used the warm temperatures to heat up his season, splitting third at Strathmore ($4,406), and taking second at Grimshaw ($1,288). Victories at Medicine Hat ($3,054) and Grimshaw ($1,481) plus placing at Strathmore ($1,322) gave Logan Bird the number one spot in Canada, bumping back Riley Warren, who’d been holding down that position much of the year. Warren still placed at the Hat ($2,121) and Bonnyville ($1,374) to keep it a close race.
Idaho’s Garrett Smith keeps building his bull riding account in Canada, with his latest big injection from an 88 point ride on Sheep Creek to capture Strathmore ($6,250) and he also topped Medicine Hat ($2,500). The other Garrett, Garrett Green, also put together an impressive string of rides, netting cash in Grimshaw ($1,282), winning Bruce ($1,434), and placing at Medicine Hat ($1,992) and Bonnyville ($1,220).
But also keep your eyes on Todd Chotowetz who’s been riding lots of bulls and steadily climbing the ranks, earning cash in Strathmore ($3,639), Camrose ($1,995), Bruce ($1,060), Medicine Hat ($1,383) and Maple Creek ($405).
Steer wrestler Brendan Laye also collected some much-needed cash for his drive to earn a CFR spot by winning Grimshaw ($1,503) and High Prairie ($1,643) and adding in a little extra from Strathmore ($938) and Bruce ($367).
A couple of the barrel racers winning multiple cheques in the last several weeks have been Sydney Daines and Rene Leclercq, who were first and second at Grimshaw. Daines’ six paydays gave her $4,726, while Leclercq, who needs to move up to get an Edmonton spot, collected $6,190. Shayna Weir and Cathy Grant also saw their horses run to the paywindow at multiple stops on this latest run.
The team roping dollars have been distributed widely over the last few weeks, with different duos topping every show. They even shared first at the rich Strathmore stop, where Rocky Dallyn and Clint Buhler matched the 4.4 second run of the McCarroll brothers for $3,224 each. Buhler and Dallyn also won High Prairie ($1,104 each).
Ky Marshall has entered the All-Around race, after getting his needed third placing in the tie-down roping at Medicine Hat. He joins Cole Scott as the only two contenders so far.
The Calgary Stampede Novice series wrapped up at Strathmore, with Connor Hamilton collecting the hardware for the novice bareback event, and Dawson Hay took the honors for novice saddle bronc. They’re the same two who won the Stampede in their events this year. Hay also took second in the first round of the Rookie saddle bronc event at Cheyenne Frontier Days this year.
There are now nine Canadians holding down NFR qualifying spots, with bareback rider Orin Larsen lurking just outside the top fifteen as well. He had to heal up a bit after Calgary, but came back to finish third in the average at Dodge City ($3,664). In addition to Guenthner, Vold, Elliott, Green, Thurston, Milan and Hansen, World Champions Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler are inside the fold. They picked up $1,646 each from the Medicine Hat Stampede.
There’s a Pro Tour rodeo just getting underway now in Dawson Creek, which will be a key stop for many. But also contestants will hope to ‘peak’ at some mountain stops ahead, with Jasper, Pincher Creek and Cranbrook all in their travel plans, followed by Okotoks and Merritt and the Pro Tour Final at Armstrong.