Even if the Canadian temperatures don’t feel like it, spring has arrived on the rodeo calendar, putting a wrap on the U.S. winter run and offering the first full rodeos of the Canadian year.
Emerging the top Canuck money earner south of the line is Curtis Cassidy, who ended March in second place for the PRCA steer wrestling standings, with earnings of $35,677.
That’s a pretty impressive figure for this early in the season, but while the twenty-year pro is pleased, you couldn’t quite call this rodeo high achiever satisfied.
“The first half of the winter I broke a barrier to win Odessa. I got a good start on my second one at Fort Worth and he stopped into the hazer, and I didn’t even get off. I kind of felt like that was a missed opportunity. At Denver I placed on my first steer, and then my second one stopped, and I missed him. I felt like if I would’ve had just a couple, tiny, little things go my way I could’ve had a really good winter,” related Cassidy.
His hunger is understandable because last year, Cassidy was on the outside looking in come NFR time. He finished 26th with more than $60,000 in earnings from the bulldogging alone. The Donalda pro converted that disappointment into motivation, getting a jump on his 2018 efforts by winning second at the All-American Pro Finals in Waco in October, and catching some bonus cash at the last Boyd Gaming Chute-Out rodeo, just before the NFR started. He also won the average at the Wilderness Circuit Finals, which scored him a trip to this week’s Ram National Circuit Finals in Florida.
Add to that nearly $10,000 from San Antonio and $6,982 from Austin, and his winter ended on a good note, especially when you throw in some bonus bucks, like $7,250 from RodeoHouston, which he’d won in 2009.
“Houston has always treated me pretty good. I was kind of disappointed I didn’t make the Final Four the last day, because I’d had pretty good luck up to that point. But I guess that’s just the way it goes, sometimes.”
“You want to win as much as possible all the time, and I don’t think you ever want to be satisfied. Even if you’re leading the world, there’s always more money you could’ve won somewhere. That’s just kind of the way I am,” admitted the two-time Canadian steer wrestling champion, who cashed in for another $5,000 by sweeping a jackpot event just after Austin, at Huntsville, TX.
Cassidy relied on his own horse Tyson for most of the winter, although he was able to jump on Tom Lewis’s great Maverick for a few, like San Antonio.
“Tyson’s never been to any of these winter rodeos before, and he basically just backed in there and did his job every time, like it was just another rodeo for him, which is exactly what you want out of a horse. I’m darn sure happy with how he’s been doing. But any time you get on an opportunity to jump on a horse like Tom’s, a guy needs to not have too much pride in your own horses, and be able to jump on something else once in a while as well.”
Cassidy’s traveling crew included Tanner Milan, Harley Cole, sometimes Brendan Laye, and of course, Scott Guenthner, who joins Cassidy in the world’s top fifteen ranks. He lands at ninth, with $22,121.
“Well it was definitely it was one of the best winters I’ve had down there,” remarked the Provost cowboy. “After last year making my first NFR, I know how much it takes, and how long the summer gets when you’ve got to go to all 100 of them to make the NFR. So a good jump is definitely a start. Hopefully it will set me up for maybe not as stressful of a summer.”
Last year Guenthner didn’t have his first twenty grand in the bank until June or July, and it took his big hit from Cheyenne to really boost him up the list.
Even though you won’t see evidence in the world standings, a big winter highlight for Guenthner was his first trip to RodeoHouston, where he was second place overall, adding a handy $26,000 deposit to his books. He had to make the Finals the hard way, through the Wild Card round. But anything can happen in a ten-man showdown, and Guenthner managed to keep his technique solid and his mind steady, to be second among the top four finalists.
“The first two guys before me broke the barrier so I was like ‘OK, stay behind the barrier, throw a steer down, and you’re going to win fifty, or you’re going to win twenty thousand’. Yea, it would’ve been awesome to win Houston, but I put enough pressure on that last guy to go. He was five flat and I was 5.1.”
Guenthner was excited to be able to use his own horse Itsy for the winter, putting her back into action during the CFR in Edmonton, after a health-related layoff. He was also relieved to find out her issues could be resolved with grass hay and a high protein diet, with no starch and sugar, since her system doesn’t handle those well.
“Definitely nice to have her back, that’s for sure.”
One victory that did provide a boost in the standings came in Grand Island, Nebraska, where winning first in the average netted him $3,497. Not bad for a ‘veer off the path’ stop on a slow weekend. Like Cassidy, Guenthner is headed to Kissimmee this weekend, because of his success at the Montana Circuit Finals earlier this winter. The steer wrestlers will be joined at the RNCF by saddle bronc riders Layton Green and Ricky Warren, of Hudson’s Hope, BC.
Other big March winners south of the line included Clint Laye, who claimed the RodeoHouston bareback honors, also via the Wild Card route. He dazzled the audience with outstanding performances in the Championship round, including an 88 point ride on Commander, and then a big 89 on Jr. Bonner, to claim the $50,000, plus the $7,250 from his earlier efforts, and a further $5,500 from the Super Shootout before the Houston event.
Laye has also cracked the top 15 in the bareback standings ($21,307), where Luke Creasy is ninth ($27,218) and Orin Larsen sits eighth ($27,501). Creasy picked up cash from stops at Scottsdale ($986); Mercedes, TX ($465); Cave Creek ($671); and Lubbock ($952); all while juggling his new job teaching in New Mexico. Larsen’s main money this month came from Austin, where he finished third in the Finals, for a total of $11,038. But he also profited in Houston, to the tune of $9,250, finishing third in the Championship round.
Clay Elliott netted the most of the Canadian Finalists at Rodeo Austin, by finally drawing the horse Wound Up and maximizing his opportunity. The 89.5 points was tops on the leaderboard, and he collected a healthy $14,335 in the bronc riding. He also split first at Arcadia, FL for $3,687 and got a bit out of Houston ($750), to become the highest Canadian in the saddle bronc standings at 8th ($29,479). Right behind him is Zeke Thurston, ($27,400) who picked up $16,375 from RodeoHouston and the Super Shootout, which should help outfit the nursery in anticipation for this summer’s family expansion!
Other saddle bronc notables: Layton Green, who just missed out on the Wild Card qualification at Houston, but still got away with $6,500; Jake Watson ($1,375 from RodeoHouston and $589 from Redmond, OR); Sam Kelts ($1,125 Houston, second at Redmond for $2,264, and won Goliad, TX for $993); Tyrel Larsen ($1,000 RodeoHouston) and young guns Ricky Warren (Okeechobee, FL $548) and Dawson Hay, who rode his way to fourth at Rodeo Austin ($5,250) for the lead in the Resistol Rookie standings in his event.
Canadian champion tie-down roper Logan Bird has made an amazing recovery from his dramatic accident this winter, pulling $3,250 from Houston and winning Cave Creek ($1,588), where Jake Burwash also placed in the same event ($493). Steer wrestler Travis Reay was first in that scenic Arizona town ($1,629, while Denver Roy placed there ($786) and at nearby Queen Creek ($263). Murray Pole finished third in the tie-down roping there ($489).
Team roper Kolton Schmidt and his partner Cole Davison split a go-round win at Austin for $4,670, while Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler advanced out of their Houston pool all the way to Championship Sunday, where they finished seventh ($9,500). Steer wrestler Cody Cassidy won $5,500 in the Super Shootout there, while Tanner Milan collected $1,000 from his Houston Pool and $1,499 from Beaumont. Jordan Hansen got $1,875 of Houston cash in the bull riding, but the $1,478 he picked up in Mercedes counts towards his NFR run. His biggest hit came at Rodeo Austin where he tied for second with an 88 point ride, to win $4,106.
Canadian barrel racing champion Carman Pozzobon made her winter time south productive, making thirteenth in the world race ($19,671) with a sizeable boost from Rodeo Austin’s purse ($6,016) after dashing to third spot in the Finals. She was also second in Redmond, for another $2,485, while Deb Guelly placed there as well ($660).
A stop in Kalispell, MT was good for bareback rider Pascal Isabelle, who took first ($1,053), while Kirk Robinson was second in tie-down roping ($578) and Jared Parsonage was third in bull riding ($555).
The Broncs and Honky Tonks Spring Indoor Rodeo at Medicine Hat kicks off the spring rodeo line-up in Canada with three performances this weekend. The Tofield Bull Bash goes the following weekend, with Camrose and Coleman both on the final weekend of April.
Many in the Canadian rodeo community mourn the loss of unforgettable bareback rider Chris Harris, who lost his life at 41 years of age, in a fire at the warehouse where he lived and kept his antique car collection in Texas. Harris loved getting on Canadian bucking horses and was the 1999 Calgary Stampede bareback champion. Harris was a six-time NFR qualifier as well. He was laid to rest this week.