With his first appearance in a long time among the top ten bareback riders in the world, Clint Laye is reminding the rodeo world of his talents.
“I’m finally healthy again,” remarked the Cadogan-raised cowboy, who now makes his home in Pocatello, ID. “One hundred per cent healthy.”
Laye, who’s 24 years old, was at his third CFR in 2015, and his first NFR, before the injury bug bit. He did compete some last year, but admits it was not to his full potential.
“I didn’t ride real strong. But I got my elbow fixed after the Circuit Finals last year and got it healed up and strong, and when I came back this winter, I’ve been feeling amazing.”
Cleaning up some scar tissue and a bone spur left over after breaking his riding elbow in early 2016 proved to be worthwhile. Add to that the mystery has finally been solved about his lingering concussion-like symptoms.
“That was a big deal. I went to a lot of different doctors, trying to figure out what was wrong.”
After a battery of tests, it turns out the problem was really a thyroid imbalance, a health challenge that runs in his family.
“Once I got that levelled out, I started feeling good again, and got my energy and strength back. It took a ton of stress off of me.”
The condition can be managed with some medication, along with diet and hydration measures.
Rejuvenated and ready, Laye burst on to the rodeo scene with a pair of high powered rides to win the $10,000 bonus at the Fort Worth Super Shootout Rodeo. Then he won his bracket at San Antonio ($4,459), and finished second in the average at Tucson ($5,907).
“When I won the Shootout, I was 90 on Onion Ring. That was huge for me to get on a horse of that caliber and make a good ride on him,” said Laye. “That was a big confidence boost.”
Consistency has become a major goal for the very focused cowboy.
“I’ve been working on that a lot. I get on my spur board every morning, like it’s a horse. I do my same breathing pattern, cinch it up the same. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting on a horse – that’s how much effort I put into making it like that. It’s been helping me a lot this winter.”
Keeping good company has been another priority, and Laye is happy to be back travelling with his buddy Caleb Bennett.
“He’s done really good this winter, and it’s been awesome keeping it in the rig.”
Bennett credits Laye with keeping his spirits up after he was bucked off a horse at San Antonio.
“I told him it really doesn’t matter, because tomorrow’s a fresh day. He ended up winning that rodeo, so I guess I was right,” chuckled Laye.
The season’s goals are all mapped out in Laye’s mind and in his home gym. They include returning to the NFR in the top five, and being top three going into Red Deer for the CFR.
“I’m excited. I plan on trying to reach those goals.”
Laye moved from 20th up to 10th in the world, with his earnings at just over $21,000.
Ahead of him in the race is Luke Creasy, at eighth with $24,142. He’s settled in New Mexico these days, and was a shiny 88 points on his first ride at Tucson. However, some separated ribs are keeping him at home healing up for a couple of weeks. Manitoba’s Orin Larsen has been a presence in the standings, now 18th with $16,463. But his bank account is bigger than that, after finishing second to Kaycee Feild in The American rodeo, for a $25,000 cash boost. Larsen scored 88.5 points on Full Baggage, just back of Feild’s 90.75 on the Canadian superstar horse, Virgil.
Another Canadian in the final four at The American at a packed AT&T Stadium in Texas was Clay Elliott, his second straight year in the hunt for the big bucks in saddle bronc riding.
“What’s unique about it is you’re under pressure you’ve never been under before, getting on for that amount of money, with that many people watching you,” says the Nanton saddle bronc rider.
At his two previous appearances, Elliott had come to The American through the Semi-Finals. Again, this year he’d gone to the Qualifier events first, then won the average at the Semi-Finals, which meant he was eligible for a piece of the million dollar bonus on the final day.
Elliott got to deal with some ‘unfinished business’ with his first horse, Let ‘Er Rip, that had bucked him off at the NFR. The hard-to-ride outlaw threw all his tricks at Elliott, who handled them.
“He ended up bucking me off right at the whistle, but I kind of ‘sold it’ in a way, I guess. The crowd got a kick out of it,” he smiled.
The 86.75 mark took him to the Final Four in second place, but his horse there, Show Me Again, didn’t have as strong a day, and Elliott ended up fourth in a round captured by Cort Scheer, who bettered Cody DeMoss by a mere quarter point.
Scheer shared a third of the bonus, so went home with $433,000, but there was no cash for Elliott, despite an outstanding effort.
That’s The American, and that’s rodeo, and it didn’t bother the 2016 Canadian champ.
“I don’t ride bucking horses for money, never have and never will. The day that I ride bucking horses to make money will probably be the day that I quit.”
“Just the fact I was in that situation, it was pretty special. Those are the days you look forward to, and the ones you look back on as good days.”
Elliott shows up 25th in the PRCA world standings, with $11,458.
“This winter I went to five pro rodeos, and I made the ones that I went to count. It’s quality over quantity. All my goals are related to the amount of rodeos I’ve gone to, and they all come together by the end of the year.”
“The least amount of rodeos I go to, the more I save on travel and expenses.”
Elliott finished third in San Angelo in the average ($4,481) and collected $4,608 from San Antonio.
Best among the Canadian bronc riders on the world scene so far this season is Zeke Thurston, who’s seventh with $27,039, after pulling $13,985 from San Antonio, and $1,733 from San Angelo.
Like Elliott, Scott Guenthner was among the final four at The American in the steer wrestling, but he also came up empty-handed, finishing fourth with a 4.24 second run. The Provost competitor did cash in at San Angelo ($4,884), and Jackson ($4,765), to now sit 12th in the world, with $18,625. Tops among the Canucks is Curtis Cassidy, now ranking third with $28,697. He had a great payday in San Antonio ($9,616).
Canadian champion barrel racer Carman Pozzobon is making the most of her winter south, sitting 17th in the WPRA standings with $14,642. A tipped barrel at The American kept her from advancing to the Final Four there.
The Canadian standings have been most active in the bull riding, with several big events already in the books. It’s shaping up to be quite a race at the top, where Zane Lambert claimed the lead, after winning the Rebel Energy Services Bull Riding in Red Deer. He’s another cowboy feeling refreshed and raring to go after a winter rest.
“I only went to a couple in January, just to heal up and let my body take a break,” admitted Lambert, who rode Curtis Sawyer’s new acquisition Red Pheasant to an 88.5 in the short go. “It felt good to come out and ride solid. I’ve got some momentum going. It’s a good way to start the season.”
“I had some injuries, not serious ones, but just starting to ache, and I felt like I needed some time and rest, to let things heal up. This time I just let ‘em be. Me and my wife went skiing, I’ve been out ice fishing a bunch, and I do a little carpentry on the side. I’m reno-ing my house too.”
Lambert had to miss the Chad Besplug Invitational bull riding, because he headed home to Manitoba, for his Mom’s 60th birthday celebrations. So the Red Deer win helped make up for that.
The Ponoka bull rider has a clear picture for his 2018 run.
“I want to just dominate Canada. I want to ride my best, and challenge myself to see what kind of bulls I can ride this year.”
Getting back to the Calgary Stampede, where he’s been to the Showdown round in the past, is big on his calendar, as is the Canadian Finals.
“I don’t have a rodeo title. It eluded me a few years ago when I came runner up by 400 bucks. It slipped through my fingers there and I still want one before I’m done, so we’ll try for that too.”
While Garrett Green gets to play some tunes on the custom-painted trophy electric guitar for his big win at the Besplug event, it’s been the solid performance of Jared Parsonage at the start of the year that sees him take over the Canadian standings lead now. He’s also been picking away at some U.S. winter rodeos.
“As long as you keep getting scores, the rest will take care of itself,” comments the Maple Creek cowboy. “I’ve had a good start to the Canadian year.”
Tough news for young gun Coy Robbins from the Red Deer bull riding. After winning the long round with an 85.5, he signaled for medical help and had to leave, sitting on a stretcher, and was unable to ride again. Robbins dislocated his shoulder and broke his humerus (bicep bone). The Camrose bull rider is waiting for reconstructive surgery and will be out for the year.
With RodeoHouston underway, Canadian champion Logan Bird shows he has made an amazing recovery following his winter vehicle accident. He advanced out of the first SuperSeries in the tie-down roping and moves on. Another Canadian titlist, Layton Green, won the first SuperSeries in the saddle bronc riding and will also advance to the Semi-Finals.
Story by Dianne Finstad