Pro Rodeo Canada Insider - 1702 - Feb/Mar 2017

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Pro Rodeo




G N I T A R B CELE S N O I P M A H C E TH . Buhler eremy J d n a n pions. hursto , Zeke T e World Cham n o s p Levi Sim adians. Thre an . Three C e on page 48 r o m d Rea



Alberta’s Country Legend


is province wide with






The year ended on a great note with eight of our cowboys qualifying for the WNFR and three World Champions coming back to Canada. Our stock contractors left their mark on Las Vegas as well, with some outstanding performances by the four-legged superstars of our sport. Huge congratulations to all of the Canadian WNFR participants with special recognition going out to 2016 World Champions Levi Simpson, Jeremy Buhler and Zeke Thurston. I attended the PRCA Committee Convention in Vegas, and there was lots of great information sharing with committees from all over the U.S. It was interesting to learn that the PRCA and their committees face many of the same challenges we face here in Canada. It’s easy to see that we all have to work together to make our sport strong. In November I travelled to Regina, Sask., for Agribition Pro Rodeo. Four sold-out nights and terrific performances at both ends of the arena made the return of pro rodeo to Regina a huge success. Thank you to the rodeo committee and all of the members of Agribition who were such a pleasure to work with. The CPRA is working hard to make the 2017 rodeo season one of the best. The Board of Directors is busy solidifying the governance model for the Association and the Rules Committee is preparing to print a new, much needed CPRA Rule Book. Two new events are planned (so far) for 2017: the Rebel Energy Bull Riding in Red Deer, Alta., in February and the Edmonton, Alta., Northlands K-Days Rodeo in July, the richest one head rodeo anywhere! Great start to the new year! Hope to see you down the road. — Kyle Rock, CPRA Operations Manager

COWBOY OF THE YEAR Humbled, honoured, overwhelmed… these are just a few words that come to mind when I think of receiving the 2016 Cowboy of the Year Award. Scott Byrne receives his commemorative buckle I would like to and bronze from Douglas Lake Ranch’s thank the CPRA for the Taylor-Jane Graham beautiful Troy Fischer buckle, the Fellowship of Christian Cowboys for the handmade leather bound bible and Douglas Lake Ranch for the amazing Ross Contway bronze. These awards are very dear to my heart. To all the stock contractors, committees, sponsors and fellow cowboys and cowgirls that I have worked with over the years, thank you for allowing me to make a living at something I truly loved. Last but not least, thank you to my family, Raegan, Brayden and Dylan. I could never have received this honour without your support. I wish the rodeo community all the best in the upcoming rodeo season; see you down the road!

— Sincerely, Scott Byrne, 2016 Cowboy of the Year

THANK YOU FROM THE KESLER FAMILY How deeply we have been touched by the many tributes to Greg throughout the year by the entire Rodeo World. Your thoughtfulness is a gift we will always treasure. We have been so inspired by the Rodeo Family who have made thoughtfulness an art. No words can express, no act of gratitude can relay, no gift can represent what your love and support have meant to us. It will be forever treasured. ­— Judy, Duane, Margo & Chase, Berva Dawn & Kurtis Kesler


Pro Rodeo Canada Insider


Jake Vold bests C5 Rodeo’s Virgil, 89-point ride to win round 2

Cody Cassidy, 3.7 to split the win, CFR round 3

On Target For Fifth Title


hen Cody Cassidy hones in on a target, there’s a good chance he’ll hit the bullseye– whether it’s a trophy head or a steer wrestling championship. The Donalda, Alta., cowboy collected his fifth Canadian title in Edmonton, one more than his dad Greg, and the same number as Lee Graves. Cassidy came into Edmonton as defending titlist and season leader. He capitalized on the CFR cash opportunities, placing in every round but one, to win first in the average, and $44,453, capping off a $79,371 year. “All I can say is it’s been an absolutely perfect season,” marveled the 35-year-old. “I won everything that I wanted to win. The stars were aligned, and it was absolutely perfect.”


Who did Cody have to fend off as his nearest challenger this year? None other than his big brother Curtis, who has two steer wrestling buckles of his own, and won over $30,000 at the CFR. The newest Cassidy steer wrestling buckle makes it 11 in the family. “I’m not stopping anytime soon. I think I work harder at it now than I ever have. The results are speaking for themselves. I’m going to stay going to the gym, working as hard as I can at it. Ultimately my goal is to end up first every year. I’m a Canadian cowboy, so I concentrate on Canadian rodeos, and they’ve been great to me. So my number one goal is to be first for at least a few more.” —D.F.

Jake Vold Three and Counting


ominate’ is a word that surfaces often in Jake Vold’s vocabulary. It’s what he sets out to do in his bareback riding each season. The Ponoka, Alta., raised cowboy came into his seventh straight CFR chasing season leader Caleb Bennett. But Vold had his sights set on being the first cowboy since Dale Trottier in the 1970s to claim three bareback championships in a row. Vold won the first two nights, including an 89-point ride on his old friend Virgil, who earned C5 Rodeo a Horse of the CFR award. In the end, placing in five of the six go-rounds and amassing $62,886, with his third Canadian buckle in hand, Vold could say ‘mission accomplished’. “I came in for this,” stated Vold, who got married in

August and makes his home in Airdrie, Alta., with wife Sarah. “I knew it was going to be a good week, but a hard week. Everyone here is phenomenal; the horses were phenomenal. I kept my eye on the prize. It was a little different this year coming in behind, and I knew Caleb was going to be hard to catch, but I guess it worked out in my favour.” “All the guys I looked up to, Bowers, Shields, LaValley, Cholach, Bill Boyd; they all had three. That’s a number I’ve always had in my mind,” he admits. “But I’m not going to stop here. I’m going to keep working on it. I feel like I’m just getting into my prime now.” —D.F.

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2017


Cody Cassidy



Clay Elliott rides Calgary Stampede’s Stampede Warrior to 86.75 points and the round 3 win

Header Dustin Bird and heeler Russell Cardoza win round 4 with a 4.1 second run

Clay Elliott It’s All About the Horses


hat’s where I kept my mind the whole week was on the bucking horses.” That’s how Clay Elliott described his approach to the Canadian Finals Rodeo minutes after the secondgeneration Nanton, Alta., cowboy had clinched his first Canadian Saddle Bronc Riding championship. “For me it’s the one thing that never changes and that’s the horses.” And for Sunday’s final round, the 2015 National Intercollegiate Champion and 2016 Houston winner couldn’t have hand-picked a better mount for his title showdown than Outlaw Buckers’ Lunatic Party, the three-time Canadian Champion Saddle Bronc. “I was really pleased to ride a bucking son-of-a-gun like that,” Elliott smiled. The soft-spoken talent came into Sunday with an $11,000 cushion on the second

place man — the always consistent Jim Berry, who had also drawn a good one — Bigstone Rodeo’s Rubels. Elliott did what he had to do, posting an 85 score to finish second in the round behind Layton Green and clinch the coveted title. While basking in the glory of the victory, Elliott reflected on the people who have helped him over the years — one man in particular. “Next to my family, my biggest idol in rodeo is Winston Bruce,” he stated. “Lots of guys can ride bucking horses really well but that guy taught me how to win. He’s got it figured out and he’s got the gold buckle that says World Champion on his belt to prove it. I’d like to have one of those myself.” —D.P.

Dustin Bird & Russell Cardoza Partnership Pays Off


or the second time in five years, Cutbank, Mont., cowboy, Dustin Bird made the time he spent north of the 49th parallel a profitable investment. The 2012 Canadian Team Roping champion partnered throughout the 2016 season with Russell Cardoza, the Terrebonne, Ore., tie down roper and heeler who had four Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifications to his credit. And when the curtain came down on the 2016 CFR, Bird and Cardoza were the champions. The team formed near the end of 2015. “I needed a partner at the time to help me get to the NFR,” Cardoza said, “and I heard Dustin was out there. We teamed up and I got to Las Vegas. This year, Dustin really wanted to include the Canadian rodeos in our schedule. That was fine with me. Now I can’t

wait to get back up here next year.” Bird, who became a new dad just prior to the CFR, concurred. “I wasn’t having a great 2015,” he related, “and had pretty well decided to shut down when Russell called me. I figured if I could help him get to Las Vegas, I’d have a good partner for this year.” That’s exactly how it worked out as the duo were a dominant force on both sides of the border throughout the 2016 season. “I grew up close to the Canadian border,” Bird, added. “I wanted to win a Canadian championship and after I did that five years ago I was hoping to win it again so this is great.” —D.P.


Pro Rodeo Canada Insider

Matt Shiozawa ropes in 8.0 to clinch the title

First round win for Nancy Csabay, 14.754 secs

Matt Shiozawa

Nancy Csabay

Down To the Wire

The Comeback Kid


t’s kind of a relief,” Matt Shiozawa admitted after learning that he was the Tie Down Roping Champion of Canada for the second time in his career. The first time was back in 2014. In a battle that literally went down to the last loop of the final performance at CFR 43, Shiozawa was the victor by the narrowest of margins, edging out Scandia, Alta.’s Al Bouchard, the last Canadian to win the title (2009). Popularly known as Shazam in the roping community, the Idaho super-looper came into the final round trailing Bouchard by $4,800 but sitting fourth in the average, while Bouchard was not factoring in the average. When Shiozawa tied his final round calf in 8.0, it meant Bouchard had to better that time to maintain his lead. And with his last loop of the season, the guy with a hand so


sore he couldn’t shake hands, made a valiant effort checking in at 8.1. Two tenths of a second faster would have meant the title stayed north of the 49th parallel. “The best part is,” Shiozawa stated, “when it came down to the end, I roped second last and Al roped last and we were giving each other high fives and wishing each other luck. That’s the camaraderie that’s part of this sport.” Shiozawa has been a familiar face at Canadian rodeos over the last number of years. “I love coming up here and I respect and admire the way the CPRA runs their business,” the Blackfoot, Idaho hand noted. “And I really enjoy this finals in Edmonton.” —D.P.


little over a month before the 2016 Canadian Finals Rodeo, defending Canadian Champion barrel racer, Nancy Csabay was not among the 12 cowgirls who would be heading to Edmonton. It took a huge performance at the Pro Rodeo Canada Series Final in Calgary to move the 2015 champion among the qualifiers and give Csabay a chance to defend her title. But once there, the Taber, Alta., trainer/competitor was once again a picture of consistency. She won the third round on Friday night and added third place cheques in every other round to top the field in the average and take home the champion’s saddle and buckle for a second time. ‘It feels wonderful,” the second generation cowgirl beamed. ”It’s something I never, ever expected. Going in to the Pro Series Final in Calgary, I was 14th and I was able to

move up to seventh there. Then to come here and go from seventh to first is amazing.” Csabay and her mare Wicked have been an electric pairing, especially for the last two seasons. “That horse of mine is a life changer. I just love her. I’ve learned that I just need to make the same run every time and not worry about the win — just do what I know and let my horse do what she knows.” Together Csabay and Wicked won $42,345 at the CFR to take Nancy’s season total to $72,010, providing a slender $1,200 edge over second place finisher, Hermiston, Ore., Callahan Crossley. —D.P.

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2017


Morgan Grant dogs his steer in 4.7 for 4th, CFR round 5

Luke Butterfield earns a 3rd place cheque aboard Duffy Rodeo’s Baystreet

Morgan Grant

Luke Butterfield

Another High Point

First All Around Award


or the second time in four years, Morgan Grant captured the Canadian High Point championship at the CFR in November. But, unlike his title run in 2013, Grant’s margin of victory this time was much less than the $24,000 lead he held that year. “Curtis was a beast all week and made it a race until the end,” says Grant of nine-time High-Point champion, Curtis Cassidy, who finished runnerup by just over $8,000. “It was a nervous week. “I knew that last day it would come down to who placed in the round but I had the (tie-down) roping as a fall back option if I needed it. I was grinding it out in the steer wrestling. I was drawing good but not getting the starts I wanted.” The 27-year-old Grant went into Edmonton with a $12,000 lead on his nearest competitor and was the only cowboy who

qualified to compete at the CFR in two events. It was the third time he accomplished that feat. “That’s what I strive for every year is to make it in two events,” offered the Ontarioraised cowboy, who finished the season in sixth place in both the CPRA steer wrestling and tie-down roping standings. “This is something I work for all year and to win it is an honour. “I had a good year, probably my best fall ever. I won Strathmore and did really well in Armstrong. The key to success is doing well at those big rodeos; then there’s a lot less pressure.” —T.E.


hroughout the 2016 season, Luke Butterfield insisted he was going to have more fun on the rodeo trail. The new mantra led to his first Canadian All Around championship. “Oh absolutely I had a lot of fun,” chuckled Butterfield after winning the buckle at the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton in November. “I made sure I took care of business but I enjoyed it. You don’t get to rodeo all your life so you have to enjoy it.” The only other Butterfield to have won the All Around title is Brian, who is an uncle of Luke’s dad, Greg. But it’s the 18th time a member of the Hall of Fame family from Ponoka, Alta., has won a Canadian championship. “It’s a tough award to win, especially now because everybody specializes in their one event,” offers Butterfield, who won the Canadian saddle bronc championship in 2012 and

the novice title in 2004. “It’s not easy. “I tried to enter with (brother) Brock as much as I could so I could use his horse. Riding the same horse does help a lot to get you in a groove. My mom and dad and Brock were instrumental in helping me win.” The 32-year-old Butterfield, who missed the CFR cut last year, won three cheques in Edmonton, posted scores of at least 80 points in all but one round and finished second in the saddle bronc aggregate for a $27,000 week to beat out 2015 All-Around champion, Josh Harden for the title. —T.E.


Pro Rodeo Canada Insider







And for the first time ever, Canadians rode away with three World titles in two events. In a historic performance, Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler in the team roping and Zeke Thurston in the saddle bronc riding added the title ‘World Champion’ next to their names. Simpson from Ponoka, Alta., (via Claresholm, Alta.) and Buhler from Arrowwood, Alta., (via Matsqui, now Abbotsford, B.C.) had already made history when they became the first all-Canadian team to qualify for the WNFR. But that apparently wasn’t enough for the duo as they put together a 4.3 second run in the tenth and final goround at the Thomas & Mack Arena to split first and second and pick up a cheque for $23,480.77 each. That was good enough to give them the average title and a whopping $67,269.23 per man. Put all that together along with the fact that some of the teams they were chasing, notably Jake Long and Luke Brown, struggled in the final round and the first-time qualifiers were World Champions — Levi with $249,133.31 in season earnings and Jeremy, sporting the most famous beard in rodeo, earning $258,311.13. Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2017


2016 Canadian Wrangler National Rodeo Finals contestants (left to right) Clay Elliott, Jeremy Buhler, Jake Watson, Jake Vold, Orin Larsen, Zeke Thurston, Levi Simpson, Kolton Schmidt


The talented twosome roped nine of ten steers, placed on seven, winning the first round and splitting first and second in two more including the critical tenth round. When the announcement was made both cowboys were close to speechless, unlike the Canadian fans, both in the arena and back in Canada. The roar of approval was long and very loud. “I couldn’t believe it,” Simpson admitted. “We came here with some goals and wanting to do our best but to have three go-round buckles, the Average buckle and then the World Champion buckle, that’s just beyond belief.” His partner agreed. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. I was confident before we came here that we’d do okay but I did not have this in my mind. This is pretty crazy.” Of the second-most famous beard on the planet (Santa’s might be more popular, though not by much) Buhler added, “Yeah, I really didn’t have any plans to get rid of it. I guess it’ll stay for sure now.” Barrhead, Alta., roper Kolton Schmidt and American partner, Shay Carroll, had their own moment in the spotlight. Though disappointed with their overall performance at this Finals, they didn’t come away empty-handed; far from it. Not only did the Schmidt-Carroll combination win the ninth round of the WNFR, they did it with flair, posting a run of 3.6 seconds, the fastest time of the entire rodeo. Canadian fans barely had time to digest the fact that two gold buckles were headed north of the 49th parallel before the stars aligned one more time. Big Valley, Alta., Zeke Thurston was one of the last saddle bronc qualifiers to ride on WNFR day ten. He climbed down into the chutes and onto the back of the Andrews Rodeo bronc, Fire Lane. The second-generation qualifier, who came into the final round two points out of the lead for the average, put together another near-perfect ride for an 86 score to split third and fourth in the round for $13,326.92. When Jake Watson could manage only 82.5 points and world leader and defending champion, Jacobs Crawley missed his horse out, Thurston vaulted to first place in the average and a season earnings total of $265,449.45 to edge Crawley for the world title by just $2,831. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” the recently married Thurston grinned. “I just can’t believe it. It’s crazy. I had a good week. I started off a little slow but things picked up. Luckily I was able to stay on nine of them. I knew the only way I could beat Jacobs was if they got him down or they missed him out and that doesn’t happen very often with Jacobs. It just goes to show you that anything can happen.” For Watson, the Hudson’s Hope, B.C., cowboy, the 82.5 on Frontier Rodeo’s Short Stop was enough to split sixth in the round and give him second place in the average. The twenty-three yearold had a brilliant WNFR in his own right, as he climbed all the way from 15th place to fifth place in the world standings.

The third member of the talented Canadian bronc riding trio, Canadian champion Clay Elliott, captured fifth place in the final round on Frontier Rodeo’s Delta Force to collect $6,769.23. The Nanton, Alta., cowboy finished up 11th in the world with season earnings of $139,759.79. Jake Vold ended his Wrangler National Finals Rodeo almost exactly the same way he started — with a sixth place finish, this time with an 84.5 score on J Bar J’s All Pink. In between the first and last rounds, Jake won three go-rounds and finished the Finals with $165,339.75 in earnings to end up second in the world standings with $240,161.06. Inglis, Man., Orin Larsen who re-injured separated ribs in the first round of the WNFR, was a testimony to courage and cowboy try as he finished strong, placing in the last five rounds including a go-round win in round eight, to finish up third in the world standings with $219,372.59. That means that of the eight competitors who proudly rode for the maple leaf, there were three firsts (two in one event), a second, a third and a fifth, and a total WNFR haul that exceeded one million dollars, making this — Levi Simpson group easily the most successful in Canadian rodeo history. The stock from north of the 49th performed every bit as well as the two-legged superstars. Almost $400,000 was won on the backs of Canadian horses and bulls, not to mention those that bucked off the best riders in the world in their respective events. And the icing on the cake was the announcement that the Calgary Stampede horse, Xplosive Skies was selected Best Bareback Horse of the WNFR. Pickup man and 2009 Cowboy of the Year, Gary Rempel, was selected for his ninth Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Among the six horses he took with him was 27-year-old Rainbow — a gelding that has accompanied Gary to every Finals. And Okotoks, Alta., rodeo clown, Dennis Halstead, was chosen to be the backup barrel man for the first time in the career of the five-time Entertainer of the Year in Canada. There was a Canadian connection in the Tie Down Roping as well as three-time Canadian Champion Tyson Durfey, the Weatherford, Tex., hand, roped his way to the world title with $212,445.46. One of the very popular wins took place in the barrel racing where 68-year-old Okla., barrel racer, Mary Burger, hung on to win her second title with just a $5,000 margin of victory. Mary, who won her first crown in 2006, was also the 2016 Calgary Stampede champion. Four-time Canadian champion, Lisa Lockhart of Oelrichs, S.D., won the barrel racing average. Additional World Champions include Steer Wrestler, Tyler Waguespack; Bareback, Tim O’Connell; Bull Riding, Sage Kimzey and Brazil’s first World Champion is All Around Cowboy Junior Nogueira. c

“We came here with some goals

and wanting to do our best but

to have three go-round buckles,

the Average buckle and then the

World Champion buckle, that’s just beyond belief.”


Pro Rodeo Canada Insider

Jordan Hansen clinches the title with an 85.5 pt ride on Vold Rodeo’s Black Rose






“It’s always been a life-long goal and I always thought it was a possibility,” confides Hansen. “I wouldn’t say I didn’t expect to do well this year but with everything that happened, I wouldn’t have guessed this would have been the year I would win.” It was back in July at the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo that Hansen’s season went off course. “I just finished riding my second bull and when I got off, my bull rope wrapped around the inside of my leg,” begins the 23-year-old in his description of what led to a severely broken ankle. “He pulled me underneath and stepped on me. “He actually kind of stepped on my head and shoulder but I guess somehow all the force going straight down must have shattered my ankle. I walked out of the arena and honestly thought I had just rolled it bad. Sport Medicine down there took a look and sent me for x-rays. When I got back home, the doctors here said it was broken in nine places.” It was then that any hope of winning a Canadian championship seemed out of the question. “They originally said I’d be out until the New Year because I also tore a major ligament and tendon,” recalls the five-year pro cowboy. “I was almost sick to my stomach after hearing that.” The healing process began with Hansen told to keep any weight off the injured ankle while his leg was placed in a cast up to his knee. Then he was fitted with an air cast a few weeks later and eventually began an exercise program. “I kept hoping and praying it would heal quick,” offers Hansen, who has qualified for the CFR four consecutive years. “I told myself from the start that I would ride at the Finals. “The next time I saw the doctor, I told him ‘I’m probably going to ride in November so I’m not even going to ask you if it’s ok’. All he said was to get it in as good of shape as possible.” His first real test came on opening night of the CFR at Northlands Coliseum. “I was excited and nervous all at the same time,” reveals Hansen, who had gotten on a couple of practice bulls before the Finals. “I was pretty close to getting the whistle and everything felt good. “I gained a lot of confidence when I rode my next bull on Thursday. Then after I rode Friday night, I told myself there were no more excuses. I was ready to go.” Hansen went on to ride the next three as well, winning round five and the aggregate on his way to knocking off reigning champ, Dakota Buttar, to win the championship. c

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2017





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