Pro Rodeo Canada Insider Feb/Mar 2020

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Pro Rodeo


WORLD CHAMP AGAIN! Two-time World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Zeke Thurston of Big Valley, Alta., earning his second World Championship one buck at a time at the 2019 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nev. PRCA ProRodeo photo by Clay Guardipee




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Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2020


Outstanding! The 2020 Canadian Professional Rodeo Season is underway after an outstanding 2019 season that was capped off with an exciting and successful 46th edition of the Canadian Finals Rodeo, held for the second year at Westerner Park in Red Deer, Alta. Congratulations to our Champions! Fans also enjoyed cheering on CPRA competitors at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December. Congratulations to all — with special compliments to Zeke Thurston of Big Valley, Alta., who captured his second World Saddle Bronc title. Shout out as well to Tie-Down Roping Champion, Haven Meged, and Bull Riding Champion, Sage Kimzey, both of whom competed at CFR in November 2019. Canadian stock contractors had a stand-out year on both sides of the border as well. A particular highlight was seeing Northcott-Macza’s 242 Get Smart, earning top saddle bronc in both Canada and the U.S. The inaugural Maple Leaf Circuit Finals presented as part of Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, Sask., at the end of November, officially kicked off this year’s event roster. In addition to providing Champions and overall Circuit Winners with an opportunity to compete at the RAM National Circuit Finals in Kissimmee, FL., later this spring, money won at the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals counts toward the 2020 CFR. Bull riders enjoyed the Rebel Energy Xtreme Bull Riding on January 11 in Red Deer and are looking forward to competing at the Chad Besplug Invitational on February 29. April will see a return to a busier rodeo schedule for all competitors. Breakaway roping has been approved as a CPRA optional event for 2020. Fans and competitors can look forward to seeing the addition of this women’s event at a number of rodeos. (Contestants interested in competing in breakaway roping at CPRA rodeos can contact the office at 403–945–0903 to find out about obtaining permits or memberships.) And thank-you to our sponsors, our fans, our rodeo committees and their volunteers. We very much appreciate your support and look forward to having you as part of our 2020 season. Wishing everyone a happy and successful 2020. See you on the rodeo trail. Terry Cooke, President, CPRA

2020 Canadian Professional Rodeo Association Schedule FEBRUARY Claresholm, AB * (BR).............................. Feb 29

APRIL Picture Butte, AB * (BR)........................... Apr 10 Tofield, AB * (BR)........................................ Apr 11 Medicine Hat, AB....................................... Apr 17–19 Camrose, AB pending.............................. Apr 24–26 Crowsnest Pass (Coleman), AB........... Apr 24–26

MAY Drayton Valley, AB.................................... May 1–3 Stavely, AB................................................... May 7–9 Innisfail, AB * (BR)..................................... May 9 Falkland, BC................................................. May 16–18 Swift Current, SK * (BR)........................... May 23 Grande Prairie, AB FINNING.................. May 28–31 Leduc, AB...................................................... May 28–31 Hand Hills, AB............................................. May 30–31

JUNE Brooks, AB................................................... Jun 5–6 Lea Park/Marwayne, AB........................ Jun 5–7 Rocky Mountain House, AB.................. Jun 5–7 Innisfail, AB.................................................. Jun 12–14 Wildwood, AB * (SB) date change....... Jun 13 Wainwright, AB FINNING....................... Jun 18–21 Sundre, AB................................................... Jun 19–21 High River, AB............................................. Jun 20–21 Williams Lake, BC FINNING................... Jun 25–28 Ponoka, AB FINNING................................ Jun 25–Jul 1 Airdrie, AB.................................................... Jun 26–28

*Indicates Special Event Finning Canada is the Title sponsor of the Pro Tour All dates are subject to change. Please visit for up-to-date information


Pro Rodeo Canada Insider CHAMPIONSHIP UPDATE


Zeke Thurston is first and foremost a winner, and he proved it again at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo en route to his second world title. In the final go-round, the Big Valley, Alta., saddle bronc rider posted an 88.5 score on C5 Rodeo’s Kitty Whistle to split 3/4/5 in the round to add $11,141 to his round earnings. And Thurston added a fourth-place average payout of $31,431 to

give him WNFR earnings of $170,064 and an overall season total of $347,055. “I wanted this one even more than I wanted that first one,” the 24-year-old second-generation bronc rider admitted. “I’ve had more fun this year than I ever have. This is awesome, just awesome.” It was also a terrific week for Thurston’s travelling partners, bronc riders Jake

Watson and Dawson Hay. Watson was second in the final round with an 89.5 point ride and $20,730. He finished sixth in the average, won over $127,000 during the tenday Finals and checked in at $236,406 for the year — sixth overall. Hay, a WNFR first-timer, completed the Canadian trio’s tremendous showing as he was part of a 3/4/5 final round split with Thurston and Ryder Wright; Hay added an eighth-place average cheque of $6,346 for an NFR total of $97,435 and season earnings of $197,747 — good for seventh place. California bareback rider Clayton Biglow came to the WNFR with a commanding lead, increased that lead in the first nine go-rounds and in the tenth round, tied the arena record he set a year ago; this time the 93-point score was recorded on the Canadian Bareback Horse of the Year, Northcott-Macza’s Stevie

World Champion TieDown Roper Haven Meged roping off his spectacular black mare, Beyoncé. “I bought her off Facebook a couple of years ago,” said Meged in an interview. PRCA ProRodeo photo by Dan Hubbell


Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2020


Knicks. The $26,230 first-place cheque, coupled with his win in the average ($67,269) gave the four-time qualifier a record season total of $425,843. 2019 Canadian Champion and fivetime WNFR qualifier Orin Larsen finished fourth in the final go-round ($11,000) and held on to fourth place in the average for another $31,731 to bring his season total to $296,403, second only to Biglow. The second of the Canadian bareback riders, Cadogan, Alta., cowboy, Clint Laye, rode all ten of his WNFR horses and finished 6th in the average for $16,500 to take home almost $79,000 at his second WNFR and a season total of $170,415. It was a dream season for 21-year-old tie-down roper, Haven Meged, The Miles City, Montana WNFR rookie prevailed with a season total of $246,013, just $1,182 ahead of 2013 World Champion Shane Hanchey. Hanchey split the final round with a 7.1 second run with Texan Adam Gray, each man collecting $23,480. The Meged-Hanchey 1-2 finish was the exact reverse of the Canadian Championship battle they staged at CFR 46 in Red Deer. Bull rider Sage Kimzey had set his sights on tying the great Jim Shoulders’ record of six consecutive world titles, and the 25-year-old Oklahoma sensation did it with authority. Kimzey was 88 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s River Monster to win second in the last round, finish first in the average ($67,269) and put a ribbon on a season that saw him top $480,796 in earnings, another record. 2016 Canadian Champion Jordan Hansen topped the field in round ten with an 88.5 point ride. That $26,230 payday, along with an eighth-place average cheque of $6,346, gave the Ponoka, Alta., bull rider an NFR total of $100,044 and a season total of $214.792. It came down to the final performance before defending Champion Hailey KinselLockwood was declared 2019 Ladies Barrel Racing Champion. Seven placings through the week, including two round wins, gave the Cotulla, Texas cowgirl $141,153 in NFR earnings for a grand total of $290,020. It was third time lucky for Helena, Montana steer wrestler Ty Erickson. The lanky bull dogger came to the Thomas & Mack Arena twice before in the lead and was unable to seal the deal. While Erickson did not place in round ten, he clocked a 4.4

Jordan Hansen of Okotoks, Alta., scoring 90 points on Bridwell Pro Rodeo’s Jive Turkey to win second in round three WNFR action. PRCA ProRodeo photo by Dan Hubbell

to maintain fifth in the average ($22,846) to win his first World title with $234,491 in total. Two-time and reigning Canadian Champion Scott Guenthner pocketed $46,102 for his 2019 WNFR efforts for a 12th place $148,853 overall. In the Team Roping event, it came down to the final round with Oklahoma’s Clay Smith taking home his second consecutive World Heading title. The five-time WNFR qualifier and his partner Jade Corkill placed in six of ten rounds ($118,307 total NFR earnings) with Smith earning a season total of $268,819. And it was Texas heeler, Wesley Thorpe, who enjoyed his first World

Heeling Championship with an impressive $249,180 for the season, $161,884 of which came from earnings garnered at this year’s Finals with California heading partner, Cody Snow. The WNFR Top Stock Awards saw four Canadian horses get the nod. C5 Rodeo’s F13 Virgil and Northcott-Macza’s X81 Spilled Perfume split Reserve Bareback honours. In saddle bronc, Ward Macza took home another prize with a tie for Reserve Champion between NorthcottMacza’s 242 Get Smart, Calgary Stampede’s T-65 Tiger Warrior and Frontier Rodeo’s Medicine Woman. c


Pro Rodeo Canada Insider CHAMPIONSHIP UPDATE


Wills was especially impressed with the overall production at the Finals. “The people in Regina ran the rodeo great, they were very professional, and it was cool to see all those fans in the stands.” The 24-year old’s outstanding performance wasn’t the only one that highlighted the $149,678 Regina-based Finals. Carbon, Alta., bareback rider Cole Goodine won three go-rounds en route to his Maple Leaf Circuit Finals aggregate title and the secondhighest payout of $6,123.20. Other champions include Kolby Wanchuk of Sherwood Park, Alta., in the bronc riding with $5,612.93; five-time Canadian Steer Wrestling Champion Cody Cassidy of Donalda, Alta., ($5,442.85); Glentworth, Sask., tie-down roper Jesse Popescul and Dawson Creek, B.C., bull rider Jacob Gardner — both with $5,102.69; and team ropers Clay Ullery (Two Hills, Alta.), and heeler, Riley Warren (Stettler, Alta.),

who garnered $4,252.22 each from the four-day event. Overall Maple Leaf Circuit winners include Ky Marshall of Bowden, Alta., in bareback; Ben Andersen of Eckville, Alta., in saddle bronc; Kyle Brown of Didsbury, Alta., in bull riding; Layne Delemont of Chauvin, Alta., in steer wrestling, Keely and Logan Bonnett of Ponoka, Alta., in team roping; Blair Smith of Wimborne, Alta., in tie-down roping and Brooke Wills in barrel racing. In addition to having their money count towards the 2020 Pro Rodeo Canada season, all of the Finals Champions, along with the overall Maple Leaf Circuit winners, earn qualifications for the RAM National Circuit Finals April 2-4, 2020 in Kissimmee, FL. (Official RNCF qualifiers will be confirmed later this week.) For complete results, see c



The Kamloops, B.C., cowgirl followed up her Canadian championship title and $35,640 in CFR earnings with an equally impressive win at the inaugural Maple Leaf Circuit Finals at Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, Sask. Wills and her eight-year-old mare, Fames to Blame (Famey), won two of the four go-rounds at the Brandt Centre and finished second in the other two to capture the aggregate title and $6,803.65 — the largest paycheque of the Finals. “The last month has been incredible,” Wills acknowledged. “The win here in Regina, the awesome way the competitors were treated and qualifying for Kissimmee, FL (the RAM National Circuit Finals) capped off this dream month we’ve had.” Wills also made the point, “And the money we won here gives us a really nice head start for the 2020 rodeo season.” Wills was confident in her mare heading into the Circuit Finals. “I didn’t run her between Red Deer and Regina, and I figured she might need one run to really get going here. She just loves her job and loves to win and gets stronger at these multiplerun events.”


Canadian Champion and Maple Leaf Circuit champ Brooke Wills of Kamloops, B.C., on her eight-year-old mare, Fames to Blame (Famey).




Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2020




Orin Larsen riding NorthcottMacza's multi-award-winning mare, X81 Spilled Perfume






QUALIFY FOR THE CFR. “I finally have my green card,” reveals Larsen, who now lives in Gering, Nebraska. “I can now cross the border without any trouble for a few years.” That issue has been hampering Larsen’s ability to move freely from the United States to Canada during the rodeo season. He’s entered just 16 CPRA events in each of the last two seasons, one more than the necessary fifteen rodeos used as a benchmark for qualification for the Canadian Finals. “The problem was I had to be in the U.S. for six consecutive months,” begins the 28-year-old. “I only have one very small

window each year to do that and I wasn’t able to do it. I had to go to Omaha to get a special document signed by Homeland Security so I could cross the border while my green card was being processed. Then my wife and I had to go back to Omaha for interviews to make sure our marriage wasn’t a sham. It was two years of spending money and fighting with the help of a lawyer. I’m glad it’s done and over with for a few years.” Despite his limited appearances in this country, Larsen has averaged wins of over $1,100 per Canadian regular-season rodeo over the past four years. He’s also won over $178,000 at the CFR in those four appearances while winning or splitting the win in 11 of 24 go-rounds. And this year, Larsen won his first Canadian Bareback Championship. “I couldn’t have asked for a better CFR,” says the two-time College National Finals Rodeo Champion. “I was very fortunate. All those guys that were there in Red Deer are just as deserving.

“Horsepower played a role, but when I rode Spilled Perfume on Wednesday night, it gave me a whole new level of confidence. I’d been on that horse about seven times before and rode it once. I’ve had that horse make me look plum stupid before. “Everybody was riding so good and we brought the buckers. There were no big, fluffy hoppers that anyone could spur. It was so good that it literally came down to a drawing contest.” Larsen went on to win the last three rounds of the Finals with scores of 87.5, 90 and 89.5 points, giving him his second straight aggregate title and the championship buckle. Of his 11 CFR go-round wins, 10 have come in rounds four through six. He’s hoping to be able to add to that impressive resume in 2020. “It will be the same plan for this year,” suggests Larsen, who lists Inglis, Man., as his Canadian address. “My travelling partners and I have a pretty good system. If I can make it up for a few more, that would be more than great.” c 43

Pro Rodeo Canada Insider




Wade Rempel picking up bareback rider Dantan Bertsch from Calgary Stampede’s T-17 Twin Cherry at 2019 Strathmore Stampede OPPOSITE PAGE Pick up man Terry Leeder giving Colton Ouellette a helping hand off of Duffy Rodeo's bareback horse, 42 Scrufty




Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2020


Canadian pro rodeo is fortunate to have some of the most talented and experienced pick up men in the world. It’s a specialized skill set, and those who know it best say it takes a couple of key factors for anyone wanting to join their ranks: practice and good horses. Plenty of both. Wade Rempel of Kyle, Sask., has logged thousands of hours in the rodeo arena in his 45-year career. He’s been helping rodeo cowboys, often with his brother Gary, since they were kids at the Matador community pasture in Saskatchewan. They got started when stock contractor Jerry Myers spotted them and began to call when he needed an extra hand. That led to work with other contractors, including a still-regular gig for the Rempel brothers at the Calgary Stampede. “You’ve got to know how to ride, that’s one thing for sure,” emphasizes Rempel. But that’s no ordinary ‘sit-in-the-saddle-on-a-sunnyday’ horsemanship ability. It’s more of a ‘ride-into-a-thunderstorm-and-pull-someone-out’ kind of riding. “You need to get to a practice pen first, and have horses that want to work,” he adds. Terry Leeder of Buck Creek, Alta., lives not far from stock contractor John Duffy, and that’s how he got his entrance into the game. “I got going to practice pens with him and started picking up there,” Leeder recalled. He’s been working at rodeos for more than 20 years now, mostly in the amateur ranks at first, and now mainly in the pros. The positions don’t open up often, but you need to be ready if they do. “There are so many good pick up men in Canada,” Leeder points out. “You’ve kind of just got to wait your turn until someone retires and you can get in there.” The horsepower quotient is huge for a pick up man, and while a good, strong horse is an immeasurable asset, Leeder says another quality is even more important. “They’ve got to have a big heart. They’ve got to get in there and stay in there, do their job. Sometimes you’ll go through some horses that just don’t want to do it.”

At an average rodeo, Leeder uses three horses in a perf — more if it’s a bigger rodeo. He has six head he can rotate through, while Rempel has nine in his remuda, including a young one he’s bringing along. Approaching a bucking horse in close range isn’t something all saddle horses aspire to — some can learn, others take to it more naturally. But both cowboys know it takes lots of training to get one to the reliable stage. For both horse and rider, the task requires intense concentration and antici-


For both horse and rider, the task requires intense concentration and anticipation throughout the entire rodeo.” pation throughout the entire rodeo. Plus, good ‘stock sense’ is another critical asset. “You’ve got to be able to read things,” Rempel explains. “If you can see somebody getting in trouble, you can take two or three steps and be that much closer.” “So, you’ve got to be ready, maybe look ahead a bit, yet stay out of their road. They (the contestants) own those horses for eight seconds ‘til the whistle goes. You get in there too early and bugger them up, it’s no good for anybody.”

It also takes some cowboy smarts to know when to push and when to get out of the way of the bulls. Being handy with a rope is another prerequisite for encouraging wayward stock to head in the right direction or for securing a horse if a bareback rider gets hung up. Unlike rodeo competitors, pick up men are guaranteed a paycheque at the end of the day, a responsibility that requires true professionalism. “You have to pay attention to your job,” Rempel emphasizes. “The contractors look after their horses, and we have to treat everyone the same — get the flank off as quick as you can. It’s their money bucking. Treat every cowboy, every horse, with respect.” At most rodeos, there are two pick up men in the arena, but at some larger shows, there can be double that. “It’s a team effort,” adds Leeder. “You can’t do it by yourself because you’ve got to work as a team with one guy on each side, usually. When they come out, if the horse goes one way, it’s that guy who goes in, and you fall in behind. If it comes your way, you go for it, and the other guy comes in behind.” Despite the padded chaps they wear, pick up men are still in the line of fire, and Leeder laughs that sometimes you don’t see all the bruises until the shirt comes off at night. Both have had their share of broken bones from flying hooves over the years. But they wouldn’t change it for the world. Especially the times when they can sit around the campfire after a flawless performance of great rodeo action. “We enjoy it,” states Leeder. “You don’t get rich doing it, so you’ve got to enjoy what you do. It’s nice to be there for the cowboys. Everybody knows everybody, and it’s just fun to hang out.” “I’ve probably got the best seat in the house for watching the guys ride bucking horses,” says Rempel. “I’ve seen some good rides, good horses, and met a lot of good people.” c


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Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2020

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