With five family members competing, the Wright clan entered the saddle bronc event at this year’s Stampede rodeo with strong odds of claiming the grand prize. With how they’ve dominated the early rankings, it’s growing more certain.
But which Wright? Cody isn’t so sure about the finals, but he had a hunch about Monday’s competition.
“Probably him,” he said, gesturing toward his 19-year-old son Rusty before the pair headed to the arena.
He wasn’t wrong. Rusty took first place for the third time in four days. Cody placed third, leaving the son-father duo first and second in the overall pool A rankings.
Three more Wrights — Jake, Jesse and Spencer, Cody’s brothers — will compete in pool B later this week; five Wrights in a 20-man field.
Unlike the more chaotic bareback event, saddle bronc riders aim for fluidity, syncing their movements with those of the horse.
One hand is used to hold onto a braided rein attached to the bronc’s halter. The other must remain in the air. Any contact with the horse or equipment is a disqualification, as is allowing a foot to fall out of the stirrups. The aim is to hang on to the wildly bucking mount for at least eight seconds after it bursts out of the chute.
The Wrights, of Milford, Utah, tend to nail it. This is Rusty’s first year in the open competition. The only time he didn’t win since the Stampede competition started, Cody did.
Dad says the family shares the victories.
“Depends on what horse you draw that day,” he said. “You never know what one judge might like.”
Cody was the world champion in saddle bronc in 2008 and 2010. Spencer won it in 2014. Jesse took the top spot in 2012, and his twin Jake got second place in 2013. Rusty, a former high school champion, ranked 30th and was named rookie of the year in 2014. He also won the Stampede’s saddle bronc novice category in 2013.
Cody Wright is tossed about during the saddle bronc event at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo at the Stampede Grandstand in Calgary on Saturday, July 4, 2015. ARYN TOOMBS / CALGARY HERALD
Cody says the family doesn’t try to one up each other more than they try to beat the rest of the field, which makes the ride home at the end of the day far more pleasant.
“It’s not often that nobody in there’s done good,” he said with a laugh. “You always have somebody to lift you up if you did bad. Keeps the truck a happy place.”
Rusty said competition within the family has helped him get where he is today.
“I’m lucky I got to grow up learning from my dad, and Jesse, Jake and Spencer,” he said.
Cody and Rusty have won a combined $29,000 at the Stampede since Friday, with the remaining three Wrights yet to compete. They stand to add another $100,000 to the pot should one of them win Sunday’s final.
As they spoke Monday afternoon, Rusty and Cody kept a close eye on a nearby TV screen. The saddle bronc event was about to start and both were ready to go, fully outfitted in colourful, fringed chaps. Cody looked on with pride as Rusty returned his attention momentarily to his saddle, checking over every feature and strap with laserlike focus.
Cody said this is what the family lives for, that they love the lifestyle and the people that go along with rodeo. In a profession that’s very dependent on not getting injured and continual success, contests like the Calgary Stampede, with its healthy prize pool, are the best places to be.
“Hopefully you do well enough to be invited to these kind of deals,” he said.
“This is where you really make the money.”