Steer wrestler Morgan Grant from Granton, Ont., competes at the Calgary Stampede on July 11, 2014. Grant is the only person who qualified for two events at the 2015 Canadian Finals Rodeo. LEAH HENNEL LEAH HENNEL / CALGARY HERALD
'You have to make it to Edmonton': Steer wrestler & tie-down roper Morgan Grant a CFR double threat
Published on: November 10, 2015 | Last Updated: November 10, 2015 11:29 AM MST
It was the first week of September and Morgan Grant was in a big jam.
Time was running out and the steer wrestler and tie-down roper was in danger of not making it to Edmonton for this week’s Nov. 11-15 Canadian Finals at Rexall Place.
With only the top 12 money winners from the regular season qualifying for the $1.6-million showdown, Grant was out of top 12 in tie-down roping and barely clinging onto the last spot in steer wrestling.
“You have to make it to Edmonton. The Canadian Finals is the make-or-break event of the year,” said Morgan, the Ontario native who recently bought a home in Didsbury, in central Alberta.
“The Canadian Finals is where you can pay off your credit cards and all your other bills,” he said of Canada’s richest indoor rodeo, where cowboys and barrel racers can win $12,160 in each of the six go-round performances. That’s more than many rodeo contestants win travelling up and down the wind-swept highways and dusty back roads all year.
“If you don’t make it to the CFR, you usually end up the season in the hole,” he said.
“I was really stressing out about making the CFR.”
So Grant packed up his horse trailer and his truck and headed to B.C., entering the Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo in Merritt and the IPE and Stampede in Armstrong.
He didn’t disappoint.
At Merritt, he finished third in the steer wrestling to pick up $1,102 which, on the face of it, may not seem like much, but every dollar he earned was huge.
Then he really let it loose at Armstrong. A 4.2-second run in the steer wrestling was good enough for a split of first and brought with it a cheque for $3,518. Then he was a quick 7.9 seconds in the tie-down roping, which was good for second and $3,303.
Morgan had made it. He was headed back to the CFR for the fourth time in tie-down – qualifying in 11th spot – and the second time in steer wrestling, where he nailed down the 12th and final spot.
“It was the weight of the world lifting off my shoulders,” said Grant, the only rodeo contestant to qualify in two events this week.
“Qualifying in both steer wrestling and tie-down is such a bonus,” said Grant, who did the same thing in 2013 when he ended the season as Canada’s High Point Champion – awarded to the cowboy who makes the most money during the regular season in two different events – and which he obviously is going to try and win again this week.
“If you do well in one event, you can use that momentum to carry you through into your other event. And if you don’t do well in one event, then you always have the other event to try and fall back on.
Morgan Grant finishes tying his calf in the tie down roping competition during the 2014 Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton. GREG SOUTHAM / EDMONTON JOURNAL
“Rodeo has lots of peaks and valleys. You have to preserve through the valleys and make the peaks last as long as you can.”
The biggest peak Grant climbed came two years ago at the Calgary Stampede, where he won the $100,000 tie-down championship.
“That was a very big deal,” Grant, 26, said of lassoing and tying his calf in seven seconds, the fastest time of his career.
“I didn’t have the same success at the Calgary Stampede this year ,but it wasn’t all bad because Timber Moore used my tie-down horse, Mack, and he won the $100,000, so I got a percentage of it.”
Grant said he will take part in as many of the non-rodeo events he can this week.
“I’ll visit the Stollery Children’s Hospital again and I’m looking forward to taking part in Rodeo Magic,” he said referring to the private event focused on children with special needs between the ages of six to 14.
More than 150 children from schools within the City of Edmonton become rodeo stars for the day at Rodeo Magic, meeting with CFR contestants and taking part in a wide range of activities with friendly animals.
“There’s lots of feel good stuff you get to do,” said Morgan, who will probably also make sure he takes in some of the Farmfair International activities, which runs alongside the rodeo at the Edmonton Expo Centre.
One of Canada’s top agricultural shows, Farmfair is where thousands of visitors show and sell top quality livestock. There are also competitions and clinics, as well as a RAM Country Marketplace. That’s where visitors can find and shop more than 250 booths offering everything from leather goods, saddles, home décor, food and art.
Performances are at 7:30 Wednesday, Thursday, Friday at Saturday. There is also a Saturday afternoon matinee which starts at 1 p.m.. That is also the starting time for Sunday’s finals.
The Canadian Finals has seven major events. In addition to Grant’s two events – tie-down and steer wrestling – there is also saddle bronc, bull riding, bareback, team roping and barrel racing.
There is also novice saddle bronc and bareback, and boys steer riding.
CFR tickets are available at all participating Ticketmaster locations, online at ticketmaster.ca or by phoning 1-855-780-3000.
A ticket for the CFR is also good for Farmfair. Otherwise, there is a $5 charge at the door for Farmfair.
For the first time, the CFR will also feature a concert series following each of the four evening performances. Taking place at the TD Roadhouse in the Edmonton Expo Centre the headliners are Chad Brownlee, Terri Clark, The Road Hammers and Dallas Smith.
Tickets for the concerts are $25 or $80 for all four. Concert tickets are also available at Ticketmaster.
Saddle bronc rider Jim Berry knows how to make every rodeo count
Published on: November 10, 2015 | Last Updated: November 10, 2015 8:01 AM MST
Jim Berry competes in the 2011 CFR saddle bronc contest. BRUCE EDWARDS / EDMONTON JOURNAL
It didn’t matter which rodeo Jim Berry entered this season, he was always knocking on the door.
Berry went to 40 Canadian rodeos. Remarkably, he finished in the top four in 16 of them.
“I was pretty consistent,” said Berry, who will tackle his 10th Canadian Finals this week — eight of them in the open division and seven of them in a row. “It was a really good year.
“I don’t know if that was because I was drawing better horses, maybe riding a little better or maybe being in a little better shape.
“Or, maybe it was because I don’t have as many years left as I once had so I knew I had to make them all count,” said Berry, 33.
“I really enjoyed rodeo this year, probably more than when I started. I know there’s a lot of people trying to do what I’m doing so I guess you could say that I’m appreciating rodeo more than I used to.”
Whatever the reason, it paid off.
Berry won at Okotoks when he finally got a rematch with Vold Rodeo’s Pedro, hen finished the year winning the average at the Cinch Pro Rodeo Series Final in Calgary.
Saddle bronc rider Jim Berry talks during the media launch for the 2015 Canadian Finals Rodeo at the Westin Hotel in Edmonton on Oct. 27, 2015. RYAN JACKSON / EDMONTON JOURNAL
Elsewhere, he made just about every rodeo count.
Berry had seconds at Medicine Hat’s fall rodeo, and Kennedy, Sask., the first go-round at Wildwood, Falkland, B.C. and Drayton Valley.
Thirds came his way at Stavely, Lethbridge, Bruce, Maple Creek, Sask., Williams Lake, B.C., and his home Rocky Mountain House rodeo.
Throw in fourths at Brooks, Grimshaw, Airdrie and it all added up to winning just under $26,000, which put him in second place in the regular-season standings.
“We’re all chasing Cody; he’s got a pretty good lead on us,” Berry said of Louisiana’s season-leader Cody DeMoss, who won $42,672 and comes in with a lead of $16,754.
Money won during the regular season is added to the money won at the Canadian Finals to determine the Canadian champions.
With a record $12,159 going to first place in each of the six go-rounds, plus another $12,159 going to the winner of the average (the highest scores on six head), there’s certainly more than enough money available in Edmonton this week for that to happen.
Berry, who won the novice saddle bronc riding in 2003, has never won an open title. But he has come close.
In 2009 — in one of the closest saddle bronc events in CFR history — Berry finished second by just more than $2,000 — to Chet Johnson.
“It wasn’t by a whole bunch and there were a bunch of different ways it could have worked out. But, as they, say, ifs and buts.”
Furthermore, in 2011 Berry had another solid finals when he covered all six of his broncs.
And, while Berry has never won an open Canadian championship, he had never won a round in the saddle bronc event at the Calgary Stampede, either. Until, that is, this summer when he split first with Utah’s Cody Wright — a two-time world champion — in the first go-round.
So, maybe there’s a little Kismet going on.
“I’d been second once before in Calgary. I won the novice saddle bronc there in 2003 and I won the wild horse race with my dad and my brother, Justin. But, until this year I’d never been able to win one of those bronze statues in the open bronc riding.”
Calgary is also where Berry was given the Guy Weadick award in 2013 which is given to the cowboy or chuckwagon driver who best typifies the spirit, ideals of what a cowboy should be and sportsmanship of the Calgary Stampede.
“That was very special. I was very honoured to win an award like that at such a prestigious rodeo. It was very humbling.”
Berry grew up in rodeo. His grandfather drove chuckwagons. His dad was a team roper, a wild horse racer and a wild cow milker. And his uncle Lane rode broncs and bulls.
“Growing up, I knew what I wanted to do. But sometimes things aren’t that easy. Ability and wishes are two different things.”
As for why Berry chose saddle bronc, he said that “bareback wasn’t for me. Bull riding wasn’t going to do it and I didn’t have enough money to be a timed-event guy.
“So that pretty much left just one choice left,” said, Berry, who has been the Duane Daines Series Saddle Bronc champion four times.
Berry said getting on horses like Pedro, the 2012 Canadian saddle bronc of the year, in Okotoks. is what rodeo is all about.
“Everybody wants to get on the best ones. Those are the ones that prove your ability and test your ability. If you can’t ride the best, then you’re probably not the best, either,” said Berry, whose mottoes have always been never give up and try harder next time.
“It had been seven or eight years since I had him and I really wanted him again.”
Marking out 86.5 points — Berry’s high score of the year — didn’t come easy.
Asked what the key to getting by Pedro, Berry said with a laugh that the first thing “was simply trying to stay on him.
“Pedro was real good and it was touch and go for the first bit, but then it got better.”
The Wildwood Bronc Bustin’ at the end of May was another key rodeo for Berry, who finished second in the first go-round and fourth in the second, which got him third in the average.
In all, Berry pulled $3,000 out of Wildwood.
“Coming early in the season, it got me off to a pretty good start.
“You set goals as you go along. Making Edmonton is usually the first one and Wildwood got me off in that direction.
“Then as the season goes along, your goals change. If you’ve got Edmonton made, then you want to finish as high in the standings as you can so that you can take a run at winning Edmonton.”
That’s why ending the regular season on a high note at Calgary’s Cinch Pro Rodeo Final was so important. Winning the average there after finishing third in the first go-round and second in the second round gave Berry another $3,900 and vaulted him into second place, within striking distance of DeMoss.
“Everybody wants to make Edmonton. That’s where the big money is. And everybody wants to win Edmonton. Winning the CFR is what you rodeo your whole career for. It’s the end goal that everybody is shooting for.”
Should Berry, who is married with two young children, win the CFR, he said it could be a life changer. While his home is in Rocky Mountain House, he has been working as a welder most of the year in Brooks where he has been living and working with travelling partner, Rylan Geiger, who won the Canadian championship in 2013 but failed to make the CFR roster this year.
“I’d like to win enough money to build a welding shop of my own in Rocky Mountain House,” said Berry, a former oilfield operator. “It’s been tough going back and forth between Rocky and Brooks all year.”
Saddle bronc riding: How it works
Considered rodeo’s classic event, saddle-bronc riding is all about rhythm and timing. A saddle-bronc rider spurs from the animal’s neck in a full swing toward the back of the saddle in time with the bronc’s action. He holds a thick rope rein attached to the horse’s halter. The rider’s feet have to touch the horse’s shoulders on the first jump out of the chute, which is called a mark-out.
Contestants are disqualified for touching any part of the horse or equipment with their free hand, losing a stirrup or getting bucked off before the end of the eight-second ride.
A rider will gain points for reaching the full length of the arc with his toes turned outward. Fifty per cent of the score is for the rider and 50 per cent for the horse.
CFR Saddle Bronc Contestants
Cody DeMoss, Helfin, La., $42,672
Jim Berry, Rocky Mountain House, Alta., $25,899
Wade Sundell, Coleman, Okla., $22,977
Sam Kelts, Millarville, Alta., $21,912
Chuck Schmidt, Keldron, S.D., $21,819
Layton Green, Meeting Creek, Alta., $20,285
Cort Scheer, Elsmere, Neb., $17,075
Zeke Thurston, Big Valley, Alta., $15,939
Chet Johnson, Douglas, Wyo., $13,428
Josh Harden, Big Valley, Alta., $13,209
Kyle Thomson, Lundbreck, Alta., $13,121
Dustin Sippola, Nanton, Alta., $12,072
Rodeo bareback season leader Jake Vold is back to having fun
Published on: November 10, 2015 | Last Updated: November 10, 2015 7:56 AM MST
Jake Vold was sour.
He had just won the Canadian bareback championship and then had made a successful foray to the National Finals in Las Vegas, where he won $75,000.
Naturally, Vold was hoping to carry that momentum into his winter run into the U.S. But nothing was working.
“I wasn’t having any fun. And I started getting too caught up in it. It’s not cheap to go to the States, and when you don’t get paid for a couple of weeks, it sure tests you. The mental side of rodeo or any sport is so important. When you aren’t enjoying it, it isn’t going to treat you very well.”
Vold adjusted his mindset.
“I had to remember why I do what I do, because I love doing it. I changed my attitude. I slowed down a bit and started having fun again. Instead of worrying about it, I started enjoying it again.”
It took a while, but when Vold got rolling, he never let up, ending up the year as the regular-season bareback money winner by a wide margin.
Coming into this week’s Canadian Finals, Vold will carry a lead of more than $22,000 over his closest competitor, Colin Adams.
Money won at this week’s CFR is added to the regular-season earnings. The contestants with the highest totals in their specific categories are declared Canadian champions.
Vold took a $15,485 lead last year into the CFR and ended up clinching the title after five of the six go-rounds were complete.
“Last year, I only won two go-rounds. I didn’t place in any of the other four rounds. If I didn’t have as big of a lead as I had, I wouldn’t have won Canada.”
A member of one of the most famous rodeo families in Canada, Vold’s dad, Lawrence, is a cattle buyer who used to compete in bareback. And he’s also a cousin to Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame stock contractor Wayne Vold as well as saddle bronc rider Doug Vold, who still shares the Canadian record for the highest ever recorded saddle bronc score when he rode Transport for 95 points at Meadow Lake, Sask. in 1979.
Vold’s grandfather was also a rodeo contestant.
Jake’s turnaround this year started in the middle of June. After finishing second at Innisfail, he won the average and the first round at Wainwright with a score of 85.5 points on Calgary Stampede’s Waskasoo Soot. It was good for a $4,000 pay cheque.
A week later he rolled into Williams Lake, B.C. where he won another $4,000, finishing first with a score of 86.5 — this time on John Duffy’s Blondie.
Between those two rodeos, Vold finished second at Sundre.
He was only getting started.
Next up was Ponoka, his hometown rodeo. There, after finishing third in the first go-round, Vold rode C5’s Black Feathers for 88 points in the final, which got him the average title as well.
In all, Vold took $12,500 out of Ponoka.
Strathmore was another big rodeo for him. He won first in the long go-round, marking out 88.5 points on Calgary Stampede’s Princess Warrior, which got him second in the average.
“Ponoka and Strathmore were two of my best paydays but I think the two rodeos that I enjoyed the most were Wainwright and Williams Lake,” he said.
“Those were two rodeos I’ve had on my list for a long time. I’d never won either of them before, so those were two personal goals accomplished.”
As well as scoring wins at Camrose, Maple Creek and LaCrete, Vold ended the season on a high note, winning the Cinch Pro Rodeo Canada Series Final in Calgary the first week of October.
“I rode Calgary Stampede’s Licorice Baby (85.5 points) for first place in the first round. Then I had Outlaw Buckers’ Vee Bar Nine (85.5 points) in the second round and got first money there as well.
That was more than enough to win the average for a total payout of $5,000.
“It was a nice way to end the regular season and extend my lead. I sure can’t complain about the year I had. Even if I had a slow start,” said Vold, who won a record 12 rodeos last year.
“It was a fantastic year. I won more money in Canada ($48,994) this year than last year ($40,002) and more money in the world standings ($69,238) than I did last year ($67,785).
“It just didn’t work out for Vegas this year,” said Vold, who ended up in 17th place in the world standings. Only the top 15 money winners in world standings get invited to Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo. Vold fell about $6,000 short.
While he won’t be going back to Vegas, Vold, who won $142,774 last year, has his eyes set firmly on the CFR.
The Canadian novice bareback winner in 2007, this will be Vold’s sixth open CFR appearance.
“I made my first one in 2010 which feels like a long time ago. I remember being the young guy. Now, I might not be the old guy, but I’m definitely a veteran,” said Vold, 28.
“Last year was a good CFR, but not the best CFR. This year I’m hoping it will be my best CFR. To repeat would be awesome. It’s what I set out to do from the start of the year. In the spring, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it. But June and July were phenomenal. Those two months made my year, for sure.
“I’ve got a pretty good lead but there is so much money out there at the CFR that anything can happen.”
Bareback riding: How it works
The first event of every performance, bareback riding has been described as riding a jackhammer like it was a pogo stick while holding on with one hand. It is definitely the most physically demanding event. A bareback cowboy’s only link to the animal is a special leather hand hold or rigging that is fastened to the horse by a cinch or girth, a strap most often made of leather which goes around and under the horse’s belly.
There is no saddle, no reins. Because of the power of the animal and how far the cowboy leans back — the latter called exposing themselves — bareback riding puts tremendous stress on a cowboy’s arm and back.
Some contestants have been knocked out as the horse snaps the rider’s neck and head onto its back. Torn biceps, separated shoulders and broken pelvises are just a few of the injuries that can result in this event. The same as with saddle bronc riding, cowboys reach as far forward as possible with their feet, spurring — with their toes turned out — the animal’s neck with every jump the horse makes and then bringing their ankles back toward the rigging. The higher and wilder they spur, the better the mark. The final score is 50 per cent rider, 50 per cent horse, with four judges scoring.
Touching the horse with the free or non-riding hand is an automatic disqualification. So is not marking the horse out, which means having one’s feet above the horse’s shoulders until the horse’s front feet hit the ground on the initial jump from the chute.
Canadian Finals Rodeo Bareback Contestants
Jake Vold, Airdrie, Alta., $48,994
Colin Adams, Deloraine, Man., $26,352
Matt Lait, Cayley, Alta., $25,614
Kyle Bowers, Drayton Valley, Alta., $23,278
Ty Taypotat, Regina, $22,962
Ky Marshall, Bowden, Alta., $21,826
Clint Laye, Cadogan, Alta., $21,249
Caleb Bennett, Tremonton, Utah, $17,666
Dusty LaValley, Bezanson, Alta., $15,939
Cole Goodine, Carbon, Alta., $15,852
Logan Hodson, Telkwa, B.C., $13,389
Kevin Langevin, Bonnyville, Alta., $12,487
Young buck Dakota Buttar dominates the bull riding standings
Published on: November 10, 2015 | Last Updated: November 10, 2015 8:37 AM MST
Just what does Dakota Buttar think he’s doing?
At age 23, he is supposed to be just learning the ropes.
Instead, Buttar not only dominated the regular-season bull riding standings for the second straight year, he also the defending Canadian champion.
And he’s headed back to the CFR for the fourth year in a row.
As rodeo announcer Dave Poulsen said “It’s not supposed to be this way. Or happen so soon.”
Logically, that’s true. But logic has nothing to do with what Buttar is doing.
He can obviously flat out ride.
“It felt good to win the regular-season standings in back-to-back years. I guess it means I’ve been riding pretty good the last two years,” the self-effacing Buttar said.
He turned pro in 2011 and made it to his first CFR the following year. Then he made it the following year. And the year after that. And now, the year after that.
That’s not a fluke. That’s a trend.
Buttar has been doing it with an injured hand which he said he hurt in the first week of June.
“The skin on my pink finger ripped right off. The bull I was on jumped out hard and with all the pressure on my hand, the skin ripped right off. It bothered me most of the summer, but it’s just about healed up now.”
The injury certainly didn’t slow Buttar down as he had six big wins and three seconds to give him just under $40,000 in season earnings and an $11,000 lead over Okotoks’ Jordan Hansen.
After a pair of seconds at Camrose and Stavely to start the season, the native of Kindersley, Sask., got his first win at Hand Hills when he rode Calgary Stampede’s Classic Hit for 87 points.
Then he drove into Ponoka where he finished second in the first go-round and third in the average. That brought him back for the Showdown round where he drew Outlaw Bucker’s Up Tight, last year’s bull of the year. Buttar won again.
He got advice from his mentor Donnie Johansen prior to the Ponoka Showdown round.
“I had Up Tight at Strathmore last year and he left the chute really hard and beat me out. He just about left me in the chute. Donnie told me to keep my foot on the edge of the chute and push myself out of there. That’s what I tried and it worked.
“I like to keep my upper body over the bull’s hump and over my rope. It takes the power away from them. Donnie has been one of the key people in my life when it comes to bull riding. I started riding steers when I was eight and I went to one of his steer riding schools. We’ve stayed in touch ever since then.”
After Ponoka, Buttar won Dawson Creek, won Jasper, then Lethbridge.
Buttar then finished off the season splitting first place in the first go-round at the Cinch Pro Rodeo Series Final in Calgary. With a fourth in the second go-round.
At last year’s CFR, Buttar covered five of his six bulls picking up two wins and two thirds which got him the average. Winning just slightly more than $35,000, Buttar won comfortably by $21,000 over Tyler Thomson.
“Winning was a dream come true. It was the goal I set at the start of the year so that was pretty cool.”
Buttar said last year’s CFR was all about revenge.
“The two rounds I won were both on bulls that had bucked me off the previous year. So it felt good to get payback.
“I had Franklin’s Buffalo Chips in the first round. The previous time I was on him he threw a big roll just before he turned back. He rocked me in my hand and I couldn’t get back. He did the same thing in the CFR but this time I was prepared for him,” Buttar said.
“Then I had Outlaw Buckers’ Missing Link on Saturday afternoon. The first time I had him he hopped and skipped out of the chute and I wasn’t ready for it. This time I was expecting it,” he said.
While Buttar won the CFR bull riding championship easily he didn’t want to know where he stood going into Sunday’s final round.
“I didn’t want to put the pressure on myself. I didn’t look at the standings or anything. I just wanted to stay focused on riding my final bull.
“I wasn’t near as nervous at last year’s CFR as I was the first two times I made it,” said Buttar, adding that another big highlight of this season was making in back to the Top 10 Sunday round of the Calgary Stampede.
Buttar, who got on open bulls when he was 16, said he has liked rodeo and riding bulls
“My dad, Jim, used to ride bulls. I’ve looked at his pictures, lots. I never got too see him ride — I wish I did.
“Along with Donnie Johansen, dad has helped me quite a bit. He can pick out what I’m doing wrong pretty quickly,” said Buttar, whose older sister, Cheyenne, used to barrel race.
He didn’t go the U.S. much this year. “I had planned on it but then I got pneumonia in January and I was laid up for a couple of months.
“Hopefully this year I can stay healthy through the winter so I can give it a shot.”
Buttar hasn’t been on a bull since the Cinch Pro Rodeo Series the first week of October. And that’s just the way he likes it.
“I like to take time off before the CFR so I don’t get hurt. It also gives my body some time to heal up.
“I’m feeling pretty good coming in.”
Bull riding: How it works
The most dangerous event in rodeo, bull riding, pits cowboys against unpredictable, crossbred Brahma bulls.
This is how it works: A braided rope is wrapped loosely around the bull with a weighted cowbell hanging underneath, allowing the rope to fall free when the ride is completed.
The rope has a woven handhold that is pulled tight around the rider’s hand (he sometimes weaves the rope through his fingers) and with one more wrap to ensure a snug fit.
The event requires balance, co-ordination, quick reflexes and flexibility, but riders don’t have to spur.
Staying on for eight seconds without touching the bull with the free hand is more than enough.
CFR bull riding contestants
Dakota Buttar, Kindersley, Sask., $39,952
Jordan Hansen, Okotoks, Alta., $28,657
Jared Parsonage, Maple Creek, Sask., $28,270
Adam Jamison, Okotoks, Alta., $28,172
Devon Mezei, Carstairs, Alta., $27,178
Zane Lambert, Ponoka, Alta., $26,344
Jesse Torkelson, Warburg, Alta., $26,207
Tyler Thomson, Black Diamond, Alta., $21,825
Scott Schiffner, Strathmore, Alta., $21,561
Lonnie West, Cadogan, Alta., $19,798
Tanner Girletz, Bowden, Alta., $16,589
Wesley Silcox, Santaquin, Utah, $16,137
Rodeo barrel racing season leader Nancy Csabay likes to fly under the radar
Published on: November 10, 2015 | Last Updated: November 10, 2015 7:58 AM MST
Nancy Csabay was so consistent this year that she claimed top spot in the regular-season without winning a single rodeo.
“I remember Fallon Taylor one time saying consistent thirds can get you the championship,” Csabay said referring to the reigning world barrel racing champion. “And that’s the way I look at it, too.”
Qualifying for her sixth Canadian Finals — her fourth straight — Csabay didn’t just have a lot of thirds, she also had a long list of seconds, headed by two at a pair of the richest rodeos: Strathmore and Ponoka.
At Strathmore, Csabay finished second in the average, which was worth $2,347, as well as placing second in the short go, which added another $1,680. Throw in a fourth in the long go and Csabay exited Strathmore winning $5,722.
Ponoka was nearly as good. Second in the first go-round and placing in the average, Csabay took home $4,640.
Also finishing second at Jasper, Csabay was third at Medicine Hat, Sundre, Lea Park and Camrose, then placed fourth in the first go-round at Wainwright and at Coleman.
“I was kind of a sleeper this year,” Csabay said. “It was nice to fly under the radar a bit. You don’t get your ego too boosted up so you can keep doing the job you are doing.
“It worked very well for me.”
In the closest regular-season race of the seven major rodeo events, the top five barrel racers are separated by just $3,768.
Asked if there was any extra pressure on her coming into the CFR in top spot, Csabay said no.
“I go into the CFR every year just trying to do my job and keeping my horse healthy and happy. It has nothing to do with anybody else. I’m playing my game and the others will play theirs. It’s just me and my horse and three barrels.”
Csabay’s horse, Little Miss Wicked, is an 11-year-old quarter horse she raised and trained. Wicked was named this year’s barrel racing horse with the most heart.
“Ninety-five per cent of barrel racing is the horse and allowing him or her to do the job.
“Wicked has been excellent. I only went to 25 rodeos this year, which is the fewest I’ve been to in a long time, so she’s happy and rested. A lot of the rodeos I went to were also short trips from my home in Taber, so I was able to go to them and then come home the same day. Barrel racing always seemed pretty easy for Wicked. I took her to a handful of rodeos when she was seven and then when she was eight we made it to the 2012 Canadian Finals.”
The 2012 CFR was the first she qualified for since making it in 2001 and 2003.
“I had a kid in between those years,” Csabay said of her now 10-year-old daughter Kate.
“It was just how it was supposed to be. In between, I concentrated on young horses and went to a bunch of Futurities and Derbies.
“Then Wicked came along.”
Last year’s CFR was emotionally draining.
Diagnosed with breast cancer just after the 2013 CFR, Csabay turned out Wicked for five months to concentrate on her health.
“We caught it early when the lump under my right arm pit was still fairly small, so that was a blessing,” Csabay said.
“In the 2013 CFR, I was able to push it to the back of my mind mostly because I wasn’t sure if I had cancer or not. I found the lump on Halloween and didn’t have the biopsy done until the finals were over.
“In 2013 I didn’t think about it. But last year was different. Everybody knew about it so it was a different story. There wasn’t a day during last year’s CFR that I didn’t cry.” She was also named last year’s Cowgirl of the Year just before the CFR.
“That whole CFR was very emotional. There were just so many emotions. It was hard to stay in the game, it was hard to focus on one run at a time and I struggled. I tipped a lot of barrels.
“It wasn’t until the final run of last year’s CFR that I got my head out of my butt and finished second which just showed that Wicked is more than capable of doing anything if her rider is riding right.,
“This year I’m thinking it’s going to be a different story again. I’m strong mentally and physically, and my horse is feeling really good.”
Born into rodeo, Csabay’s father, Arnold Haraga, was the 1970 All-Around Champion and was inducted into the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame while her mother, Kaye Thierman, was a Miss Rodeo Canada.
“If I could win the CFR, it would be another part of my life. I’m sure my dad would be doing a happy dance in heaven. Rodeo has always been a big part of my life. I remember going to rodeos as a kid to watch my dad compete. Back then you used to stay in one spot for a bit so all of us kids would play together.
“A lot of those kids I met are still friends I have today. It’s different now. In today’s rodeo you put on a lot of miles and you don’t stay in one spot very long.”
As it was then, family remains No. 1 in Csabay’s life.
“I really have to thank my husband, Tony, and my daughter Kate. If it wasn’t for them. I wouldn’t be where I am today. They are both a very big part of this team.
“I’m just so grateful for all of their support,” said Csabay, adding that Kate makes her “stop and smell the roses,” while Tony is “my greatest fan and I am his.”
Csabay stayed in Canada to rodeo this year and she doesn’t see that changing.
“My horse could do it but it’s a long road with a lot of miles and a lot of time away from family. Having just gone through cancer I realize my time here on earth is short and I don’t want to miss anything with my family.
“The winning isn’t all that important any longer. It’s being with family and friends, having fun rodeoing and enjoying life.”
Barrel racing: How it works
In barrel racing, a rider circles three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern. The closer a rider circles the barrels, the better her time.
The danger is making too tight a cut and knocking down a barrel, which results in a five-second penalty for each barrel that falls.
The barrel racer’s time starts when she crosses an electric beam of light and ends when she crosses the same beam after completing the pattern around the barrels.
Canadian Finals Rodeo 2015 barrel racing contestants
Nancy Csabay, Taber, Alta., $27,658
Taylor Jacob, Carmine, Texas, $26,182
Kendra Edey, Longview, Alta., $25,462
Kirsty White, Big Valley, Alta., $24,203
Deb Guelly, Okotoks, Alta., $23,891
Toni Dixon, Millarville, Alta., $19,995
Aimee Kay, Bluff Dale, Tex., $19,752
Julie Leggett, Kamloops, B.C., $18,511
Katie Garthwaite, Merritt, B.C., $17,121
Gaylene Buff, Westwold, B.C., $16,585
Cayla Melby, Burneyville, Okla., $15,760
Braidy Howes, Metiskow, Alta., $14,667
Steer wrestler Scott Guenthner makes up for time on injury list with consistent season
Published on: November 10, 2015 | Last Updated: November 10, 2015 7:32 AM MST
Steer wrestler Scott Guenthner was leading the Canadian standings last year when he went to Salinas, Calif., for a rodeo in July.
It would be the last rodeo he would contest in 2014. Guenthner tore both the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles on his right side.
“The steer I had slowed down and then went to the right. My right arm went with him,” Guenthner said. “The pectoralis major muscle tore right off my arm. There was a five-centimetre tear. The pectoralis minor muscle, which lies underneath the pectoralis major muscle, tore as well.”
The injury required surgery to reattach the muscles, sidelining Guenthner for nine months. He still ended up the season in ninth place in last year’s Canadian standings which, given that the top 12 money makers in each of the seven main rodeo events make it to the Canadian Finals, would have given Guenthner a berth at his first CFR.
But, obviously, the injury took him out of that picture.
Yet Guenthner never missed a step this year. Instead, he put together an extremely consistent season that left him as the top money winner in the steer-wrestling, regular-season standings coming into the Canadian Finals.
“My right pecs are actually stronger than the ones on my left side which is what my doctor told me would happen,” Guenthner said.
“It’s to the point now where I don’t even think about it.”
But he was plenty worried when he cracked out at Drayton Valley in the first week of May for his first rodeo since the injury.
“It messes with your mind. It was nerve-racking. You always hope you start where you left off, but that doesn’t always happen,” said Guenthner, who didn’t even jump on his first steer until late April.
Guenthner — not surprisingly — didn’t place at Drayton Valley — but just being able to compete was a confidence builder.
“It felt awesome. It didn’t feel weak or anything.”
The next week, at Stavely, his fears abated. Guenthner finished second with a fine 4.1-second run.
He never looked back. If he wasn’t winning, he always appeared to be right in the picture.
“It seemed like if I didn’t win, I was second or third.”
Guenthner won four times this year: Teepee Creek, Armstrong, B.C., Pincher Creek and Hanna.
He also split first place in the final at Wainwright, t where he would finish second in the average.
Then there were five second-place finishes: La Crete, Morris, Man., Leduc, Grande Prairie and Stavely.
Throw in three thirds — Olds, Medicine Hat and Kennedy, Sask. — and it all added up to $33,709 in earnings, which is slightly more than runner-up Tanner Milan was able to bank.
“Like in any sport, it’s great to win, but I don’t look at all the seconds and thirds I had and think of them as disappointing or anything,” he said.
“In my brain, there are 42 rodeos in Canada. If you can place in half of them, you have a pretty good chance to get to the Canadian Finals. To actually lead the Canadian standings is a pretty cool feeling.
“It was a result of a lot of practice and a lot of determination.
“It’s pretty neat to finally make it to the Canadian Finals after what happened last year.”
In just his third season as a pro, Guenthner, 24, has rodeo — especially steer wrestling — in his blood.
His dad, Ken, was the Canadian Finals champion in 1981 and won the first $50,000 Calgary Stampede cheque the following year.
Guenthner’s cousin, Justin, was the 2004 CFR champion.
Yet, Scott said “I really didn’t pay a lot of attention or want to even rodeo when I was growing up. Instead, I played a lot of hockey.”
And, when Scott did finally start rodeoing, it wasn’t steer wrestling.
“I roped calves before I started bull dogging,” he said.
Showing that — like his dad and his cousin — he was more cut out to be a steer wrestler, Guenthner put calf roping on the back burner.
“I just don’t have the time to practise calf roping,” he said.
He who still lives on the same family ranch he grew up on in k.d. Lang’s hometown of Consort in eastern Alberta.
“I enjoyed roping calves, but it takes a lot of practise and a lot of time. It’s also hard to focus on two events. Some people can do it, but it’s not for me at this moment. Maybe some other time.”
While Guenthner spent almost all of his time competing in Canadian rodeos this year, he plans to try to make a run at some of the rich winter rodeos when they start back up in a few months.
“That was the plan last year, but then I got hurt and that ended those plans,” said Guenthner, who travelled to the U.S. in September with Tanner Milan, the defending CFR champion. who has also qualified again for the rich National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas next month.
At last year’s CFR, Milan won using Guenthner’s horse, Itzy — a 12-year-old quarter horse, who was voted last year’s steer wrestling horse of the year.
“Itzy used to be a barrel racing horse that I bought off of Chad Bouchard. But Itzy didn’t want to be a barrel horse. All of a sudden he didn’t want to turn the first barrel.”
This year’s steer wrestling event is extremely talented laden with the likes of Milan, Cody and Curtis Cassidy in the field. But, with all the expertise, determination and the horse power that Guenthner has, it’s going to be hard to knock him off that top spot.
Steer wrestling: How it works
The quickest rodeo event — steer wrestling — involves timing, co-ordination and strength.
As with calf roping, the steer is given a head start, the length varying from arena to arena.
After the steer has reached the score line, the steer wrestler catches the right horn in the crook of his right arm and then hits the ground with legs extended to bring the steer to a stop. Using his left hand as leverage under the steer’s jaw, the cowboy then throws the steer off balance and wrestles it to the ground. The steer must be flat on its side with all four legs extended before official time is taken. The hazer — the cowboy on horseback racing alongside the steer wrestler — is also important. The hazer’s job is to keep the steer running straight.
Justin Guenthner, Scott’s cousin, competes in the 2004 edition of the CFR. Justin Guenthner was the 2004 steer wrestling champion.GREG SOUTHAM / EDMONTON JOURNAL
Canadian Finals Rodeo steer wrestling contestants
Scott Guenthner, Consort, Alta., $33,710
Tanner Milan, Cochrane, Alta., $28,531
Cody Cassidy, Donalda, Alta., $26,314
Coleman Kohorst, Okotoks, Alta., $23,120
Dayton Roworth, Czar, Alta., $22,355
Travis Reay, Mayerthorpe, Alta., $20,392
Rowdy Hays, Rocky Mountain House, Alta., $19,558
Curtis Cassidy, Donalda, Alta., $17,915
Justin Miller, Neepawa, Man., $17,668
Dustin Walker, Aneroid, Sask., $17,635
Straws Milan, Cochrane, Alta., $17,505
Morgan Grant, Didsbury, Alta., $16,114
Cousins back in the saddle for team roping at 2015 CFR
Published on: November 10, 2015 | Last Updated: November 10, 2015 7:34 AM MST
Team ropers and cousins Klay Whyte and Brett Buss are back together again for the first time in 10 years.
The result was magic. They ended the regular season as the top money leaders.
“We roped together in high school, but then we went our separate ways,” Whyte said.
“I was the header back then and Brett was the heeler. Now we’ve switched it around.”
Whyte said the team’s reunification “was luck, really. We both had different plans at the start of the year and they both collapsed at the same time.”
The pair clicked immediately. In the second rodeo of the season — Dawson Creek at the end of April — Whyte and Buss ended up first with a fast run of 4.7 seconds.
“I expected us to do fairly well,” Whyte said. “I thought we would be successful, but not that quickly and not that well.”
They were just getting started. A few days after Dawson Creek, Whyte and Buss finished third at the Kananaskis Pro Rodeo in Coleman. Right after that, they finished fourth in Camrose.
As good as that was, June was even better.
At Lea Park, they took second in the first go-round and third in the average.
At Sundre, they finished second.
At Williams Lake, they split second with a five-second run.
And at Ponoka, they won they split second in the first go-round and ended up sixth in the average.
But it was at Wainwright where they really cleaned up. First in the first go-round. Throw in a fourth-place finish in the final and they ended up second in the average.
“The whole month of June was the highlight of the year,” Whyte said.
“Everywhere we went, we were drawing good steers and both horses worked well.”
They won at Bonnyville at the end of July and Abbotsford, B.C., at the beginning of August.
They completed their year finishing second in the second go of the Cinch Pro Rodeo Series Final in Calgary.
“We had a lot of fun together,” said Buss. “It’s been a great year. Our horses are working well. Hopefully, we’ll have a good finals.”
This is the fifth trip to the CFR for Buss, the third time he has been a season leader.
In 2008, Buss and Jeff Quam led the regular-season standings. In 2011 Buss, did it again, this time with Matt Fawcett.
In both of those years, Buss finished fourth at the Canadian Finals.
For Whyte, a land agent in the oil and gas sector, this is his third trip to Edmonton having also been here. In 2010, he won a round.
Whyte, 27, said the key to a good team roping duo is having the same goals.
“If you both want to be there, compete, be competitive and always want to get better, you will have the right chemistry and you will succeed.
“You also really need to be able to get along. That’s a must.”
A farrier by trade, Buss, 26, agreed.
“You have to be easy on one another. If one person screws up, you can’t get down on the other person. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
“We also both have the same game plan of staying aggressive and doing what we can with the steer that we have.
“If you want to win you have to be aggressive — you can’t back off — but you also have to stay smart. You can’t be too aggressive or you’ll make mistakes. But at the same time you certainly can’t play it too safe. This whole year it’s just been one of those deals where we both did our jobs. We just took it steer by steer.”
Buss, who lives in Ponoka, and Whyte, who calls Airdrie home, knows it’s going to be tough to come out on top at the Canadian Finals, with only a few thousand dollars separating the top four teams.
“With each round paying $6,000 a man for first, anything can happen,” Buss said.
“You could even see a team coming right from the bottom hole winning it all. It’s that close.”
Even the battle for first place in the regular season came right down to the wire.
Whyte and Buss ended the year each winning $22,287. Right behind were Brett and Justin McCarroll who each won $21,497.
“It went right down to the final rodeo of the season in Calgary,” Buss said.
While Whyte and Buss placed second at the Cinch Pro Final in Calgary, the McCaroll brothers won the first round and finished fourth in the average.
“There was a lot of number crunching going on,” Buss said. “But they finally got it figured out and we ended up on top by less than $800.”
Whyte said he and Buss are going into the finals with a lot of confidence.
“Both of our horses are working well and we’ve both been roping well. But in this sport anything can happen.
“You are dealing with two horses — each with a brain. Two people with a brain and a steer with a brain. So a lot of stuff can happen.”
Team roping: How it works
Team roping requires two ropers — the header and the heeler — to work together to catch a steer. The header, the first cowboy out of the box, can rope the steer around the head and one horn, around the neck or around both horns. Any other catch is illegal and results in a disqualification. As with calf roping and steer wrestling, if the header fails to give the animal its allotted head start, there is a penalty: in this case, 10 seconds.
After the header makes his catch, he rides to the left, taking the steer in tow. The heeler then moves in and ropes both hind legs.
Catching only one hind leg results in a five-second penalty. If the heeler tosses his loop before the header has changed the direction of the steer and has the animal moving forward, it’s called a crossfire and results in disqualification. The clock is stopped when the slack has been taken out of both ropes and the contestants are facing each other.
Like steer wrestling, this event happens quickly.
The event goes back to when cowboys needed to treat or brand large steers, but the job was too difficult for just one man.
Canadian Finals Rodeo team roping contestants
Brett Buss, Airdrie, Alta., and Klay Whyte, Ponoka, Alta.
Brett McCarroll, Camrose, Alta., and Justin McCarroll, Camrose, Alta.
Tyrel Flewelling, Lacombe, Alta., and Roland McFadden, Vulcan, Alta.
Kasper Roy, Mossleigh, Alta., and Kolton Schmidt, Barrhead, Alta.
Jake Minor, Mitlton-Freewater, Ore., and Steele DePaoli, Longview, Alta.
Trent Tunke, Medicine Hat, Alta., and Clay Ullery, Two Hills, Alta.
Travis Booth, Calgary, and Garrett Rogers, Baker City, Ore.
Riley Warren, Stettler, Alta., and Clint Weston, Cardston, Alta.
Rocky Dallyn, Nanton, Alta., and Keith Murdock, Clyde, Alta.
Dustin Searcy, Mooreland, Okla., and Clint Buhler, Okotoks, Alta.
Jeremy Buhler, Arrowwood, Alta., and Levi Simpson, Ponoka, Alta.
Kevin Schreiner, Medicine Hat, Alta., and Clayton Hansen, Pendleton, Ore.
Scott Byrne set to retire after 20 years of being chased by angry bulls
Published on: November 9, 2015 | Last Updated: November 9, 2015 6:26 PM MST
Cue the closing credits. It’s over.
After 20 years of having arguably the most dangerous job in sports, this week’s Canadian Finals will be bullfighter Scott Byrne’s last rodeo.
“It’s bittersweet. I couldn’t have written a better ending finishing on my terms at the Canadian Finals – the biggest finals in the country,” Byrne, 43, said of the CFR which gets underway Wednesday night at Rexall Place and runs until Sunday afternoon.
“I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss the rush of fighting bulls. But you can’t do it forever and I don’t want to hold on where it gets to the point where they don’t want to hire you for the bigger rodeos. I don’t want to be the old beat-up guy that is still trying to do it,” said Byrne, widely considered one of rodeo’s pre-eminent bullfighters where he risks his life trying to make sure the bull riders don’t get hurt.
“It just feels right. I’ve learned to listen to my gut,” said Byrne, who has been chosen by the bull riders the last 14 years to work the CFR.
Why Byrne, raised in Prince Albert, Sask., ever got started is probably a better question than why he is retiring. After all, why would anyone want to go head-to-head with 700-kilogram, slobbering maniacal bulls with no conscience?
“That’s the most common question I get asked. The simple answer is because we love it. It’s the adrenalin rush. It’s the fun of doing it. It’s getting paid to do something we love to do,” said Byrne, who now runs a horse boarding operation just outside of Brandon, Man., and is also the field representative for Wrangler, Boulet boots and Montana Silversmiths.
“Sure, it’s dangerous. Bull riding and bullfighting might be the most extreme sport there is. You’ve got motocross bikers who do flips in mid-air with no safety net. That’s obviously dangerous, too. But those guys don’t have an animal that potentially wants to put a lot of hurt on you waiting for them when they’re finished.”
Bullfighters lurk in the background. Then, when a bull rider is thrown, they rush into action, hurtling themselves into the middle of the fray, doing whatever they can to distract the bull — getting the wild and crazy bulls to chase them instead of trying to gore or hook the fallen cowboys with their horns.
“You have to want to put your body on the line for somebody else,” said Byrne without pause.
“Our job is cowboy protector. When that guy gets thrown off, we do whatever we can to buy that extra second so the bull rider can get to the chutes and be safe. We want to get the bull’s attention on us. We’re paid to get hurt and take a shot so that the bull riders are healthy and can ride the next day.”
Byrne said you can never take a bull for granted.
“They have a mind of their own. Nine out of 10 bulls will make the same trip every time – spinning to the right or spinning to the left.
“Most of the time they just want to buck and then go back to their pens and eat.
“But once in a while they might have a grumpy day and decide they want a piece of somebody.”
That somebody is either the bull rider or the bullfighter.
Byrne has seen both ends of it.
Lethbridge — several years ago — was the worst.
“Yeah, that was a bad one. I broke five or six ribs and bruised my kidney. It was a Saturday night. The second last bull. Aaron Roy was riding Speed Dial,” he said of a two-time Canadian bull of the year. “Aaron landed right in front of the bull and I stepped in between him and the bull. He jacked me up and shot me into the air. Then he caught me on the way down. It was like throwing a ball into the air and hitting it with a bat.”
A bull rider for a brief period before he became a bullfighter — “I was a terrible bull rider; the worst ever” — Byrne was out of commission for three months.
Last year – at Ponoka – he was also badly injured.
“A bull stepped on my face and they rushed me to a hospital in Red Deer.
“My face was the size of a football. I told the paramedics that all I could think about was finding a helmet so I could fight bulls the next day. They told me there was no way that was going to happen.”
The paramedics were right. Byrne didn’t work the next day. But the day after that he was right back where he belonged — in the arena fighting bulls.
“It’s such a craving. You just want to get right back at it. Even if you’re hurt. I’m Irish and I’m stubborn. I chose to push through.”
Obstinate, OK. But whatever you do, don’t call Byrne crazy.
“Define crazy,” said Byrne, who will also work the Canadian Professional Bull riding championship in Saskatoon the week after the CFR. “Car racing — going around and around a track 500 times at 200 miles an hour inside cement walls? To me, that’s crazy.
“Bullfighting is a science. It’s all about reading a play before it happens. We know what we are doing.”
Byrne’s uncle, Ryan, was also a top bullfighter, while his cousins, Bo, Tanner and Jesse all rode bulls. Tanner still rides while Bo and Tanner are now bullfighters too.
Now come Scott’s two young sons, Brayden, 9, and Dylan, 11.
“The way they act and talk, they’ll probably fight bulls too. Circle of life, I guess you’d call it.
“Either way, it’s been quite a ride.”