Calgary Stampede Day 7 Rodeo & Chucks Roundup

BLUE SKIES AND GREAT BUCKING STOCK MADE FOR AN EXCITING PERFORMANCE DURING DAY 7 AT THE CALGARY STAMPEDE.

SFinstad-326.jpg

DIANNE FINSTAD

 July 13, 2017

 

Zeke Thurston riding saddle bronc!

He’s a two-time Stampede champion, he had to get on two horses Thursday, and he dipped into the jackpot twice.

Zeke Thurston was in fine form in the sunshine, taking a reride horse first thing in the performance. His 84 score there gave him a split of third place cash in Round 6 ($3000). Then he came out an hour later in the Round 7 pen and tapped out a pretty 86 point ride on the Franklin horse Super Sox for $5500 more.

“You couldn’t ask for a better horse,” he said. “Just jumped and kicked and circled there in front of the judges. That’s what you want in a bucking horse.”

“It’s nice to get a victory lap here,” grinned Thurston, from Big Valley. “I was looking for that early on. It’s four head, so you can never count yourself out.”

Although Thurston, who turns 23 on Saturday, doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, the thought of a three-peat hangs in the air.

“The possibility is there. I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be able to come to Calgary and ride at a rodeo of this caliber. Everybody looks forward to Calgary all year. It’s a unique rodeo, one of a kind.”

“I’m happy to be here.”

“That’s why I started doing this in the first place, is to have fun. You’ve got to remember that too. It’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in all the competition or what you’ve got to do to beat this guy or that guy. You just (need to) go out there, try your best, and have fun, and it will all work out.”

Thurston has jacked his Stampede bank account up to $10,000, but he’s got two consistent stars ahead of him. Cody DeMoss leads the pack with $11,500, followed by Sterling Crawley with $11,000.

 

Mason Clements rides bareback!

While many of the Stampede competitors have had the advantage of growing up around the sport, Mason Clements isn’t one of them. In fact, he’s a self-described city kid who wanted to ride bucking horses… and he’s doing it well.

The 24-year-old from Santaquin, UT is a relative newcomer to bareback riding.

“I didn’t grow up in a rodeo family. No one in my family rodeos. I always fell in love with horses, the western lifestyle. I started when I was little, doing junior rodeos, and barrels and poles. I started doing some roping – I was a horrible roper! I could barely ride a saddle horse. I’m getting better at it,” he insisted.

Clements participated in steer wrestling and bull riding on the high school and college rodeo scene, and even started going to pro rodeos on bulls.

“I think I was 19-20 when I decided I wanted to put my hand in riggin’, and try it out. It looked fun, and it’s definitely more my style than the bull riding.”

Thrilled when he got the invite call from the Stampede, Clements has been counting the days until he could come.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about it ever since. All last week, anybody said ‘Stampede’ or mentioned Canada, it was like instant butterflies, instant excitement. The night before, I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t get any rest. First day was a whole roller coaster ride of emotions,” he described.

Despite all that, Clements has been able to string together an impressive trio of rides, with his best on Thursday, an 87.5 on Paradise Moon. That $5,500 cheque puts him on top of Pool B with $11,500 in earnings.

“It was a blast. I didn’t want to stop after the whistle. I was going to go ten or twelve seconds. Then after we rode I started thinking about the bronze. I don’t know if that was a little too soon, and then getting on the victory lap horse, that was probably jumping the gun a little bit, but it all worked out,” he grinned.

“I’m still in la-la land about it all,” admitted Clements. “I’m so excited to be here. I’m having a great time. I’ve got some family up here with me. This is something I’ve dreamed about ever since I started putting my hand in the bareback rigging – is coming to the Calgary Stampede, and riding for $100,000 and riding against world champions and guys that I’ve watched when I started riding.”

The Calgary Stampede is the kind of place where rodeo dreams are fulfilled but can also be born. Clements urges young people to consider the sport, even if they’re not cowboy born and bred.

“Absolutely. Just like the saying goes, it’s what you want and how bad you want it, and how much you’re willing to sacrifice, and how much time you want to put into it.”

Clements is on top in Pool B with $11,500.

 

Tiany Schuster poses with a fan from Toronto

The crowd was roaring in the barrel racing when Stevi Hillman came out and set a sizzling new fast time for the year, rounding the pattern in 17.07 seconds. But then eight racers later, along came Tiany Schuster to shave off a tenth, and grab the bronze and $5500 cheque, when she crossed the line in 17.06 seconds.

“I didn’t even know the time, but when I heard everybody go ‘wow’ and the crowd go ‘ooh and ah’, you just knew it was going to be exciting,” exclaimed Schuster, who rodeos out of Krum, TX.

“Stevi, she weighs like fifty pounds soaking wet after a cheeseburger with mayo, so I didn’t think there was any way I could outrun Stevi. Her horse is so fast and phenomenal.”

“And I weigh a lot more than Stevi,” she jokingly conceded. “I figured I was running for second place.”

Schuster, who sports a wry and colorful sense of humor, was glad to see the heat return to Stampede Park.

“The first day was mud and the only thing that could’ve made my first run any better was if I would’ve fallen off and then we wouldn’t have known how slow I really was! Because it was really that bad,” she chuckled.

“That’s the first time that horse has ever run in mud in its life.”

“But this run might have been the best run of his life.”

Showmance is the registered name of the seven-year-old horse, but it’s a tag that’s taken on a life of it’s own.

“Like bro-mance or romance, it’s become such a sticker factor because it’s such a recognizable name. He showed up today and it was a romance here at Calgary!”

Speaking of romance, Schuster has a long-time relationship with barrel horse trainer Edwin Cameron, originally of Nova Scotia. He also owns Fitness Depot. The two actually met at Morgan Grant’s home in Ontario at a barrel racing futurity.

“I’ve never been on the western side of Canada before.”

Schuster, who’s way out in front in the world standings, now has $6250 in Pool B. Sherry Cervi placed for her third straight day, and leads the race to Showdown Sunday with $12,500.

Another world standings leader, Texan Caleb Smidt had the fastest run of the day in tie-down roping with 7.3 seconds. He’s the Pool B leader with $11,500, followed by Matt Shiozawa at $10,500.

“I just did the same thing I’ve been doing,” said Smidt. “Going at the barrier, reaching and roping, and going as fast as I can.”

“I actually won the third round last year too, so this is my lucky number!”

One year ago, Wyoming’s Seth Brockman walked up on the grandstand stage and collected the giant cheque for $100,000 in steer wrestling. Thursday he was back there, collecting one of the small bronzes for a third round run of 3.5 seconds and $5500. He’s now got $9000, just behind leader JD Struxness with his tally of $10,500.

It was a high flying eight seconds of motion, with an equally high score, as Brennon Eldredof Oklahoma made an 88.5 point bull ride on Evil Genius.

“I was excited to have him,” said Eldred. “He’s got a lot of drop and he jerks a lot of people down on his head. I knew that that was the main part, just to stay away from those big horns, and it paid off.”

The $5500 bumped the Stampede newcomer to the top of Pool B with $10,500, followed by J.B. Mauney with $9,500.

 

The Calgary Stampede Rodeo committee

The Calgary Stampede relies on dedicated volunteers, like these members of the Rodeo Committee who gathered for their annual photo, by the banks of the Bow River.

Thurston aiming for three-peat in saddle bronc at Calgary Stampede

KRISTEN ODLAND, POSTMEDIA
More from Kristen Odland, Postmedia

Published on: July 13, 2017 | Last Updated: July 13, 2017 6:37 PM MDT

Zeke Thurston from Big Valley, AB, riding Super Sox wins the Saddle Bronc event on day 7 of the 2017 Calgary Stampede rodeo on Thursday July 13, 2017. DARREN MAKOWICHUK / POSTMEDIA

The odds of qualifying for the Calgary Stampede, getting to Championship Sunday, and then winning a $100,000 cheque in the finals, are slim.

Saddle bronc rider Zeke Thurston has done it twice. Back-to-back.

On top of that, he captured the National Finals Rodeo world title this past winter and is currently sitting No. 2 in this year’s PRCA world standings with $88,603.56 in earnings.

So, it’s no surprise the baby-faced 22 year old — who looks like he could be your kid brother — admits to have gained notoriety in the last few years.

“I think so,” said the Big Valley, Alta., native with a chuckle. “I’ve had lots of people come up to me — ‘Hey, my kid watches you all the time’ — so I kind of feel like a role model. It’s pretty cool. Even walking through airports, people recognize me.”

The publicity is well-earned.

And, truth be told, makes him blush.

“I haven’t changed who I was, I don’t think, since I was riding steers here at Calgary,” Thurston said. “I’m pretty down-to-earth. I was raised with the right attitude and have a great support system and my wife is awesome. Without those people, you wouldn’t be able to do this.”

Thurston married his childhood sweetheart Jayne in October and is back again at the Stampede, competing in Pool B.

The momentum is obvious.

“I’ve had a really good season,” said Thurston, who celebrates his 23rd birthday on Saturday.

“I’ve been healthy, I’ve been feeling good and I’ve been riding good. I’ve been lucky and won some pretty big rodeos so I’ve got the (2017) finals made … it’s been awesome so from now on, I’ll just be rolling on and having fun.”

Financial stability has a bit to do with that, of course.

Thurston won his first $100,000 in 2015 which he spent wisely on a herd of cows and a house.

Last year, Thurston bought more cattle and saved a chunk of his earnings.

“Rodeo is a job but it’s really one of the only things you can do to get large lump sums of money at one time,” he said. “It can be life-changing when you get $120,000 in one cheque. It’s nice.”

Thurston rode twice on Thursday, one performance was a re-ride from Wednesday’s competition. He ended up posting 84-points on Mad Money to tie Cody DeMoss and split third and fourth.

Thursday’s 86-points aboard Super Sox was the best ride of the day, bumping his total aggregate after three days to $10,000.

“I got the lowdown on her and you couldn’t ask for a better horse,” said Thurston who now sits in third overall in Pool B standings. “She jumped and kicked and come around circled in front of the judges and that’s what you want in a bucking horse.”

And, although the odds of a three-peat at the Stampede are even slimmer than winning it twice in a row, if there’s one cowboy that can do it …

“The possibility is there,” Thurston said. “Anything is possible. I’m just thankful for the opportunity to come to Calgary and ride at a rodeo of this caliber. It’s a dream come true. It’s a unique rodeo … I’m just happy to be here.”

kodland@postmedia.com

Twitter/Kristen_Odland

First-timer Schuster blazingly fast at Calgary Stampede

KRISTEN ODLAND, POSTMEDIA
More from Kristen Odland, Postmedia

Published on: July 13, 2017 | Last Updated: July 13, 2017 6:59 PM MDT

Tiany Schuster from Krum, TX, the Ladies Barrel Racing event on day 6 of the 2017 Calgary Stampede rodeo on Thursday July 13, 2017.DARREN MAKOWICHUK / POSTMEDIA

With all apologies to the Calgary Stampede committee, Tiany Schuster is trying her best to fully participate.

As the world leader in the barrel racing standings, she was invited to the Greatest Show on Earth for the very first time, and on Thursday, was asked to participate in a cookout.

With commitments aplenty, she politely declined.

Her boyfriend of 10 years, Edwin Cameron, is the owner of Fitness Depot — the well-known Canadian fitness specialty retailer — also doubles as her barn hand and has been busy with his full-time job.

“I think I made one of the committee guys mad,” said the 40-year-old with a sheepish grin. “I’m basically here with six horses by myself because Edwin has a full-time job, he’s got 30 retail stores, a warehouse in China, the factory in Montreal, and I’m sorry, but he doesn’t have time to be my groom and chauffeur right now. That’s what makes the money for me to come to these things.

“Isn’t there someone that can fill in for me? … so I’m in the barn crying last night because I felt like a jerk … I was thinking, ‘Call (fellow barrel racer) Callahan Crossley. She’s got good hair. Good skin. Great earrings.’”

Needless to say, Schuster could use a little relaxation.

Hopefully Thursday’s first-place performance and $5,500 cheque did exactly that.

“My trailer is not the fun trailer to hang out in when things aren’t going well,” Schuster said. “Edwin gets so stressed. He’s like, ‘We’ve got so much money riding on this and you think it’s amateur hour out there. You better get your s***t together!’”

And that’s exactly what she did.

While her boyfriend hails from Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, Schuster is from New Orleans and the two make a home in Krum, Tex., to better facilitate her rodeo career.

Schuster’s seven-year-old horse Showmance — “Like Bro-mance,” she says — had battled some serious stomach issues and spent 10 days at the veterinarian which put her Calgary Stampede plans up in the air.

But the way Showmance rode on Thursday, you’d never know it.

Schuster was, frankly, happy for the heatwave because her first (muddy) performance in Pool B on Tuesday was … ahem …

“The only thing that would have made my first run any better is if I would have fallen off because you wouldn’t have known how slow I really was,” Schuster deadpanned. “It was really that bad.”

She’s not kidding.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, the footage is online at the WrangerNetwork.com.

But the most important highlight, really, was Thursday’s dominant 17.06 trip around the barrels which was just .02-seconds off the Stampede record.

The first-place performance narrowly beat Stevi Hillman of Weatherford, Tex., who was just as impressive in 17.07-seconds.

“I didn’t even know, but when I heard everyone go ‘Ooh and ahh’ I just knew it was exciting,” Schuster said. “And Stevi, she weighs like 50 pounds soaking wet after a cheeseburger with mayo so I thought there’s no way I could out-run Stevi … and I weigh a lot more than Stevi.

“I thought I was running for second place.”

Cunningham honoured to be part of Stampede after health scare

LAURENCE HEINEN, FOR THE CALGARY HERALD
More from Laurence Heinen, For the Calgary Herald

Published on: July 13, 2017 | Last Updated: July 13, 2017 8:03 PM MDT

Veteran chuckwagon driver Cliff Cunningham drives the demo wagon before the GMC Rangeland Derby at the the Calgary Stampede, Tuesday July 11, 2017. CBC play by play hockey broadcaster Harnarayan Singh was along as guest passenger. GAVIN YOUNG / POSTMEDIA

Cliff Cunningham didn’t think much of it when he found a bump on his throat in April of 2016.

That didn’t stop him from going to his doctor to get it checked out.

“There was this little bump on my throat, but I wasn’t worried about it,” recalled the 64-year-old reinsman from Devon, Alta., who is one of two demonstration drivers – along with Dave Galloway – at the 2017 GMC Rangeland Derby. “I wasn’t sick. My doctor seen it and asked me how long I had that. I said, ‘I don’t know. It’s been there maybe a couple three weeks, I’m not sure.’

“So, he said he didn’t like it and that’s when he sent me for a biopsy on it and found out that it was cancer.”

Although he’s not competing in Calgary, Cunningham is happy to be healthy and honoured that he was asked to be a part of the Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth.

 

“I feel fortunate to be able to be doing this again,” said Cunningham, who’s also back competing on the World Professional Chuckwagon Association circuit this season following his one-year absence. “I think I had the big guy looking after me from upstairs, for sure.”

After discovering that the growth was cancerous, Cunningham was referred to go see Dr. Vincent Biron – an ear, nose and throat specialist – at the University of Alberta Hospital.

“He told me that my doctor really worked at it and pulled some strings, because usually it’s nine months before a person gets in to see him because usually he’s so booked up,” said Cunningham, who had another biopsy that showed he had a tumor at the base of his tongue. “He said, it’s a good thing it happened then, because the rate that this thing was growing, I wouldn’t have had time to make it to a doctor. It would have choked me if I was at home. It worked out pretty good for me.”

Dr. Biron then gave his patient a couple options.

“I could have went with radiation and chemo or cut this thing out. I said if you were in my shoes, what would you do? And he said, ‘I’d cut it out.’ That’s what we did. We scheduled the operation to cut it out. It was life threatening, they said. It’d be a major operation.”

With his wife Wendy by his side, Cunningham went in for the surgery on May 19, 2016, but his struggles didn’t end there.

“My wife told me I was on the table for 17 hours,” said Cunningham, who had to wear a feeding tube and a tracheostomy tube to help him breath for months after the surgery. “It was a pretty tough operation, but we made ’er through.

“A guy thinks he’s tough, but you’ll find out you’re not very tough going through some of that. I had my wife and my family. I have a pretty strong family and a loving family.”

More than a year after his life-saving surgery, Cunningham doesn’t mind sharing his story.

“At first, I didn’t really want to talk about it too much,” he said. “I can’t talk really good yet, because they did rebuild my tongue with a piece of (skin from) my arm. I’m just trying to work with my tongue and getting it working properly. It’ll never be 100 per cent.”

He’s hoping that by talking about his tribulations that others will make more regular visits to see their family doctors.

“That’s for sure a message to get out to the people,” Cunningham said. “Go for your regular checkups no matter how old you are, because cancer don’t care.”

Throughout the Stampede, Cunningham and Galloway have been alternating nights as the demonstration driver, but on Thursday the pair ran head-to-head while track announcer Les McIntyre explained the finer points of chuckwagon racing to the crowd. Cunningham managed to edge out Galloway for the win in a time of 1:14.85

Afterwards, Cunningham headed home for his mom Theresa’s funeral on Friday in Enoch, just north of Devon.

“That’s where we’ll lay her to rest right beside my dad (Roy),” said Cunningham, who explained that his mom passed away in her sleep just one night after she watched him win his heat on the final night of the Ponoka Stampede on July 3. “My mom was 85. I feel fortunate to have had a mom for that long.”

Things could have been much different.

If not for early detection of his cancerous tumor, Cunningham might not have been able to win one final race with his mom in the stands.

He might not have been able to have one more meaningful moment afterwards that he’ll treasure forever.

“I gave her a big hug and I gave her a kiss on the cheek and I said, ‘I love you, mom,’ and she said, ‘I love you too, son.’ And that was my last words to her, so I feel blessed to be able to say that to her.”

Instead, the $5,500 first-placed cheque moved her into fourth overall in the aggregate on Thursday. Another solid outing on Friday, the final day of Pool B competition, might ensure her a fast pass into Championship Sunday.

“It’s huge, because (Friday) is going to be the determining factor whether or not I come back for the finals because I was such loser the first day,” Schuster said.

A loser?

“I mean, come on,” she said, chuckling. “Nobody wants to say they were a loser, but it was pretty bad. I can send you the replay if you’d like.”

AROUND THE HORN

Mason Clements of Santaquin, Ut., produced an 87.5-point ride aboard Paradise Moon in bareback riding … Brennon Eldred of Sulphur, Okla., was the top bull rider of the day on Evil Genius with an 88.5-point ride …Caleb Smidt of Bellville, Tex., posted a 7.3 in tie down roping … Seth Brockman of Wheatland, Wy., had a 3.5-second run in steer wrestling.

kodland@postmedia.com

Twitter/Kristen_Odland