SMALL SPURS, HUGE FUTURES

They may wear some small spurs for now but rodeo in southern Alberta has a big future. The Small Spurs Rodeo in Claresholm, Alberta gives tomorrow’s stars of rodeo a place to develop their skills.

Since Dusty and Travis Whiteside created the program it has taken off and today there are more than 400 entries on a given weekend for the rodeos. Kids ages 14 and under have a chance to test their skills in events like barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying and even steer riding.

Today’s organizers, Ty and Hayley Elliot and Matt and Janessa McNichol, spend countless hours organizing and preparing as well as running each of the rodeos held over the winter months. Thanks to their dedication and hard work and the support of corporate partners like the Calgary Stampede, hundreds of kids have an opportunity to get involved in the sport of rodeo.

On March 11-12, the Small Spurs held their annual season finals and what an exciting way to cap off their season. The Calgary Stampede is one of the leading supporters of the program and along with contributions from many great corporate partners, there were more than 100 prizes handed out to the champions on the weekend.

Ty Elliott is a former Canadian Finals Bull Rider who now focuses on developing the next generation of rodeo. He recognizes the lack of interest in the rough stock events and hopes that organizations like Small Spurs will help to revitalize the rough stock end of the arena.

“The kids need a place to try it out where the animals match their skill level,” said Ty as he explained how each kid is split into the A, B and C pools according to their size and experience. This is a great way to ensure that the kids will be able to ride an animal that suits their ability. The formula seems to be working and with more than 20 steer riders each weekend, the talent pool seems to be growing at the Small Spurs.

The steer riders treated their fans and sponsors to a special performance this past Friday and I was lucky enough to be a part of it, helping organize the event for the evening. Some of the stars of the sport were on hand to help out the riders such as former Canadian Champions Matt Lait and Wes Cyr. Stampede’s own rodeo announcer Dave Poulsen called the show alongside Mike Labelle and music director Ted Stovin. Multiple-time Rodeo Entertainer of the Year, Dennis Halstead, kept everyone laughing.

Coupled with great music, some fire in the dirt and a massive replay screen, the Small Spurs Rodeo was much like watching a miniature version of the PBR bull ridings and the kids rose to the occasion, riding over half of their animals and Cranbrook cowboy Lonnie Phillips came up with high score of 86 points. There were some very excited little cowboys walking away with some great hardware and some big plans of where their talents will take them next. Hopefully most are considering this summer’s Stampede Rodeo as one of their tour stops.

Saturday’s events brought more great action from the timed event competitors and many more great moments as the rest of the 100 prizes were doled out to the event champions in many age categories. Dennis Halstead was still on hand and said that he is very fortunate to be a part of such a great event and a great organization. All of the personnel and helping hands are volunteers and they truly do a fantastic job creating a rodeo that would impress even the most seasoned of fans. The rodeo industry is alive and well in Claresholm and with the continued support of organizations like the Calgary Stampede we can rest easy knowing that rodeo will have stars well into the future. If you ever get a chance be sure to slip down to Claresholm and cheer on the big hearts that wear the “small spurs.”