Road to the NFR: Clint Laye brings pedigree, camaraderie into first world finals

Clint Laye of Cadogan, Alta. earned $100,000 on a horse called Virgil with a score of 88.00 in the bareback riding event at the Stampede finals on July 12. LORRAINE HJALTE / CALGARY HERALD

JEFFERSON HAGEN, CALGARY HERALD

Published on: December 2, 2015 | Last Updated: December 2, 2015 8:33 PM MST

Clint Laye of Cadogan, Alta. earned $100,000 on a horse called Virgil with a score of 88.00 in the bareback riding event at the Stampede finals on July 12. LORRAINE HJALTE / CALGARY HERALD


Clint Laye and Zeke Thurston grew up together as two superstar rodeo prospects in East Central Alberta.

Their career paths keep intertwining.

Both won Calgary Stampede titles in July — Laye the $100,000 bareback first prize and Thurston the saddle bronc crown.

Now, on Thursday, they’ll both make their Wrangler National Finals Rodeo debuts.

“We started in high school rodeo together and our whole careers ever since then have been on the same level,” said Laye, of Cadogan, Alta., about his relationship with good pal Thurston. “Now it’s cool to be going to our first NFR together.”

As Thurston explains, they actually even once tried each other’s discipline.

“We steer road together, we both went to the Canadian finals together in that when they had the finals in Strathmore. He rode novice bareback horses … actually it’s kind of funny. One time we went to a school that my dad (Skeeter Thurston) and Dave Shields put on and Clint went to the bronc riding part of the school that my dad put on and I went to the bareback riding school that Dave put on.

“The next year we both swapped. He was riding bareback horses and I was getting on broncs. So we high school rodeo’d together, we actually even roped together.

“We’ve just been good friends for a long time. To have other Canadians to go with is really cool and then to have one of your good friends, your age, going that’s pretty fun.”

Laye, who travelled down to the WNFR with fellow barebacker, Caleb Bennett of Morgan, Utah — heading to his third world finals — can’t wait.

“I’m a little wide-eyed, but I’ve been preparing my whole life for this,” said Laye, who punched his WNFR ticket with wins at Rodeo Austin and the Caldwell (Idaho) Night Rodeo, while nearly winning in Houston. “I think I’m ready and my expectations are high when I go in there.”

He certainly has the pedigree. Grandfather Albert Laye and uncle Leon Laye were Canadian steer wrestling champions. His dad Darcy also competed in steer wrestling, while his mom Jerry was a barrel racer. One of his dad’s cousins, Mark Laye, won the 1985 Calgary Stampede steer wrestling crown.

But Clint followed in the footsteps of his uncle Billy Laye, the 1991 Canadian bareback champ, who went to three NFRs.

“He taught me how to ride,” said Clint. “He’s my mentor.”

So there will be no shortage of sage wisdom at the ready, should Clint decide to tap into it in Las Vegas.

jhagen@calgaryherald.com