Levi Simpson does an excellent job of heading the calf while Jeremy Buhler is fast on the heel during their afternoon Ponoka Stampede finals run on July 3. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Ponoka team roper working the circuit hard

World champ Levi Simpson focused on returning to defend NFR title

A big win or simply placing in the money is the main focus at the moment for a Ponoka cowboy.

For Levi Simpson, the fact he and team roping partner Jeremy Buhler won the Ponoka Stampede last week is a small side note for the moment as the pair continue to chase the opportunity to repeat as world champions in Las Vegas next December.

“We have been mostly down south, winning a bit now and again, just hoping to keep things rolling,” Simpson said in a phone interview.

For the world champions, there was a bit of time to celebrate after winning the title at the National Finals Rodeo last December. However, the pressure of having that title really isn’t there, says Simpson.

“Once we started again this spring, everyone was back on even terms and the only real benefit of being a world champ is having the experience of performing at the NFR and knowing now what it takes to get there,” he said.

“We had a lot of help from family, but this year we hired a driver. Now, we don’t have to worry about being exhausted after driving all night to get to another rodeo. We can get there rested and have time to call home or do what needs to be done. Whether it’s up home in Canada or down here on the road, I think that has been part of the reason we have found some more success this year.”

That success, which includes the Ponoka Stampede buckle, has seen Simpson reach the top 10 in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) world standings with just over $43,231 and leap to the top of the team roping header standings in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) with earnings of $12,120. Buhler is 13th in the world and first in the CPRA heeler standings.

“This year has been a bit tougher as the times and cowboys are getting better as more guys are working and practicing harder,” Simpson stated.

“It’s no longer just the weekend warriors going out there, the talent across Canada and the U.S. is really beginning to show through.”

And just because the Canadian pair have the ‘world champion’ title connected to them, it doesn’t mean any competitors are really worried about going up against them.

“I think having that title has simply meant more people know who we are when we show up somewhere. Everyone still treats us the same, it’s all still a big family,” he added.

New arena

One thing that winning a world championship has done for Simpson is better appreciate what it takes to keep at the top and how important it is to give back to the rodeo community.

That’s the big reason why Simpson has planned to construct a team roping practice facility and horse barns at his home near Ponoka.

“During the year, we get to stop and camp out at other places all over and this is something I can do to return that favour,” he said.

“It’s about helping out that next group, so they don’t necessarily have to go through the four or five year struggle I have to reach where I’m at now.”

However, with having such a busy rodeo schedule as he works to defend his buckle at the NFR, being able to get work done has been difficult.

“With not being home often, not as much has gotten done though I hope to be home more this fall to work on it and have it ready for next spring.”