Canada’s best young trick riders gear up for Ponoka

The Thurston Gang is a western extravaganza who are performing for the crowd at the Ponoka Stampede June 25 to 27. For the second time in three years they have been voted the Specialty Act of the Year in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association.

Wyatt Thurston hangs off the side of his horse

Wyatt Thurston hangs off the side of his horse

By Tiffany Williams

Editor

The Thurston Gang is a western extravaganza who are performing for the crowd at the Ponoka Stampede June 25 to 27. For the second time in three years they have been voted the Specialty Act of the Year in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association.

They are a trick riding, roman riding, roping and whip cracking show with 16 year old Wyatt, 13 year old Zeke and 12 year old Sam Thurston. The boys are the sons of Skeeter Thurston who is a six time National Finals Rodeo qualifier and five times Canadians Finals Rodeo qualifier in saddle bronc. Their mother is Lynda Shuckburh-Thurston a rodeo promoter and a barrel racer.

Wyatt is one of only of three roman riders in all of Canada and has been at the helm of five different roman riding teams in his short career.

“There’s a lot of horsemanship involved. It’s medieval, like Ben Hur. I really like it and it is something I wanted to try more than trick riding,” said Wyatt.

Wyatt also competes in high school rodeo and competed in the high school rodeo finals in Ponoka in saddle bronc.

He is really looking forward to performing at Ponoka and says that he hasn’t missed the Ponoka Stampede since he was six-years old.

“I think it’s great and awesome. I’ve always wanted to do it because it’s big and there are a lot of people,” said Wyatt. “The variety of it is kind of cool we do trick roping, trick riding and roman riding. It’s western and old school compared to everyone else.”

Zeke was voted the Most Promising Young Roper at the Will Rogers Festival in Claremore, Oklahoma in 2006 and 2007. He’s been roping since he was seven years old and says that his favourite trick is the Texas Skip. It is when he jumps back and forth through the rope.

“It’s a lot of fun, fast and really cool,” said Zeke. “I really like performing because you get to meet new people, travel and see new places.”

This year Zeke will be competing in boys steer riding at the Ponoka Stampede and is excited to be competing and performing in Ponoka. He was a 2007 finalist in the CPRA boys steer riding and has recently been named to the Wrangler All Star team junior division.

“It’s really good stock. It’s a lot of money added and I just want to do my best but my goal is to win first place,” said Zeke.

Zeke has also won the Big Loop contest in 2007 spinning 67 feet of rope.

Sam is famous for his speed-ball rides on his little horse Cherokee and his unique rope tricks.

“One of my favourite tricks are the vaults where you jump off the horse and get really good air,” said Sam. “It feels pretty good to be performing in Ponoka. It should be a lot of fun plus it is a really big rodeo.”

Sam also competes in Wranlger rodeos and is the Thurston Gangs manager.

The boys started trick riding only five years ago when they were just eight, nine and 12 years old under the guidance of Canadian Rodeo Hall of Famer Jerri Duce-Phillips.

They have also had the honour of performing for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Edmonton in 2005, at the CFR in 2004 and 2006, from Grand Prairie to Oklahoma, and Vancouver Island to Manitoba. Each year they travel approximately 25,000 km per year and up to 48 performances.

The young Thurston Gang are three boys who are full of energy and have many great tricks to show the crowd on June 25 to 27.