CHARLES TWEED/Ponoka News
You could have rubbed Tanner Byrne’s face in the infield dirt at the Stampede Grounds and it wouldn’t have wiped the grin off of his face.
Byrne was the only man to ride in the short round, sticking an 88.5-point ride on a Vold Rodeo bull named In the Club to capture the Jace Harty Memorial Bull Riding buckle.
“I always wanted to win this. We watched the juniors today and I made way through that and it was always at Duane Robinson’s and I made my way up to this level and I always wanted to win this and now my dream has come true today,” said Byrne.
When he got settled in the chute as the second last rider in the short round, no rider had managed to ride two bulls. Byrne knew if he could hold on it would give him a good shot at the buckle and he also knew he couldn’t afford to think that way.
“It’s tough and that’s what you have to keep out of your head. If everybody falls off and you’re first then you already won anyway but that’s one of the hardest things to learn, don’t focus on the bull before but the one you’re getting on and not about the average or anything because you’ve still got to ride and that’s what’s important,” said Byrne who admitted he likes to pre-scout his bulls and know their tendencies before the event.
“Lots of guys don’t like to know the bulls they’re getting on but I really like to know what their tendencies are. You gotta have a plan but it’s still an animal and anything can happen. I knew he was a good bull and no one has really rode that bull is what they told me so I just tried to let loose and have some fun and go at him and it worked out really good.”
Byrne comes from rodeo royalty — no he’s not related to Prince William and Princess Kate who’ll be at the Calgary Stampede this summer — his father, Ryan, is in the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame as a bullfighter; his mother, Kelly, is a competitive barrel racer; and his brother, Jesse, works the largest events in the world as a professional bullfighter. Though he’s only 19 years old, Byrne understood the importance of winning in Ponoka and said there might be a few beers spilled when he gets home.
“Oh they’ll be happy. We like to support each other with everything we do and they’re going to be just as happy as I am especially in Ponoka because rodeo is so big here. We’ll probably have to have a celebration,” said Byrne with an infectious laugh.
“Anytime you do good, you’ve got to be rewarded for it.”
With rain falling in Ponoka every day it seems, someone was looking down on the event as the clouds parted and cowboys and rodeo enthusiasts were treated to a beautiful night of riding.
“It’s a great tribute to a guy who lived life to the fullest,” said Beau McArthur who won the first Jace Harty Memorial Bull Riding event. “All his friends and family are always here and you see some of the people you only see once a year. The Hartys are huge in the rodeo world and they would do anything they could to help you out and would always be there for you.”
The event also gives back.
“They donate to such great causes ($2,000 to the Ronald McDonald House) and that’s one of the many reasons I think this event will just continue to grow. I know it sure was a sad day and this was a packed house the day they had the funeral here,” said Beau.
“It’s a sad day but you have a day like you have today and it’s a great day. Jace wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”