It’s the rodeo many spend a whole season working toward and this year was no different for Ponoka’s seven cowboys and one cowgirl who qualified to compete at the Canadian Finals Rodeo.
The pinnacle event was held at Rexall Place in Edmonton, from Nov. 7 to 11.
While saddle bronc rider Luke Butterfield was the only one to take home a championship title, all of Ponoka’s competitors rode hard and gave it their all to come out on top.
“It’s going really good,” Butterfield said after his Nov. 10 afternoon ride. “I’m having lots of fun.” He was awarded a buckle for that go round win.
However, his luck almost ran short. The night of Nov. 10 and during the Sunday finals, Butterfield was bucked off. “It was a rank horse,” he said.
“I was disappointed. I was worried the guy behind me could catch me,” Butterfield added. However, he had nothing to worry about and came out the Canadian champion, something he’s only dreamed about before.
“I worked really hard at this. I’ve always wanted to win a Canadian championship. I really worked my butt off for this.”
Another cowboy, Levi Simpson, and his team roping partner, John Robertson, also had a fruitful CFR experience and finished well.
Simpson and Robertson managed to tie the arena record, 3.7 seconds, with another team on Nov 10.
“We came in here third. We put everything on the line every night,” said Simpson.
During their first round the team came in second, then scored a no time, and placed second again. “I’m hoping it continues with the good luck.”
Saturday night didn’t go according to plan when Simpson missed the steer but the team placed second overall. “We had a good finals.”
Simpson and partner John Robertson will head to the United States for January’s Montana Circuit Finals.
However the rides didn’t go as smoothly for all of Ponoka’s cowboys.
During one of his rides, a flank strap fell off bareback rider Jake Vold’s horse. He was given another ride, which also didn’t go in the 25-year-old’s favour.
“I got 77. It could have been a good cheque,” said Vold. However he wasn’t going to let that score affect his game.
“I feel good, just had a little bad luck. I’m still going for two more rounds.”
Another optimistic cowboy was Klay Whyte, and team roping partner Jeff Robson. They also tried hard until the end. In their first two rounds they placed fourth but then came up with two no times.
“Our steer went left. Jeff’s horse didn’t want to run up the wall,” Whyte explained.
On Nov. 10 the team also tried to beat the arena record. However, Whyte says Robson missed his mark and just waved it off.
Although Whyte wasn’t sure if they’d be able to place first he was excited about the rodeo in general. “We can darn sure still win the rounds.
Unfortunately, Saturday night and Sunday’s finals didn’t go as the ropers were hoping. “Let’s just say Saturday didn’t go very good,” Whyte said.
On Sunday Robson managed to spin a good steer, but Whyte says he missed. “It wasn’t the finals we were hoping for.”
Whyte says they’ll practice over the winter, compete in jackpots and get ready for the spring rodeos.
Team roper Jordan Dodds wasn’t as happy about his CFR runs.
“No good so far,” is what he had to say Nov. 10.
Between misses and penalties the rodeo wasn’t going in Dodds’ favour.
Steer wrestler Trygve Pugh also had a rough afternoon run on Nov. 10.
“I’m pretty well out of the average,” he said afterward. “Missing that steer cost me big.”
Pugh says how the runs go depends on the draw. He was drawing well but not having much luck. With the average out of reach, Pugh set his sights on the go-rounds.
Bull rider Tyler Pankewitz almost didn’t make it to the CFR this year. Several weeks ago he was thrown and lacerated his spleen.
Pankewitz had an ultrasound done Oct. 30 but the doctor who was supposed to give the rider his CFR clearance was on holidays. Instead, he had other doctors check the ultrasound. “I don’t know if they were looking at the right one. They said it was very bad.”
Regardless, Pankewitz was given doctors’ approval on Nov. 6, the day before the CFR started.
He said his rides were mediocre and he was thrown again on Nov. 10. “I just don’t get along with that bull.”
Pankewitz has ridden Pawn Star six times before but has never managed the full eight seconds.
His Saturday night and Sunday rides didn’t go well either. “I don’t know what happened. That’s bull riding I guess.”
Pankewitz said part of it could be he was out so long with his injury. “If you’re not at the top of your game climbing on to those rank bulls it doesn’t usually work well.”
However, Pankewitz is already looking forward to the PBR Canadian Finals in Saskatoon this weekend.
Ponoka’s only CFR cowgirl, barrel racer Cranna Roberts, was having a good time at the CFR. “It’s just exciting to be here,” she said. “It’s been fun, busy.”
Cranna said her horse, Leaguer Moon, had been consistent but she was hoping to pick up the pace for the finals.
“It’s just the little things. It’s a small fraction between all the horses.”
While they never made it to first, Roberts and her horse placed fourth Saturday night and Sunday, landing them third in the average.
“She stayed very consistent and I’m very happy with her,” said Roberts. “It was a spectacular experience.”
This was Robert’s horse’s first rodeo year.
Whether they had good luck or bad, and even if they hit the dirt or missed a steer each of Ponoka’s riders expressed the fun they had doing what they love. And even though some are taking a short break to let the horses cool off they’re already looking forward to their next ride.