By Amelia Naismith and Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye
This year Ponoka sent three roughstock riders to the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR), each ending their rides with mixed results.
Jake Vold handled the bareback event, Luke Butterfield, one of last year’s champions, held tight to the saddlebronc horses and Zane Lambert, his first time at the CFR, beat a few bulls to the eight second whistle.
Vold, who injured his left arm during the Calgary Stampede early this year, also hurt his right arm during one of his earliest CFR rides, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him.
He took first place at the Nov. 9 (Saturday) matinee performance and during the first performance of the event, Nov. 6.
“(I) got on a big yanker the second night . . . It’s just sore, beat up,” he explained.
After his second first place ride, Vold was awarded with a score of 85.5 — his second best score of the week.
Half the score goes to the horse he bucked, Indian Giver, a horse he was happy to ride. “I’ve seen him once and when we picked horses about a month ago nobody wanted to take him because nobody really knew him and I fought for him, and I’m glad I got to take him.”
During Saturday’s afternoon ride Vold’s horse found his way to the fence, slowing him down, and Vold thinks that may have affected his score. However, by the end of the ride, his hand was also starting to come out.
With both arms hurting throughout the week Vold’s strategy was to try and stick each ride. “One horse at a time, one jump at a time.”
Last year Luke Butterfield took home the saddlebronc championship buckle, this year he had a tougher go coming out of the chutes despite getting on the back of some high performing horses.
“Just turned out to be a real nice horse, a nice hopper. He just jumped and kicked in the circle that you want,” said Butterfield.
“Every horse is good, it’s tough winning,” he added.
Never breaking into any big money Butterfield spent his time at the CFR focusing on his riding. “I’ve been riding good, I just don’t know, couldn’t get paid for some reason.”
Along with good horses came stiff competition. “I think this is one of the toughest competitions ever here because there’s four guys that went to the NFR and six of the guys that are here were in the top 20 in the world.”
Like his bareback counterpart, Butterfield took his CFR experience one horse at a time and tried not to get ahead of himself. “Focus on what you have in front of you that night and go take care of business.”
For Zane Lambert’s first time competing at the CFR, the experience was everything he expected.
“Shoot, I’ve been taking everything right to the whistle, it feels like I’ve been riding good.
Some bulls he was able to ride and in other instances he came down early. “I ended up having one of Calgary’s (Stampede) best bulls, Men In Black, kind of a big strong bull, away from my hand, I had a little bit of trouble with him,” said Lambert, referring to his Nov. 9 afternoon ride.
He also spent seven seconds on one of Canada’s top bulls, Whiskey Jack, and says coming down early on some of his rides cost him some money that otherwise would have been his.
“I got second in the second round, that one paid me a little bit,” he added.
All three of the Ponoka area team ropers who competed at the CFR are no strangers to this level of competition.
Tyrel Flewelling, Brett Buss and Levi Simpson have been to the finals before and getting there is usually a long haul. They took some time Nov. 8 after their performance at the finals to talk about the season.
Simpson said he did well early in the season, which took some of the pressure off. “We had a really good start…A couple weeks in June we had won enough, we already knew we made it into the finals.” He team-ropes with heeler John Robertson of Polsen, Man. and a solid run in Innisfail clinched a spot in the finals.
At the beginning of the season Flewelling and Buss had roped together as their partners were taking courses in university. Paring up was an ideal choice for them, said Flewelling.
They won in Camrose and placed in Medicine Hat, which helped their chances, he added. Later their partners joined and they continued to perform well. “We just kind of clicked along…We were always kind of in the middle of the pack.”
By about mid-April, the ropers were heading out every weekend to a rodeo, explained Buss. “Going into last week I was 98 per cent in but there’s still that 2 per cent chance.”
Teaming up with Flewelling helped him continue with the season. Despite a desire to win, the team ropers find friendship is almost more important than winning. They will help each other out and explain how some steers work as they see a lot of the same steers.
“Everybody’s on a different team but we all roped before,” explained Flewelling.
Flewelling and partner Kolton Schmidt of Barrhead were CFR team roping champions this year with $32,302.43 and $30,130.10 in earnings respectively.
Cranna Roberts lives right on the border of Ponoka and Lacombe and she was plagued with horse troubles from the start, but that didn’t stop her from making it to the CFR. Without meaning to, Roberts appeared to be smiling every time she went out to race. “I’m glad to be here.”
This is her second year in a row at the CFR and she worked hard to heal her horse Mooney, who received a torn medial collateral ligament in December. “It was a little bit early to bring her back but that’s all I had.”
Other infections created some issues for Mooney but “she’s a horse that needs to be rode.”
There is little room for error at the CFR with most runs coming in at under 15 seconds.
“It’s very fast. The race has been very tight,” said Roberts.