A full grandstand was on hand at the Ponoka Stampede Canada Day to watch the best rodeo cowboys in the world compete for championships in the Showdown.
“We had great cowboys competing at the Ponoka Stampede,” said proud association president Danny Jones.
“We had world champions in every event in the Showdown and we had great performances all seven days — all NFR-calibre cowboys. That says a lot for Ponoka.”
Cody Cassidy felt that with the stock his competitors were drawing, he had the best chance to win.
“It was a great steer to wrestle,” the Donalda cowboy said. “He tried to get upside down with me hardly doing anything.”
Cassidy scored his fastest time of the week when it counted the most — 4.6 seconds to win the event and total earnings of $$10,587.
Cassidy, who had his father, Greg, hazing for him, credits his 23-year-old horse, Willy, and plain old good luck for his success.
“I was just fortunate enough to have the right steer and be riding a great horse. He just keeps going.”
Cody is the first in his championship family to win a title at the Ponoka Stampede three times. This was his second straight year winning the steer wrestling title at Ponoka.
Ladies barrel racing
Alberta’s world champion barrel racer doesn’t let a little thing like a broken leg keep her from competing — and winning at one of her favourite rodeos.
Lindsay Sears, from Nanton, broke her leg winning at High River a few weeks ago but was racing in a cast at the Ponoka Stampede. She excited the capacity crowd at the Showdown July 1, posting a time of 17.17 seconds and tipping a barrel. She won $16,863.
Sears may have set a Ponoka Stampede record earlier in the week with a time of 16.93 seconds.
Her run in the finals Wednesday afternoon was disappointing but she and her horse, Martha, got their act together when it counted the most.
“She got it together tonight,” Sears said, “thank goodness. She likes Ponoka.”
Sears blames he broken leg for their shortcomings earlier in the day. She can’t quite bring pressure to bear on the fibula that’s not healing properly because she has been competing non-stop since High River. In between rides in Ponoka, she competed in Williams Lake, B.C. and she won the championship in Reno, Nevada.
After the Calgary Stampede, she plans to take some time off and let her leg heal properly. She’s already qualified for the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton.
Rookie rider Tilden Hooper stared down three former world champions in the Showdown to take home the buckle. The Texan scored 90 points aboard Grated Coconut to win $8,200 in total earnings. The also-rodes were William Lowe, Mobby Mote and Kelly Timberman.
Saddle bronc riding
Riding Fearless Warrior to an 83.5 score, Justin Arnold of Santa Margarita, Calif. won the event at Ponoka. He’d beaten the best Fearless Warrior has to offer a few times before.
“I’ve been on that horse before and he’s a real champion. I’m proud to have held on as well as I did to win on him again.”
Wayne Vold’s Nelly Kelly was honoured as the best saddle bronc horse. The six-year-old bucked a few riders off during the stampede. “I don’t really think she’s a buck off horse, though,” Vold said.
Some days, you just have to tip your hat to the bull stock. And that was the case with the cowboys at the Ponoka Stampede. Just two riders managed to hang on for the eight-second ride in Wednesday afternoon’s finals and in the highlight event at the rodeo, every Showdown rider was bucked off.
Tyler Thomson of Black Diamond was awarded the championship based on his aggregate scores. The $10,000 prize money was split equally among the four finalists.
“My ride tonight didn’t go that good,” Thomson said. “Everybody go bucked off, all four of us. That’s not the way we want to do it but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Speed Dial, a Calgary Stampede bull, was recognized as the top bull.
“This was our first time roping at the Ponoka Stampede and it was awesome,” said champion team roper Rhen Richard of Utah. He and heeler Matt Sherwood of Arizona posted a time of 5.7 seconds in the Showdown. They’ve been together only six months.
“We don’t go to many rodeos that are this great,” Richard said. “You guys have a great rodeo. We love coming to Canada.”
Tie down roping
The odds were good that an American would win the tie down roping event at the Ponoka Stampede. Three Oklahomans and a cowboy from Alix were in the Showdown.
In his third appearance in Ponoka, Hunter Herrin ran up a 7.2-second score to win the champion’s jacket. He pocketed $12,187 by posting the best average time and the Showdown.
All-around cowboy – Kyle Thomson, Black Diamond, Alta.
High-point cowboy – Seth Glause, Rock Springs, Wyo.