The spring pro rodeo season moved into high gear on the weekend, and Central Alberta competitors were in the thick of the winning.
The road let them to Dawson Creek, Coleman and Camrose. Dawson Creek was a new event on the calendar, while the Camrose Spring Classic adjusted its dates a month later than in the past.
One of the cowboys to cash in big was Ponoka-raised Jake Vold. He took first in the bareback riding at the Kananaskis Pro Rodeo in Coleman with an 86.5 on Kesler’s Up Ur Alley, and followed that up with a second-place finish from an 85.5-point ride at Dawson Creek, giving him $2,866 and a good jump on the field early in the year.
“The one in Coleman was kind of a newer horse, but the Kesler’s are pretty high on him, and it worked out good,” said the 27-year-old. “It’s the start on the year I wanted, for sure. If I can keep trying to lay a dominant performance every weekend all summer, things could work out pretty good at the end of the year.”
The Canadian hot start follows a strong winter for Vold, who’s well inside the top 10 in the world bareback standings. His big cheques came out of San Antonio and Fort Worth.
Vold’s drive for a Las Vegas appearance last season was derailed by an arm injury at the Calgary Stampede. He was able to make it back to action in time for the Canadian Finals Rodeo, which he qualified for thanks to his strong start last year, and a victory at his hometown Ponoka Stampede.
While Vold fully intends to be at both year-end showdowns, that’s not dominating his thinking.
“Just changed it up a little this year. I don’t really have any goals. I’m just going to play my cards right, and see what happens. I’m looking forward to the end of the year. I’m a lot more relaxed. Just rodeo by rodeo, horse by horse.”
Vold confesses that approach has been earned by experience, and it seems to be working for him.
“I’m just showing up more relaxed and not so amped up all the time to do good. Just let things happen.”
The weekend horses were actually Vold’s first in a month, since he went in to get some screws removed from an earlier arm injury. He was relieved to find it feeling good — although a bit swollen — after three rides.
Rodeo’s a humbling game and even though things are going well, Vold got skunked at the Camrose show where he was bucked off Outlaw Buckers’ paint OLS Tubs Ross River.
“That was the fourth time I’ve had that horse. The first time I got on him, I had to stand up so they could close the gate, he bucked me off so fast. The second two times, I think I was 84 and 88 on him. Today, just one little mistake, and you can’t do that on him. He’ll get you.
“He got me today, but I’ll get him next time,” grinned Vold.
The weekend was also a good one for Ponoka’s Butterfield clan. Luke Butterfield won saddle bronc riding in Camrose with an 85.5 on Devils Who, as well as picking up $934 for fourth place in Dawson Creek.
“I kind of needed that for confidence,” admitted the 2012 Canadian champion. “I had a really tough winter down south. I got a little sore. It didn’t feel like I was riding bad, but I just couldn’t seem to win. But I’m really craving rodeo again now, and wanting to get going.”
The change in dates enabled Butterfield to take in the Camrose show for the first time in many years.
Meanwhile, Luke’s cousin, Chance, a steer wrestler, managed to split first in his event with current Canadian champion Clayton Moore. They both had 4.3 second runs for $1,617 apiece. Moore also won Coleman, for another $1,967.
Dustin Flundra was on a roll for the weekend, winning saddle bronc riding in Coleman and Dawson Creek, and sharing second place at Camrose, to collect $4,666. Kyle Lucas of Carstairs took first in the tie down roping in Coleman and Camrose, for $4,097.
Five-time Canadian champion Deb Guelly took her horse Scooter to the barrel racing paywindow with firsts from both Coleman and Camrose, for $3,731.
In the team roping, Red Deer’s Travis Gallais and his partner Kevin Schreiner won $1,318 each for first in Coleman. Taylor Brower of Halkirk and Tel Flewelling of Lacombe were fastest at Camrose, winning $1,443 apiece.
Tyrel Flewelling and his header Roland McFadden took first at Dawson Creek, for $1,189 a man.
Other event winners at Camrose were Ponoka resident Zane Lambert and Jesse Torkelson of Warburg in the bull riding, for matching 87.5-point rides; Clayton Bunney and Cody DeMers in bareback riding with marks of 87; and Harley Cole of Cochrane in steer wrestling for a 4.1 second run.
Meanwhile, despite a highway delay due to an avalanche, Miles Pennington of Lacombe got to Trail, B.C., to get on at a Bull Riders of Canada event. He went on to share first overall, with 165.5 points on two bulls, to collect $4,047, and move up to fifth in the BRC season standings.
The next stop for rodeo contestants is this weekend in Stavely.