Thurston claims another title as rookie continues strong season

There’s no time for reflecting on past success when there’s still work to do – at least in Zeke Thurston’s world. The talented young cowboy from Big Valley added to his overflowing piggy bank by winning first, and $1627, in the saddle bronc riding at the new Oldstoberfest rodeo on the weekend.

There’s no time for reflecting on past success when there’s still work to do – at least in Zeke Thurston’s world.

The talented young cowboy from Big Valley added to his overflowing piggy bank by winning first, and $1627, in the saddle bronc riding at the new Oldstoberfest rodeo on the weekend.

That’s not nearly as big a bonus as the $50,000 he won this spring at Houston, or the $100,000 he cashed in at the Calgary Stampede. But they are dollars that count towards the season end finales at both Edmonton and Las Vegas, and that’s where the focus is right now for the 21-year-old.

“My last two weeks have been really slow,” commented Thurston. “I drew nice horses but just not enough at those big rodeos. It was nice to come here today and get on one that bucked.”

The horse that bucked was owned by Bar C5, and goes by the name of Black Hills. He was juicy and high flying across the arena, to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd; and Thurston was equally excited to make every spur lick count, for an 83.5 point result.

“He kind of tested me right out of there. I didn’t know if I was going to get him twisted or not, but luckily I got back down in there and made a good ride, so it was worth it.”

Thurston actually kept on spurring long after the whistle went, as the pick-up men came to collect him.

“I was just proving to myself I could still do it. It’s been so long since I’ve won any money, it seems like. It felt good, so I just wanted to keep a-going,” he chuckled.

The tour for the week had taken Thurston from Puyallup, WA to Pendleton, OR; then there was an all-night drive to Albuquerque, NM, followed by a stop in St. George, UT before a late flight to Calgary; all to get on the horse at Olds.

The countdown is on for the end of the season both sides of the rodeo border. Thurston is sitting 12th in the world standings with over $66,000 in earnings; and ninth in Canada with nearly $16,000 won.

“We’ve got one week left, four (U.S.) rodeos for the entire season, and I’m hanging in there, so hopefully we blast ‘em this week, and it will be really cool.”

With the last big push now before rodeo’s ‘second season’ begins, there’s only one direction for the world’s leading bronc riding rookie to focus.

“I’ve got my eye on the target and I’m just zeroed in right now. I’m sure after next week, there’ll be plenty of time for reminiscing and looking back on the year. But for now, it’s just pedal to the metal. We’re just going to go at ‘em and hope for the best.”

Thurston’s Big Valley neighbor, Josh Harden, has his nose to the grindstone as well, as he hopes to qualify for his first Canadian Finals Rodeo. Harden, the first cowboy to qualify for this year’s All-Around race, has a chance at making Edmonton in both his events. At Olds, he managed a $1025 steer wrestling payoff and $310 in the bronc riding.

His approach to the whole deal is to not even worry about what the numbers say.

“I haven’t looked (at the standings). I’m just treating these last three rodeos as ‘just another rodeo’, one at a time,” said Harden. “It’s just the way I’ve always been. Everything will kind of sort itself out at the end.”

“I’ve been getting little cheques here and there, but nothing lately. So it was nice to hit here. It will help.”

Taking home the custom-made championship beer stein for first in the steer wrestling at Olds was Cody Cassidy of Donalda. His 4.7 second run netted him $1886. B.C. cowgirl Julie Leggett was the fastest barrel racer with her time of 17.336 seconds, for $1737. Maple Creek’s Jared Parsonage continued his late season run, taking the bull riding at Olds with an 84 point ride on Sugar Bear, for $1374. There was a three-way tie for first in the bareback riding; between Cole Goodine of Carbon, young Tate Hartell of Strathmore and Montana’s Jessy Davis. They all had 81 point rides and picked up $1178 apiece. The team roping went to Stacy Cornet and Denver Johnson, for their 5.2 second run, which gave them $1411 each.

The tie-down roping honors went to Utah cowboy Rhen Richard, who wrapped it up with a run of 8.0 seconds Saturday afternoon at the Olds Regional Exhibition Grounds. The $2211 payday was a relief, in many ways, as he’s anxious to solidify his first CFR spot in the tie-down roping.

“It’s been a long three weeks,” he admitted. “I haven’t won much up here.”

Part of the problem has been breathing challenges in the horse he usually uses, Stick, owned by Curtis Cassidy.

“I’ve only got to ride him twice, and both times it was really good. I’m just glad it worked out right here. He’s been awesome. You can’t warm him up a ton, because he loses air pretty fast. But shoot, he felt just like he always did today.”

The Bavarian-themed Oldstoberfest event marked the return of pro rodeo to Olds, after a six year absence. There was a lot of enthusiasm for the event, with a full house for the Friday night performance.

There are only two regular season rodeos left in Canada, at Hanna and Brooks this weekend. Then the top ten finishers from the Pro Rodeo Canada Series have one last chance at the tour Finals in Calgary October 2-3 at the Agrium Western Event Centre.

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