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Big Valley’s Zeke Thurston ready to defend CFR title

The CFR in Red Deer begins Wednesday
Zeke Thurston, of Big Valley, Alta., rides Lunatic Party during saddle bronc rodeo semi-final action at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Sunday, July 14, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Big Valley’s Zeke Thurston wouldn’t have it any other way.

Saddle bronc riding is his passion and he hopes to defend his Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) title at this year’s 48th annual event at the Peavey Mart Centrium.

The king of saddle bronc riding has had plenty of success competing at CFR including the 2021 saddle bronc Canadian title and aggregate championship and did the same in 2019. He is also a two-time world saddle bronc champion at the National Finals Rodeo.

Thurston said he’s feeling good ahead of the five-day event that begins on Nov. 2-6 and is excited to get started.

“I just got to go in there and do what I always do. I just have to take care of business and first off is just riding the horse you’ve drawn to the best of your ability. One horse at a time and one jump at a time,” he said.

He described the CFR as a best-of-seven series like the Stanley Cup playoffs except the CFR is six rounds and if you do well, the competitors can earn big amounts of cash.

“Canada’s chocked full of really good bronc riders right now. [There are] superstars and some up-and-comers and everything in between. There’s solid bronc riding up here and I’m just proud as far as that’s gone. It’s cool to be a part of and to see it grow and hopefully continue to grow,” he said.

He explained he’s had a really good year competing in Canada and the United States and was blessed with a successful season.

As a competitor in saddle bronc riding, you’re required to stay on for eight seconds and you’re judged on how your horse performs on a scale of one to 50 such as how hard the animal kicks and how high it jumps. The cowboy is also scored on a scale of one to 50 for having his feet set, beating the horse to the ground, and how fast his feet are.

“It’s fast,” Thurston said. “It happens really fast you know there’s a lot going on when you’re up there. It’s hard to explain you know it’s more of a feel. Everybody thinks it’s really rough but it’s really not timing and balance. If all those things are working it goes pretty well.”

Thurston has eight years of experience on the professional tour but got into it at a young age and can’t imagine doing anything else. His father also had a successful career as a bronc rider and Thurston said rodeo runs on both sides of his family and has roots in Red Deer. He has always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“It’s what I love to do and it’s come to be how I make my living. I support my family with this job and everything I’ve had has come from rodeo,” he said.

“I’ve been really blessed and I’ve been super lucky to be able to represent the country of Canada and the province of Alberta. Whether that be in Canada or on the world stage and I have great fans up here. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The opening night of the CFR is Wednesday.

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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