The adrenaline was still pumping — and the sweat dripping — as Luke Butterfield recalled his last few seconds in the rodeo arena.
It was a bit like a dream, except the work had been all too real.
But it was worth it.
The 25-year-old Ponoka cowboy had the lead at his hometown rodeo, after an 85.75 point ride.
The saddle bronc rider had been anticipating his turn in the chutes ever since he’d found out he’d be matched up with the Kesler horse Starburst.
The sorrel mare is one cowboys want to ride.
“I’d never had her but I’d seen her quite a bit,” stated Butterfield.
“She’s just real nice, and honest. You’ve still got to do things right.”
“I was trying to get a good spur out and set my ride up. It felt really good. She just jumped out there and came around to the right.
“That’s what you want in a bucking horse, right there,” he grinned.
Like all cowboys facing the pressure of performing their craft in front of the folks who know you best, Butterfield tried to put that out of his head.
“You try not to (think about it), but now it feels really good!,” he exclaimed. “It’s so hard at your hometown rodeo. It’s the biggest rodeo over the fourth, anywhere. It’s got the most money added. You just want to do good here with everybody watching. It’s hard to keep the nerves in control. I just tried to breathe deep getting on, and wanted to do everything right. I knew the horse was pretty rider-friendly and I didn’t want to mess her up, so I just tried to stick to the basics.”
Like his father, a Canadian champion, and brother, Butterfield has also tossed a steer or two. He has even qualified for the Canadian all around race in the past. Butterfield doesn’t always enter the steer wrestling event, but he did at Ponoka. In fact, he nodded his head for a dash down the famous Ponoka long score just moments before he jumped in the saddle for his big ride. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in a good position to get down on his steer, so ended up riding on by. But he says it wasn’t the thought of his upcoming bronc that distracted him.
“To tell you the truth, when you’re riding down that long score, I was not thinking bronc riding there. I was wanting to get one thrown down. But I didn’t. This is a tricky setup, and even the guys that bulldog regularly at the NFR, they have trouble at it. It’s fun,” he laughs. “It gets my motor running as much as any bronc I’ve ever been on. The adrenaline kept rolling through me right from there.”
The mark is a sure bet to get Butterfield back to the finals of the Stampede, and could be a season-changer for the third generation rodeo cowboy.
“This can set your year up so good. If I could win 10,000 up here, I’d be right there in the hunt to get going hard south of the line,” he said. “This is a perfect way to start this run off. It keeps your confidence high.”
There weren’t many qualified bull rides Tuesday afternoon at the 74th Ponoka Stampede, but there were some good ones. The best was turned in by Ty Elliott of Turner Valley, an 86.75 on Kesler’s Booster Juice, to give him a half-point lead over Ty Patten of Strathmore with his 86.25.
It was a rare appearance this season for Elliott, who’s been struggling with shoulder and head injuries.
“A guy can’t not go to Ponoka, if he’s feeling half good, he’s got to come here. This is one of the greatest rodeos in Canada. It’s just cool to be part of it, and be able to ride a good bull like that at a big rodeo. This is the place to do it,” commented Elliott, who won Ponoka two years ago.
His dismount had the crowd holding its breath, as the bull appeared to trample on him several times before being distracted away. Yet, Elliott claimed he was feeling no pain, at least not yet.
“Yea, he was right on top of me, I guess,” conceded Elliott. “I don’t feel bruised yet, but who knows, maybe later, I might.”
In the bareback riding, Bobby Mote hung on to his lead with 86.5 points, but Dusty Lavalley of Bezanson moved into third place with an 84 on Snow Cone. He’s fresh off a big win at Reno and is moving up the world standings like a bullet.
“It’s been six years since I’ve done anything on this weekend of rodeo. But ever since I’ve had that baby, everywhere I’ve been, I’ve won first or second. It’s been awesome. If I get on another cold streak, I might have to have another one,” he chuckled. “I might end up with 15 kids in my career!”
In the tie down roping, Clint Robinson of Utah roped a calf in front of the grandstand in 7.3 seconds to lead that round. He and fellow statesman Jake Hannum are now tied for second on two runs with a time of 16.6 seconds. Tuf Cooper still leads with 15.1. Texan Matt Reeves was 4.3 seconds in the performance for steer wrestling, to lead that round, but Olin Hannum of Idaho moved into a tie at the top for best on two at 15.8 seconds.
Best team roping result of the day came from Airdrie’s Jeff Robson and Travis Booth of Calgary, who moved into second for the overall total with 13.5 seconds on two runs. No barrel racers came near the rapid 17.29 second run turned in by Lindsay Sears of Nanton Monday night.
Chucks (to come)
There’s more rodeo today at 1:00 pm, with the chuckwagons rolling at 6:30 pm.