It’s GO time for pro rodeo competitors. All year long they look forward to when their sport takes centre stage in Edmonton for the season end “playoffs,” with gold buckles on the end of the line, and a lot of cash earning opportunities along the way.
The 43rd annual Canadian Finals Rodeo week kicked off for many with the Monday night Alberta Circuit Awards, held in Red Deer.
Those who have topped the charts at the rodeos held in our province are honored with trophy bronzes.
Luke Butterfield collected the one this year in the All-Around category, winning over $17,000 at Alberta rodeos in saddle bronc riding and steer wrestling. The Ponoka cowboy managed to win the award in 2012 as well, but the difference that year was that he didn’t have the required three cheques in both his timed and riding events, so he wasn’t eligible for the Canadian title. This year, he got that done, and heads to Northlands Coliseum with a $1,043 lead over fellow qualifier, and defending Canadian All-Around champion, Josh Harden of Big Valley, for the national honour.
Butterfield is also in the hunt for a second Canadian saddle bronc champion’s buckle, to go with the one he claimed in 2012. So you’d think he’d have a lot on his mind as he heads north.
“Honestly, I try not to think about either,” contended the 32-year-old. “I just want to show up, ride my horses, have some fun and let the chips fall on Sunday.”
“It will be a fun little race with Josh, since we’re both in the same event,” added Butterfield, who will be at his eighth CFR.
After missing the cut for Edmonton in 2015 by one spot, Butterfield finds himself approaching rodeo, and this year’s Finals, with a different mindset.
“I want to enjoy everything associated with it. I’m happy to be rodeoing. I know I can’t do it for the rest of my life, and you’re not going to win everything. I still want to win, but realize now that you cycle out of the lows, so you can’t get too low and stay there. It’s changed my outlook, and I feel better.”
Over his decade in the pro ranks, Butterfield would put plenty of pressure on himself to excel, and he did. But the maturity of experience has rounded out his approach to rodeo, and it showed in steady, consistent success all 2016, netting him nearly $20,000 in Canada.
A family bonus this year is that he and Brock will be competing at Edmonton together.
“We’ve never been there at the same time. It’s really cool to have him there with me.”
The Butterfields are among a large contingent of Ponoka area CFR contestants, and the Ponoka Stampede had a special send-off party for them all last week.
“Those bronzes are coveted, and a lot of thanks goes to Jack Daines for keeping them going. There’s a lot of history in the Alberta circuit, so it means a lot to me to win one.”
Luke Butterfield hopes the bronze will remind him that having fun while rodeoing can translate into winning, and that’s something he wants to practice this week.
“For me, I try not to look at the draw, and the money. If you worry about that, you get beat. I know it’s not ‘just another rodeo’, but you have to treat that ride like you would anywhere. Stick to the basics and don’t over think it.”
Other Alberta circuit award winners include Kyle Lucas of Carstairs in tie-down roping; Cody Cassidy of Donalda in steer wrestling; Dakota Buttar of Kindersley, SK in bull riding; and Kirsty White of Big Valley in barrel racing. Cassidy, Buttar, and White are all season leaders in their respective events. South Dakota’s Chuck Schmidt won the Alberta bronze for saddle bronc riding, while the bareback one went to Utah’s Caleb Bennett, who is also season leader in his event. The team roping honours were claimed by the top gunners for 2016, Kolton Schmidt of Barrhead and his Texas heeler, Shay Carroll. Tanner Young of Sylvan Lake won the novice bareback for the province, with the novice saddle bronc going to Kolby Wanchuk of Sherwood Park, and steer riding to Luke Ferber of Irricana.
The season’s top 12 competitors in each of the events head to Edmonton knowing the city will continue to be the home for the CFR for at least the next two years, after the CPRA and Northlands extended their contract.
The $1.5 million purse for the 2016 CFR will be paid out over six performances, beginning at 7:30 Wednesday evening at Northlands Coliseum.