A true test of cowboy tough is a rodeo in the rain. Add in a little hail, snow, and some freezing temperatures for good measure, and you can soon see who is ready to rise above the circumstances.
The Rocky Pro Rodeo had weather from every season except summer on the weekend, which made for a long haul for rodeo officials and committee volunteers.
It wasn’t easy for cowboys either, but the stock seemed to make out just fine, and there were some stellar performances turned in.
In all three riding events, the championships were claimed by a mere half point.
Russ Hallaby got his job done in the bareback Sunday afternoon, when it was sunny, but chilly.
“I don’t ride good in the cold,” Hallaby admitted.
“But (three-time Canadian champion) Bill Boyd told me one time, ‘You’ve got to get that out of your head, because that’s where winners come through. That’s when you can beat everybody else who is thinking they are cold, and don’t wanna be there.’
“But I was up against some guys today like Dusty (LaValley) and Davey (Shields) and everyone rode here in the mud, so I thought, shoot, I can’t be a wuss. I’d better ride tough.
“I had to get back at her anyways.”’
Here was his match-up for the afternoon, a John Duffy raised horse called Bootlace.
Hallaby, who’s been to the Canadian Finals rodeo twice, rode the same mare last July in Morris, Man.
“She felt way easier to ride then, but that’s when I blew my LCL on her.
“She’s kind of a head swinger, and I’m not sure what happened, but my knee popped, and she bucked me off.”
The Airdrie cowboy sat out the remainder of the season, and only came back just before the CFR in November. So it would be hard not to let a stray thought about that connection enter his head before nodding on the same pony again.
“Every once in a while I get dumb in the head, and get superstitious, and I kind of thought, maybe this horse is bad luck, because my knee was feeling kind of weird today. But when I nod my head it’s just fair game.
“I just kept spurring. With a little horse like that, that’s fast and bucky, I just try to keep my feet moving, and keep beating her to the front end. That’s all I could do on her. I was just going to stay on my rigging and spur. That’s all I had planned for her.”
The judges handed out 86.5 points to Hallaby, which has a slim half point more than Luke Creasy marked the afternoon before on Jay Bar Nine.
But despite the exhileration of a great ride, Hallaby concedes he was feeling some pain.
“For a little horse, she just annihilates you,” he said.
“One big hit, buck, and then another little one. She’s just hard on the joints when it’s cold. If it would’ve been nice and hot, it would’ve been great, but in the cold, bareback riding just isn’t the sport to be in.?
“I’m going to go and get into a nice hot tub, and soak,” he smiled.
In the bull riding, veteran Karson Legault got off the ranch at Val Marie, Sask., and had some fun painting a picture on one called Picasso for 86.5 points, just a half point ahead of Red Deer’s Kyle French, who rode Scar Tissue.
Legault and his neighbor Luke Ellingson opted for cutting back on rodeo expenses and spending more time at home the last few years, but have decided to warm up their bull ropes again.
“Me and Luke, we’re old,” chortled Legault.
“But we’re tough, we’re in shape and we’re cowboys. We can enter and play around, and it’s fun to get away from home, go to the rodeos, see people we know and meet new people we don’t know.?
In the saddle bronc, the edge went to Shaun Stroh of Dickinson, North Dakota, with an 81.5 point ride on Sky High, ahead of Innisfail’s Kyle Daines, who was 81 on Blues Clues.
Stroh took the wet conditions in stride.
“I called home to complain, and they said there’s an inch of snow there, so I guess the mud’s OK!” he chuckled.
While the footing was good, the mud made ropes sticky, and steers slippery, so most of the money in the timed events was earned on Thursday, during slack, when it was dry.
The 2007 Canadian tie-down champion, Clint Robinson of Utah, was 7.4 seconds to win that event, while Justin Guenthner of Vermilion was the fast steer wrestler at 3.7 seconds.
World champion Lindsay Sears of Nanton was way in front in the barrel racing with her 16.69 second run. Canadian champions Murray Linthicum and Dwight Wigemyr were first in team roping with their 5.3 second run Friday night. Shay Marks of Sunnybrook took steer riding with a 74.
Next rodeo action is at the Daines Ranch near Innisfail, with the first of five performances starting Thursday at 6:45 pm.
Dianne Finstad is rodeo reporter for Zed 99 and CKGY