Beloved Stampede bucking horse Papa Smurf rides into sunset

A bucking horse remembered as one of the best of his breed at the Calgary Stampede has died of natural causes.

Papa Smurf competes with rider Cliff Norrisat at the Calgary Stampede in 2004. The bucking horse remembered as one of the best of his breed at the Calgary Stampede has died of natural causes Thursday. Papa Smurf was 28 and had retired from the rodeo in 2005.

Papa Smurf competes with rider Cliff Norrisat at the Calgary Stampede in 2004. The bucking horse remembered as one of the best of his breed at the Calgary Stampede has died of natural causes Thursday. Papa Smurf was 28 and had retired from the rodeo in 2005.

CALGARY — A bucking horse remembered as one of the best of his breed at the Calgary Stampede has died of natural causes.

Papa Smurf was 28 and had retired from the rodeo in 2005.

Rod Hay, a champion saddle bronc rider, remembers the horse giving its all every time it barrelled out of the chute.

Stampede officials say Papa Smurf had a distinct bucking style and would delight fans as he left the arena after a ride with a “watch me” strut.

The Stampede purchased the chestnut gelding in 1986 for $375.

Cowboys hanging onto the back of the bronc in his 20-year career won a total of more than $466,000.

“Papa Smurf was a great rodeo athlete,” said Hay. “He was an honest bucking horse and tried his hardest every time he stepped out of the chute. From the time I started riding until he retired, he was the most coveted draw of his era.”

The horse rose to prominence when his riders won the saddle bronc title at the Canadian Finals Rodeo in 1988 and 1989. Papa Smurf continued his superstar performances with 74 first-place rides between 1988 and 2005.

“Papa Smurf had a special place in many cowboys’ hearts, including mine,” said Hay. “He had a great career and a long good life. He will be missed by many.”

Papa Smurf was enjoying retirement watching over the younger Stampede horses.

He was buried in the pasture where he died.