The sun came out for all three performances of the Rocky Pro Rodeo, and that was a great relief to the committee and the cowboys after a rainy start to the week.
That meant contestants who competed early on still had to contend with some mud in the arena. That’s always the most fun to watch in the steer wrestling, where the cowboys have to make contact with the ground in order to get their job done. World leader Cody Cassidy maximized his time in the mud Thursday afternoon, going legs up with his steer in just 4.6 seconds. That lead was untouched until the sunny Sunday afternoon performance.
Gene Wiart nodded his head, grabbed, and rolled his steer in just 4.3 seconds to claim first and $2,054, the biggest single paycheque of the rodeo.
It’s been a while since the cowboy from Alliance has been in the winners’ circle, or has even showed up regularly on the entry lists.
“It’s been quite a while,” agreed the 12-year pro, who last made the Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2005.
“I haven’t gone hard the last couple of years,” admitted Wiart. “I’ve been trying to figure out some work in my life. I missed it, so I thought I’d come to a few, and have some fun.”
Wiart hooked up with some neighbors, including Steve Gilbert of Viking, and he’s been using Gilbert’s horse.
“He’s just a good solid horse, and things worked out. Craig Weisgerber had run the steer (Thursday), but it was real muddy here. So today was kind of a real gift for us that got it, because we had dry ground and they had muddy ground, so that’s partly why the steers did what they did today.”
A game where you have to get things done in under five seconds isn’t easy to jump back into after a hiatus. But it doesn’t seem to have affected Wiart’s performance.
“I’d like to get some practice in, but we’ve been busy, so hopefully we can get to that in the next couple of weeks with these good rodeos.”
“Trust me,” grinned Wiart. “I need practice. It’s fun, but I feel rusty. You always miss it. Nobody likes working. Hopefully, we can have a lot of fun in the next month, and get to quite a few.”
Penhold’s Todd Herzog managed to add to his position at the top of the Canadian saddle bronc riding standings by winning first in Rocky with an 82.5 on a horse called Power Supply, worth $1,150.
Close behind him was decorated veteran Rod Hay. He’s been riding like a kid again after missing December’s National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas and finally logging some rest time from the road.
“Everything’s healthy and everything’s working good,” proclaimed the Wildwood rider. “It’s always fun when you’re winning.”
And winning is exactly what Hay has been doing. After picking up the big $50,000 cheque at Houston, he’s firmly entrenched at the top of the world standings with a nearly $23,000 gap on his next closest competitor. And the momentum keeps rolling along, as he cashed in for another $952 in Rocky with an 80.5 on Home Brew.
“It makes the stress just about completely go away for the rest of the year as far as making the NFR,” says Hay of his strong position. “You can just concentrate on having fun, and going and getting on at the rodeos you want to get on at.”
The tie-down roping title at Rocky was shared by two American cowboys. Idaho’s Nate Baldwin and Texan Tuf Cooper both tied calves in 8.2 seconds Saturday afternoon for paydays of $1,535 apiece. Bareback riding went to Airdrie’s Russ Hallaby for an 84 on Jay Bar Nine, and $1,003. Haley Keenan of Turner Valley was the fastest barrel racer with a 16.92 second run, just one one-hundredth of a second faster than Eckville’s Kalynn Maddox. Keenan won $1,568, while Maddox earned $1,344. Riley Harvie of Priddis claimed bull riding honors with an impressive 87.5 on Big Valley Black, worth $1,199. The last team ropers to run snagged the big bucks. Bashaw’s Klay White and Levi Simpson of Claresholm were done in 5.7 seconds, for a team total of $2,671. Airdrie’s Kyler Hooper won the boys steer riding.
The next rodeo action comes Wednesday evening, when the 50th anniversary edition of the Daines Ranch Rodeo kicks off at 7:00 p.m.
Dianne Finstad is a regular contributor to the Red Deer Advocate and is the agriculture/rodeo director for Newcap Radio/CKGY/CIZZ FM in Red Deer