Handsome Bucking Showman

photo by Matt Cohen

photo by Matt Cohen

Virgil always comes to play. He always satisfies. He’s never had a bad trip.

by Tyson Cardinal

There’s a pile of rank horses here at the National Finals Rodeo. Virgil seems to be a notch better than the others. He can jump higher and kick higher and he looks good doing it. He’s a big handsome dude!

Virgil’s probably won every major rodeo in North America. He’s won everything from halters and buckles to trucks. I still drive the first truck he won in 2013 when he was a four-year-old coming on five. It’s a half-ton Dodge Ram, all stickered up. It says “Champion.” But what Virgil did for C5 Ranch in Lac La Biche, Alberta, making it what it is today, is more important than anything.

Dale Kling raised Virgil. He says Virgil’s dad was a big, gray percheron stud, and his mom was an eight-hundred-pound Appaloosa mare. That’s where he gets the fire from, that little mare. Percherons are gentle giants. You can see both sides of that in Virgil. When he’s in the arena bucking, you can see the fire he has, but at home or even in the chute, he’s gentle.

I’m the ranch manager at C5. I go out every morning and watch Virgil eat grain. That’s my morning. I enjoy drinking my coffee and collecting my thoughts and watching the bucking horses eat. But when the cameras come out in a place like Las Vegas, Virgil’s a different dude. He’s a showman! When the cameras are around, he’ll lift up his head. He knows pictures are coming. He’s a showman for sure, not a common horse.

Virgil’s one in a million. He has everything—looks, charisma, he’s huge and handsome with that big long mane. And he bucks! You can go on and on about Virgil. He’s everything the bareback riders want. If you ride him well, you know you’re gonna win. If you don’t, you know you’re gonna buck off. If you don’t stub a toe on him, you’re looking at ninety-plus points.

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Virgil and I have a good relationship. I always groom him and strip his chute there at home. Sometimes he gets wind knots in his mane. Up North where I’m from, the old native people—me being native—call them warrior knots. They say that the warriors who’ve passed away come out at night and tie braids in horses’ manes so they can hold on and ride. I leave those warrior knots in my saddle horses, but I make sure to groom them out of Virgil. Otherwise, bareback riders might catch a spur and buck off or get hung up. I get my Dove conditioner, mix it with water and spray that on him and clean him up. Make sure he looks good!

I’m usually Virgil’s trigger man. I’m not one to pull a tight flank. They don’t need a tight flank to buck. The cowboy nods his head, you wait for that horse to leave, and when he stretches out and there’s that little sweet spot, you just pull that leather and draw them rings together and pray for the best!

Tonight at the Thomas & Mack, though, Dale Kling is flanking Virgil, because I have to fly back to Alberta. Clayton Biglow is the lucky cowboy who drew him. Virgil’s pretty fresh, so he’s gonna be good. Virgil always comes to play. He always satisfies. He’s never had a bad trip. I hope Clayton bares down. If he does, I’m guessing he’ll be 91.5 or 92.

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