One I’ll Never Forget
I remember the 2013 Ponoka Stampede like it was yesterday.
Ponoka, Alberta, two hours north of Calgary, is home to one of the great rodeos—the Ponoka Stampede. On the roughstock side, they have a long round and a short go. It pays an average, and then they have a four-man showdown that pays all four holes. The winner of the showdown gets $7,500.
The 2013 Ponoka Stampede is one rodeo I’ll never forget.
I’d been pro-rodeoing since 2010, but 2013 was the first time I’d ever made the Ponoka Showdown. I was the last guy out. Clint Cannon and Colin Adams were both 89.5. To win, I had to be 90. My horse? Stampede Warrior from the Calgary Stampede.
That kind of pressure might make some guys nervous, but I couldn’t have asked for a better scenario. To be on a great horse and needing to beat a high score like that, man, there’s no bigger rush.
I guess you’d say the Ponoka Stampede is my hometown rodeo. I currently live in Airdrie, Alberta, but I grew up and went to school in Ponoka. My mom and dad and brother live there, along with a ton of other relatives.
Every summer, people come from near and far to watch the Ponoka Stampede. It draws the top athletes and pays good money. Honestly, it’s one of the best rodeos of the year. I don’t know why it hasn’t won PRCA Rodeo of the Year yet. The atmosphere, the prize money, the stock—everything. The committee there does a hell of a job. It’s a very smart group of men and women. They put their heart and soul into that event. They know how to make it work.
Ponoka’s just one of them rodeos. Right from the get-go, it pumps you up. For a town of six thousand to put on a rodeo like that is phenomenal.
I remember that ride on Stampede Warrior like it was yesterday. She had a left-hand delivery, took a little scoot and stalled probably halfway. She turned to the right and just bucked through the rest.
The horn went. I double-grabbed, jumped off and hit the dirt, not really sure about my score. I just hung it on a bucker. Then I looked up and saw 91.5. Heck, yeah! I thought. I just won the Ponoka Stampede. The crowd was hooting and hollering and screaming. I had a big grin plastered across my face. Yeah!
I had a heck of a Fourth of July after that. I was on my way to making the NFR for the first time. Then I went to the Calgary Stampede and a horse fell on me and bent my free arm back, tore all my collateral ligaments. That’s rodeo for you. I was out for the next four months and had to postpone my dream of making the NFR.
Since 2013, I’ve qualified three times for the NFR. I’ve won the average at the Ponoka Stampede four times, and I won the showdown a second time in 2017. But I’ll never forget that first showdown in 2013. It was my first 90-point ride and the first time I ever won a major rodeo.
The Ponoka Stampede is one of my favorites, for sure. I’m excited to be back. Tonight, I’m up in the long round, and I hope to return for the short go on Monday, July 1.