Kylie Whiteside

Who's clocking up at the early pro rodeos?

I always enjoy this time of year… (okay, okay, I’ll admit I’m still in Arizona but I’m wearing my “Alberta” hat right now) because spring means rodeo season is here.

Adel Hansen and Freddie, 2009 Calgary Stampede (photo by Mike Copeman)

Canadian Pro Rodeo action technically kicked off last fall with the Saskatoon Indoor Pro Rodeo but the first ‘spring’ show ran in Camrose March 19-21 followed up by Lethbridge March 25-27. While it’s still pretty early to say who’s in solid shape in the overall standings, it’s always fun (and interesting) to see who handles the small indoor barrel runs well. And, no surprise, some of the names at the top of the CPRA roster so far are the same names we saw at this point last year.

I caught up with Calgary, AB barrel racer, Lauren Chad by phone as she was heading off for a ‘Tim Hortons run’ before her morning University classes in Calgary. The former Saskatoon resident and 2008 CFR qualifier rides Macho, a 14 year old Doc Bar bred gelding. Lauren was second in Saskatoon last fall and won Camrose this spring to take the early lead in the CPRA standings. A full time psychology student, Lauren is juggling not only her academic load and equine demands… she’s also planning her wedding, set for later this year to bull fighter Jesse Byrne. With all that on her plate, Lauren looked to the Anchor R Ranch Equine Wellness Centre to help get her horse in shape for the spring season, “I was tickled with how good my horse looked after a month at Anchor R,” Lauren commented. “I picked him up the week before Camrose and he felt great.”

Right behind Lauren is another ‘soon-to-be-married’ barrel racer… the 2009 Reserve Canadian Champion Rana Walter. The Lethbridge cowgirl finished second at her hometown rodeo and third at Saskatoon last fall. No stranger to the world of barrel racing, Rana is a four time CFR qualifier. She rides Real Easy Doc (Easy Jet/Doc Bar bred). The long-strided gelding, trained and futuritied by Donnie Reese, won the first $100,000 Pro Tour Barrel Race in Oklahoma City as a three year old, then went on to earn the BFA Oklahoma City Juvenile Championship and Reserve BFA Derby title. Walter has since enjoyed additional Derby, Pro Rodeo and Fast Time wins aboard the big chestnut gelding.

Also making an appearance in the early standings is Laura McPherson of Wolf Point, Montana. A relative newcomer to the Canadian Barrel Racing scene, due in part to the challenges of rodeoing from Wolf Point (a farming community located in the northeast corner of Montana many miles from almost anywhere), Laura won the Saskatoon Pro Rodeo last September and has plans to head back to Canada later this spring. “I first came up to Canada two years ago,” the Montana accountant explained. “There are some great rodeos up there and really nice people. I just live a long way from most rodeos, so I have to plan my trips carefully.” Laura runs a ten year old home-raised granddaughter of Dash For Cash.

2009 Canadian CFR qualifier and CPRA Barrel Racing Rookie of the Year, Adel Hansen is off to a good start too. The Okotoks cowgirl and UFA executive has three horses in her barn though for the indoor venues, she often runs her mare, Freddie. Adel used a similar strategy to Lauren Chad – she booked her horse into the Champion Equine Rehab and Training Centre at Carstairs, Alberta for a few weeks of spring conditioning prior to rodeo season. Adel sits fourth in the standings.

The next pro rodeo on the roster is Medicine Hat on April 16-18

The majority of the semi-pro associations are just getting underway with April rodeos scheduled. Check back later this month for early-season semi-pro highlights.