Pozzobon Rip(p)s It Up at the WNFR



Courtesy of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association

While several of the Canadian storylines were exciting at the 60th annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, none was more so then the one featuring first-time qualifier, Carman Pozzobon. The British Columbia cowgirl, riding her talented mare Ripp, (Ripn Lady), posted her fastest time of the week, a 13.68 for third in the round and a cheque for $15,653. But more importantly, Pozzobon was the only cowgirl to keep the barrels standing through all ten rounds, which means that in addition to her three go-round placings, Pozzobon won the first-place aggregate cheque of $67,269 to garner her over $117,884 in Vegas. That left her in 4th place overall (she came to the WNFR in 15th place) with a season money total of $204,831.

But the last night was not without a little drama as Pozzobon and Ripp brushed one of the barrels, putting it on tilt and dangerously close to a costly five second penalty. “I looked back at that barrel and said you better stay up, damn it,” Pozzobon laughed after the run. And like so many barrel racers she was quick to credit her horse. “I don’t know how she did it,” the 2017 Canadian Champion admitted. “Even when I was falling apart, she was the one that was keeping it together. She’s amazing.”

It was Cotulla, Texas cowgirl Hailey Kinsel who won her first world title. Though she finished out of the money in the final round, Kinsel was dominant over the ten days with four go-round wins en route to the championship and a record $350,699 in season earnings.

Tim O’Connell was the first World Champion crowned on Saturday night. The talented Zwingle, Iowa bareback rider made it three in a row as he put the finishing touches on another brilliant season with a round ten 5/6 split 87–point ride on a J Bar J bucker called All Pink. That ride propelled O’Connell to a ½ split of the aggregate and a season total of $319,801 – a $63,000 margin of victory over second place man Steven Dent of Mullen, Nebraska who was the other half of the aggregate split with O’Connell. The lone Canadian in the field, Manitoba’s Orin Larsen, fashioned a remarkable story of his own as he overcame the effects of knee surgery just three weeks before the Finals to finish eighth in the aggregate with $92,000 earned over the ten days of the WNFR. The likable four-time finalist won round seven at the Thomas and Mack Arena and placed in four other rounds en route to wrapping up the season in eighth spot with $222,732 in overall earnings.

Tyler Waguespack of Gonzales, Louisiana won the second steer wrestling title of his career. The newly-wed Cajun’s 5.1-second run was out of the money in the final round that was won by Nick Guy with a 3.7. But Waguespack finished first in the average and collected $260,000 for his season total to give him a comfortable $43,000 cushion over the second place man, Montana’s Bridger Chambers. The two Canadian qualifiers, Curtis Cassidy and Scott Guenthner both finished out of the money in the final round. Cassidy, the Donalda, Alberta man who owns 12 Canadian titles, came to Las Vegas as the number one man in the world standings and finished up 4th overall with $188,355. Guenthner, the Provost, Alberta product and newly-crowned Canadian titleist finished just $1,500 behind Cassidy in fifth place overall. Guenthner took home a tidy $94,000 from Las Vegas with Cassidy pocketing $82,000.

It was a tough night for the two Canadian saddle bronc riders in round ten of the Finals. Two-time and reigning Canadian Champion Clay Elliot bucked off in round ten at the seven second mark. Nevertheless, the Nanton cowboy placed in three rounds and will take $44,692 back to Canada as he finished up 10th in the world standings. 2016 World Champion, Zeke Thurston, was also bucked off in round ten and while that spelled an end to the Big Valley cowboy’s championship aspirations, Thurston placed in eight rounds, including a couple of go-round wins, for $149,400 as he finished up 3rd in both the aggregate and world standings.

The saddle bronc title went to the popular Wade Sundell, sending two world championship buckles to Iowa competitors. Sundell was 87.5 for 4th in the round ten. That gave him second in the aggregate and when Rusty Wright was disqualified for missing out the Calgary Stampede’s Wild Cherry, the race was over and Sundell was the champion for the first time in his outstanding career.

Clay Smith and Paul Eaves won their first World title in a ‘down to the wire’ final round in the team roping. Though the talented team has been in the lead in the World standings for most of the 10 day Final – picking up two round wins and 5 additional placings along the way – the title was determined tonight in a close race that saw Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira put the pressure on with a 4.1 second run – good for second in the round. Smith and Eaves roped in 4.4 – which gave them third in the round and third in the average… $174,576 each in WNFR earnings, $289,921 overall and the title. And despite not placing in Round 10, Aaron Tsinigine and Trey Yates stayed in the lead to win the Aggregate – courtesy of a very consistent ten day run – with placings in 7 of 10 rounds for $128,461 each. Tsinigine ended his year in with $212,506 and Yates with $226,900 – 3rd in the World overall standings.

Prior to the final round of this Finals, the big question making the rounds was, “What’s wrong with Sage Kimzey?” The four-time champion bull rider had come to Las Vegas with an insurmountable lead but he’d struggled through the first nine rounds, riding only three of his bulls. But on Saturday night, Kimzey answered the question about what was wrong with the Texas superstar. The answer—nothing.

Kimzey rode Beutler and Son’s Record Rack’s Shootin’ Stars to the highest bull riding score of the week—93 points. The Strong City, Oklahoma talent won his fifth title in his five year career and finished up with an amazing $415,252.

It came down to the final round in the tie-down roping before Caleb Smidt was declared both the World Champion and the Aggregate winner. The Huntsville, Texas cowboy, who won his first title in 2015, placed in 6 out of 10 rounds (83.70 seconds on ten head) for a total of $142,846 in WNFR earnings and $232,817 for the year. Tonight’s round was won by the legendary Trevor Brazile who roped in 7.2 seconds.

In fact, it was a fitting conclusion to one of the greatest stories in the history of rodeo. Trevor Brazile, the “King of the Cowboys” announced earlier in the week that he was reducing his schedule after this year in order to focus more time on his family. And in a script only he could write, the brilliant Texan won one more title, his 24th, this one the All-Around championship with $336,679 giving him $25,000 more than brother-in-law, Tuf Cooper. That dollar margin was almost exactly the difference between Brazile’s final round winning run in the tie-down roping and Cooper’s no-time, the result of a disqualification for a jerk-down of the calf.

For WNFR final results, stories and highlights, go to http://www.rodeocanada.com

Canadians Go Six For Six On Canada Night

Courtesy of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association

Every year on Canada Night (Round 8 of the WNFR), Canadian flags are an even bigger part of the action than they are during the other nine performances. 

And, with all six Canadian competitors getting to the pay window, Canadian fans were on top of the rodeo world.

In the bareback riding, Canada’s Orin Larsen followed up his 7th go-round win with an 87 point ride on Hi Lo ProRodeo’s Pretty Woman, good for third in round 8 and a $15,653 injection into the Larsen bank account. That ride moved the Manitoba product to 8th place in the aggregate (average) and third in the world standings with only Caleb Bennett and defending world champion Tim O’Connell ahead of him on the season leaderboard. Shane O’Connell of Rapid City, South Dakota won the round with an 89. 

Both Canadian steer wrestlers got to the pay window on Thursday night with Provost bulldogger, Scott Guenthner checking in with a 4.0 for third place while Donalda, Alberta’s Curtis Cassidy added a $4230 6th place cheque to his WNFR earnings. After eight rounds 2016 World Champion Tyler Waguespack has gone to the lead in the world standings, dropping Cassidy, (who at the moment is out of the aggregate) to second place. But first time finalist Will Lummus, from West Point, Mississippi, has placed in seven of eight rounds, leads the average and sits in 3rd place overall, just $14,000 behind Waguespack. Guenthner, coming off his first Canadian championship just a month ago, moved up one spot to fourth overall but sits well back in 8th place in the average. 

The Canadian successes continued in the saddle bronc riding as two-time and reigning Canadian Champion Clay Elliott of Nanton enjoyed his best moment of the Finals so far with a sparkling 87.5 point ride on C5 Rodeo’s Black Hills, good for 4th place and $11,000. 2016 World Champion, Zeke Thurston, was right behind his teammate with an 86.5 point effort on Bailey Pro Rodeo’s James Bond. Elliott’s $6769 payday keeps him 4th in the aggregate and 6th in the world standings. Rusty Wright and Chase Brooks spilt the round with a pair of 90 point rides, which has become almost the commonplace winning score in the bronc riding this year. While Ryder Wright continues to sit atop the season leaderboard, there are several cowboys in hot pursuit including Thurston, the Water Valley, Alberta hand, who sits 6th overall but a strong 4th in the aggregate. Elliott is also in the aggregate at present, in sixth spot, and sits 10th overall.

But on Canada night, the Canadian contingent saved the best for the last. With the pressure mounting in the barrel racing event as contestants have struggled to keep the barrels up, Texan, Taci Bettis, earned her first round win of 2018 with a 13.57 second run. But Canada’s Carman Pozzobon took full advantage of her number one position on the ground as she ran her best time of the Finals so far – 13.70 and turned in her eighth clean run. With Jessica Routier hitting a barrel, the British Columbia cowgirl and her tremendous mare, Ripp (Ripn Lady), moved to number one in the very lucrative ($67,000 for first) aggregate. Texan Hailey Kinsel remains first overall.

Team ropers Bubba Buckaloo and Chase Tryan enjoyed the Round 8 win with a smoking 3.6 second run – the fastest time so far. And Clay Smith and Paul Eaves maintained their first place world standings ranking – a position they’ve held for the last three rounds – courtesy in part of a share of 2/3/4 tonight with a 4.1 second time – which paid $15,794 per man. And they sit fourth in the aggregate. 2015 World Champion header, Aaron Tsinigine, and heeling partner, Trey Yates, are still first in the aggregate (59.40/8) and hold down ninth and sixth respectively overall. Among the strongest contenders for a world title with only two rounds remaining appear to be the teams of Smith and Eaves and Kaleb Driggers/Junior Nogueira (who despite not placing in round 8) are still second in in the average and second in the world.

In the tie-down roping, Ryan Jarrett, the 2004 World Champion, got off to a slow start at this Finals but has been lights out in the last three rounds including winning round 8 with a 7.3 second time giving him $55,000 over the last three performances. Three-time champion Tuf Cooper continues to lead the world and benefited from an inadvertent quick flag from the officials that gave him a 7.4 second split of 2nd and 3rd in the round. As well, the Texas superstar has closed to within $1000 of brother-in-law Trevor Brazile in the All-Around race.

The bull riding event was considered a lock before the WNFR began with the twenty-four year-old four-time champion, Sage Kimzey, having won over $300,000 before the week got underway. After round eight that saw Kimzey buck off for the fifth time in eight trips, the talented Texan is still in the driver’s seat but credit Chase Dougherty and Joe Frost with making it interesting. Dougherty, the Oregon bull rider, at his first WNFR, sits first in the average and 3rd overall with Frost, from Randlett, Utah, now sitting first in the average and 4th overall.

For WNFR detailed results, daily stock draws, stories and highlights, go to http://www.rodeocanada.com

About the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association

The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) with headquarters in Airdrie, Alberta is the sanctioning body for professional rodeo in Canada. The CPRA approves over 50 events annually with a total payout exceeding $5.1 million. The organization holds the Grass Roots Final September 26-27 at Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta and their premiere event – the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) – at the ENMAX Centrium, Westerner Park in Red Deer, Alberta, October 29 – November 3. Follow the CPRA on Twitter and Instagram @prorodeocanada, ‘Like’ Canadian Professional Rodeo Association on Facebook or online at RodeoCanada.com

The Tahoe Verona

Are you still looking for the perfect gift for the horseman or woman in your life? The new ‘Tahoe’ shank from Tom Balding finds inspiration in the Vaquero style that is part of California’s history. This beautifully crafted bit features a Tahoe© shank in a stainless finish with antiqued silver engraved plates and dots. This shank measures 8″. The mouthpiece is Balding’s Verona© with roller.

The Verona© mouthpiece with roller.

When you’ve made a decision and are ready to place your order, you may want to consider extras, such as initials or brands to customize your bits. The ultimate, personalized gift! Plus, Tom Balding Bits and Spurs does offer rush delivery. 

Call them at 307-672-8459 or e-mail for more information.

Visit Tom Balding Bits and Spurs online at: www.tombalding.com


Holiday Giving – For Her

 

Stuck on the perfect gift idea for her? In this four-part blog series, Western Horse Review has rounded up several of our favorite tidings of joy. This is Christmas shopping made easy! You’re welcome.

By Louisa Murch White & Jenn Webster

 


POP SOCKETS – Never drop your phone again with these sweet handcrafted, Canadian-made pop sockets from Sweet Iron Silver. Sterling silver and can be personalized. Starting at $95
www.sweetiron.com

 


WILD RAGS – Wrap yourself or a loved one in the warmth of a 100% silk wild rag from Brown Creek this winter. Starting at $55
www.browncreekwildrags.com

 

Credit Twisted Tree Photography.

ANYTHING FROM SCOTT HARDY – Looking for something that is truly special? She’ll love anything from renowned silversmith, Scott Hardy. From custom-made buckles, to jewelry, to flasks or saddle silver, Hardy has the perfect signature piece for your one of a kind. Inquire for pricing.
www.scotthardy.com

 

WHR NECK WRAP – Wrap yourself in one of these neck wraps, hand-made in Canada by Janine’s Custom Creations exclusively for Western Horse Review. Crafted from real Pendleton® Blankets, these wraps are stylishly functional and look attractive with any style of outerwear. Light weight and lined with a soft sherpa for comfort and warmth. Easy snap closures. With fringe or without. Can be worn over the shoulders or as a wrap. Many colors and styles to choose from.

whr-boutique.westernhorsereview.com

 

CREDIT: Twisted Tree Photography. All hats from Smithbilt Hats. Tan hat with beadwork is a custom design by @thechiefsdaughter_.

CUSTOM HAT – The right hat is the perfect way to accentuate her western lifestyle. Choose from a variety of styles and colours at Smithbilt Hats to compliment her unique sense of style. Inquire for pricing.
smithbilthats.com

 

YOU CAN’T GO WRONG WITH TURQUOISE – Featuring one of the largest selections of high quality, vintage, Native American turquoise and sterling silver jewelry from Navajo, Zuni and Hopi artists, the Lost American Art Gallery & Museum has some truly exquisite pieces. Inquire for pricing.
www.thelostamericanartgallery.com

 

SEW CUTE KITS – These adorable mason jar sewing kits from Cattle Cait are the perfect stocking stuffer for the crafty lady in your life. Handmade from 100% recycled wool and jars, each kit contains needles, pins, buttons, a measuring tape and thread. $30.
cattlecait.com

 


JUST RIDE TEE – This stylish, ladies slim-fit graphic tee pairs perfectly with her favourite denim! Navy blue and 100% ringspun cotton, from Tonic Equestrian. $25.
tonicequestrian.com

 

BETTY & JOLENE JEAN – Canada’s #1 western retailer Lammle’s Western Wear & Tack, is now carrying Kimes Ranch Jeans! Two women’s styles, the classic Betty and the stylish Jolene, are the first to be offered both in-store and online through the Lammle’s website at www.lammles.com

 

HANDMADE STOCKINGS – Crafted from real Pendleton® Blankets by Janine’s Custom Creations exclusively for Western Horse Review Boutique, these beautiful stockings show off your western heritage. Fill them with all kinds of Christmas goodies and admire the elegance of your mantle as you do. ($60)
whr-boutique.westernhorsereview.com

Dramatic Championship Sunday at Red Deer CFR

Scott Guenthner came out on top during CFR 45. Photo Credit: Roughstock Studios.

It came down to one run.

As steer wrestler, Scott Guenthner, backed into the box for his final run of CFR ‘45, he knew what he had to do. Guenthner had already watched some of his closest competitors and travelling partners have varying degrees of success. The Provost, Alberta cowboy didn’t have to win the round but needed to at least place to hold his spot in the aggregate and take home his first Canadian Championship. And that’s exactly what he did.

The five time CFR qualifier posted a 3.6 second run to split second and third in the round for $6480 and held on to fourth place in the average for another $7695. His total season earnings of $69,899 left him comfortably ahead of Aggregate Champion, Stephen Culling.

“It was a little nerve-racking,” Guenthner admitted. “My steer hadn’t come in (to the chute) yet. I could hear the announcers bragging me up and I tried to blank that out but I couldn’t really do it.”

With the crowd roaring around him, the second generation Canadian Champion made the run he needed to make. Guenthner’s week started slowly and he changed things up after the third round.

“I’m riding Tyson, Curtis Cassidy’s Horse; he is the Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year. When things weren’t going well early in the week, I decided to go to the best horse in Canada… and it worked.”

While the win is Guenthner’s first, it’s not the first for the family. His Dad, Ken, captured the title 37 years earlier in 1981.

One of the tightest races at this year’s Finals was in the saddle bronc riding where Nanton, Alberta’s Clay Elliott was able to hold off the late charge of 2016 World Champion, Zeke Thurston, for the win. Thurston rode first in the final round and marked a spectacular 87 on Kesler Rodeo’s tremendous stallion, Copper Cat. Elliott then rose to the challenge – but had to ride two horses as a problem in the chute with his first mount resulted in a re-ride. The 2016 Canadian Champion climbed aboard C5 Rodeo’s High Valley, a horse he was familiar with, having ridden the seven year old bay gelding to 87 points to win Edmonton’s K-Days Rodeo back in July. This time, the two combined for 86.25 points, giving Elliott second place in the round as well as second in the aggregate for a $9000 margin of victory over Thurston.

“It was quite an adventure today as I actually had my saddle on three different horses,” Elliott commented. “My first one, Black Hills, got turned around in the chute and was having trouble so the judges offered me a re-ride, a horse called Banshee from Northcott-Macza. He’s a bucking son of a gun but the judges didn’t see it that way today and gave me another re-ride. This one was High Valley from C5 Rodeo; the horse had bucked me off at Ponoka but I rode him for the win at K-Days Rodeo and was excited to have him today.”

Elliott’s second Canadian Championship in three years, including his regular season earnings, netted the 24-year-old $82,294 in total.

The biggest money earner of this Canadian Finals Rodeo was Callahan Crossley of Hermiston, Oregon. Not only did the three time CFR qualifier cruise to the title with four first place finishes and two seconds, she also established two all time monetary records. Riding her 20 year old gelding, Brownie, Crossley won a record-setting $73,575 at the CFR and her season total of $99,190 also goes into the record books.

The 2016 World Champion team ropers, Levi Simpson (on the header side) and heeler, Jeremy Buhler, captured their second Canadian team roping title in a row on Sunday afternoon at the Enmax Centrium in Red Deer. The amazing pair placed in all six rounds, including splitting one-two in rounds two and five and sealing the deal with a third place 5.2 second run in the final round. Simpson, from Ponoka, AB, and Buhler (Arrowwood, AB) captured both the aggregate title and the Canadian Championship.

The bareback riding was no less dramatic as Dublin, TX cowboy, Richmond Champion, took home his first Canadian title. The 25 year old two time Calgary Stampede Champion held off long-time travelling partner, Jake Vold and Manitoba bareback rider, Orin Larsen, in claiming the coveted championship buckle. Champion earned $77,448 over the season.

Louisiana roper, Shane Hanchey, edged Carstairs, AB talent, Kyle Lucas, to win his thrid Canadian Championship. Hanchey roped and tied his calf in 7.9 seconds on the last day to finish fourth in the round and first in the aggregate en route to victory. With total season earnings of $65,338, Hanchey slipped by Lucas by just $1700 for the win.

Bull rider, Wacey Finkbeiner, survived a final round buck-off to win his first Canadian Bull Riding Championship. The Ponoka, AB hand had gone an impressive five for five prior to Sunday and that run, which included two first place cheques and the aggregate title, gave him the winning season total of $73,729 – and a $14,000 cushion over runner-up Cody Coverchuk of Meadow Lake, Sask.

Rounding out the roster of winners at CFR ‘45 were first time High Point Champion, Riley Warren, who edged hard-luck cowboy, Kyle Lucas, by less than $1300 and All Around Champion, Jacob Gardner (Dawson Creek, BC) who placed in two rounds to claim the buckle.

The novice champions for 2018 were Mason Helmiczi from Sundre, AB in the bareback riding and Wildwood, Alberta’s Cooper Thatcher in the novice saddle bronc riding. The steer ridng title went to 14 year old Tristen Manning from Yellowhead County, AB.

CFR stock award winners were C5 Rodeo’s amazing bareback horse, F13 Virgil, who had already claimed back-to-back World and Canadian Championships; Northcott-Macza’s four time Canadian Champion saddle bronc horse, 242 Get Smart, and Vold Rodeo’s bull, 621 Wicked Dreams.

Rodeo athletes and fans big farewell to the winningest bull rider in Canadian rodeo history as Scott Schiffner made his final ride on Sunday afternoon. The Strathmore cowboy announced in July that this would be his last season before stepping into retirement. He leaves the sport as a two time Canadian Champion, two time Calgary Stampede Champion and 18 time Canadian Finals Rodeo qualifier – a record among bull riders.

CFR ‘45 at Westerner Park in Red Deer, Alberta was a huge success with sold out performances, first class production and tremendous community support. 1.65 million was paid out to contestants over the course of the six day event.

For complete results, see rodeocanada.com

DOC WEST – Steel Dusts

Illustration by Dave Elston.

Doc West returns with his sage advice for the lost and lonely gunsel.

Q. Doc, an old-timer friend sometimes refers to my Quarter Horse herd as a band of “Steel Dusts.” What does he mean by this term? 


A. There was a time where the horses that we call today, Quarter Horses, were known simply and generically as Steel Dusts. In the mid to late 1800’s most westerners referred to “speedy, low, stocky, well built, well-muscled, and high spirited” horses as Steel Dusts or Steel Dusters or Steel Dust horses. It was the horse everyone wanted when the West was still the West and the horse was still the horse. Steel Dusts were versatile, friendly, tough, cowy, and best of all, they were fast. They were as equally coveted by jockeys running a quarter mile on a dirt track outside of Dallas as they were by the cow puncher running a thousand longhorns up to the Canadian border. The genesis of the ‘steel dust’ prototype is said to trace its roots to the legendary stallion Steel Dust of which little is known, but sufficiently augmented by cowboy lore as to enjoy a prodigious and loyal following in the Quarter Horse world.

It is believed that Steel Dust was foaled in and around 1845 in Kentucky although Missouri, Tennessee and Texas are also possibilities. He was the son of Harry Bluff, the son of Short’s Whip by Big Nance – a Thoroughbred who traced her lineage back to the legendary Thoroughbred, Sir Archy. He was taken to Texas as a yearling or two-year-old and matured, by the most reliable accounts, into a blood bay stallion of 15 hands and 1,200 pounds, (although other sources reported he was as compact as 14.2 hands up to a rangy 16). The only point of minutia on Steel Dust of any consensus was his blinding speed – one old timer stated that Steel Dust could run a quarter of a mile in 22 seconds “any time” (keep in mind modern day racing Quarter Horses are running the 440 in about 21 seconds). Mares were brought in by prominent racing breeders from hundreds of miles away to breed to the equine phenomenon for a chance to catch lightning in a bottle.

Texas cowboys whose palate was not satisfied by riding hardy but ratty mustang types, brought in their cow pony mares to improve the stature of their stock. By the later part of the 1800s Steel Dust’s lineage was so ubiquitous in the then emerging Quarter Horse breed that many just referred to the “heavily muscled horse, marked with small ears, a big jaw, remarkable intelligence and lightening speed up to a quarter of a mile,” as Steel Dusts. By the early 1900s many great Quarter Horse sires would trace their bloodlines once if not several times to Steel Dust – the horse Peter McCue and his son Hickory Bill (the sire of the famous King Ranch foundation breeding stallion “Old Sorrel”) had significant Steel Dust lineage, as did many other bloodlines such as Billy, Cold Deck and Rondo. In fact, as recent as the 1930s so many lines of Quarter Horses were traceable to Steel Dust that breeder Jack Caseman wrote an article for the Western Horseman magazine titled “Why a Steel Dust Stud Book?” in support of the registry which would ultimately become the American Quarter Horse Association.

Today, with the passing of time, the moniker “Steel Dust” has fallen from common usage as the Quarter Horse has continued to mature as a breed. Competitive events such as reining, cutting and pleasure have further evolved (some might argue devolved) the Quarter Horse into a specialist that over time falls further and further away from that gritty, jack-of-all-trades which could cut a cow in the morning and run a race match after dinner. To your question, the reference to your herd as a band of “Steel Dusts” from an old timer can be nothing short of a compliment, an admiration of equine specimens built to the Steel Dust prototype – low, powerful and fast; and perhaps at the same time it’s a pining of sorts, for that West which existed once, where a man only had one horse but needed one horse – and that horse ran through time like Pegasus unshackled.

Have a question about western culture burning in your back pocket? We welcome you to direct it to Doc West at editorial@westernhorsereview.com.

War Horse

Courtesy of Guelph Museums, McCrae House.

BY DEBBIE MACRAE

The year was 1914. The man was 42, a doctor, pathologist, soldier, teacher, artist, writer and more. The gift – a chestnut gelding, schooled for fox hunting with an admirable conformation.

This is their story.

John McCrae was born in Ontario, the son of a military family, with strong spiritual values and high principles. He was passionate about animals – any animals, but especially cats, dogs and horses.

He was brilliant – and interested in the military. He was the first Guelph student to win a scholarship to the University of Toronto. He joined the cadets at 14 and his father’s Militia field battery at the age of 17. He was unfortunately plagued with asthma, and this condition forced him to take a break in his studies. During his time away, he still managed to teach Mathematics and English.

He courted a young woman who was the sister of a friend, but sadly she met his interest with disdain. He remained a bachelor the rest of his life.

He graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts degree and then turned his studies toward medicine. McCrae had a fondness for children, spending his third year as the resident physician outside Baltimore, at a children’s convalescent home. He mentored other students, and it is noteworthy that two of his students would become the first women doctors in Ontario.

McCrae’s military career progressed, becoming a gunner in Guelph with the Number 2 Battery, then Quarter-Master Sergeant, Second Lieutenant and Lieutenant. He became Captain of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.

He graduated his Bachelor of Medicine degree and received the gold medal from the University of Toronto medical school. Then he interned at the John Hopkins Hospital, working with his brother, Thomas. He was awarded a Fellowship in Pathology by the McGill University in Montreal, but felt obligated to fight in the South African War of October 1899. He requested a postponement of his fellowship and left to lead D Battery, of the Canadian Field Artillery. McCrae resigned from the military in 1904 after being promoted to Captain and then Major.

In 1910, McCrae was invited by the Governor General, Lord Grey, to be the expedition physician on a canoe excursion between Lake Winnipeg and Hudson’s Bay. He was an avid outdoorsman.

But now the year was 1914. Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie had been assassinated in Sarajevo, and the Great War had begun. Britain declared war on Germany, and Canada was automatically at war as a member of the British Empire.

Bonfire was the name of the fine Irish Hunter, given to McCrae as a gift for his enlistment by his friend Dr. John Todd. The horse was a deep chestnut, gentle, playful, and charismatic soul. He was playful – greeting people by whisking off their hats or blowing waffle kisses. McCrae wrote to his sister, ”I wish you could meet [Bonfire], he is one of the dearest thing in horses one could find… he puts up his lips to your face and gives a kind of foolish waffle of his lower lip that is quite comical.”

Bonfire was delivered to the already established Camp Valcartier, a tent city in Quebec where soldiers were being recruited and trained for overseas duty. Although McCrae already had a horse, he was happy to choose Bonfire, after getting the opportunity to ride him.

The Surgeon in charge of the medical services for the Canadian troops, General Jones, had already decreed that as a physician, McCrae had no need for a horse. However, as the second in command of the First Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, a mount was requisite… yet McCrae would be reminded again and again, that he should “not get too fond of Bonfire.”

But he was, and so he would remain. McCrae would send letters, ‘written by Bonfire’ home to his nieces and nephews and signed with a hoof print.

The mass assembly of man and beast commenced in October of 1914, as troops, animals and supplies were transported via the Saxonia from Canada to Europe. 632 animals were stabled in the hold and on the unlucky 13th day at sea, a massive storm assaulted them, injuring both man and horse as they were tossed about on the water. Seasickness assailed them, and the hold was vulgar with stench.

Once they arrived on British soil, incessant rain pounded them for 98 of the 123 days they were stationed there. McCrae was able to piece together a small shelter for Bonfire – only because he was a senior officer, but the majority of horses were exposed to the weather, the rain, the wind, and their health was deteriorating. All requests for shelter were denied in the wake of the war effort. Even shelter in the nearby forest was rejected. On December 2nd, a massive windstorm blew down Bonfire’s shelter. The sicker horses died on the line, and as a result, 200 of the remaining horses were granted shelter at a nearby farm.

McCrae’s love for animals reached out to the other victims of war. Miss Kitty was a black and white cat who came to visit Bonfire in his shelter. She stayed behind in England when they moved on to France.

On the way to France, Bonfire injured his leg; believed to be the result of a kick by another horse. John rode him to the billet in France in an effort to try and work out the injury, but that meant maneuvering around the corpses of dead war horses, a task that challenged both McCrae and Bonfire’s sensibilities.

As Bonfire learned to trust, McCrae, equally, sought the support of Bonfire’s stability and companionship. They were on the frontlines, where the constant battering of the troops, and the calls to treat the wounded, were wearing on his composure. Returning from the front, McCrae would seek the solace of Bonfire’s shelter where he could regroup before retiring.

At the Battle of Ypres, McCrae was exposed to the sting of poison gas – and his asthmatic lungs battled the effects of the gas and the elements. He was told to move north of Ypres and “dig in”, and he did literally just that – by digging a trench eight foot by eight foot so he could treat casualties – both men and animals, even contrary to orders. Mules and horses suffered terrible anguish. He said, “There is nothing I hated more than that horse scream.”

On one occasion a big grey dog with beautiful brown eyes, came running in panic. “He ran to me and pressed his head hard against my leg. So I got him a safe place and he sticks by us. We call him Fleabag – for he looks like it.” There is no further record of Fleabag.

At virtually the same time, Bonfire was in a pen with another horse at a nearby farm when the farm took a direct hit. That horse was killed and Bonfire bolted in fear. He was not found until several days later, but McCrae rejoiced in their reunion when he was recovered.

Shortly thereafter, after much controversy, the new McGill field hospital was established to care for the sick and wounded who were fighting in France and Belgium. McCrae was to be the new Doctor in Charge of Medicine for the Canadian Army Medical Corp under General Jones. Jones continued to warn him not to get too fond of Bonfire, and at one point an attempt was made to take Bonfire away from him. Sir Sam Hughes, Canada’s Minister of Militia and Defense, intervened, and McCrae and Bonfire were transferred to the Jesuit school near Boulogne where more comfortable arrangements awaited.

Courtesy of Guelph Museums, McCrae House.

They soon became friends with a French spaniel named Bonneau, and another dog whose leg had been shattered in battle. His name was Windy, and he was not fond of people who were not in uniform. They remained a regiment of four, until Windy succumbed to being poisoned, likely due to his unpopularity.

It would be only a short time later that McCrae, too, would succumb to the ravages of the harsh conditions he lived and worked in. For respite and his health, he would take long rides on Bonfire through the countryside.

Now believed to have been suffering from post-traumatic stress, McCrae could not justify staying in officers’ quarters when his soldiers were relegated to tent cities or worse in the trenches. The long working hours, his asthma, the gas exposure and subsequent bouts of bronchitis had taken their toll, and he became very ill with pneumonia and meningitis. Still, McCrae would soon learn that he had been appointed as the consulting physician to the First British Army – the first time a Canadian had been so honoured.

Five days later, John died. He was buried with full military honours, just north of Boulogne. Bonfire led his funeral procession on a beautiful spring day, his bridle laced in white ribbons, saddled, with McCrae’s riding boots reversed in the stirrups.

Courtesy of Guelph Museums, McCrae House.

John’s death was widely grieved; as a friend, a mentor, a doctor and an intellect. But we will forever remember him as the man who penned a poem for Lt. Alexis Helmer, the friend that he lost, In Flanders Fields.

Before he died, John knew that his poem had been well-received. After its publication, it became the most popular poem about the First World War. It was used to advertise the sale of Victory Bonds in Canada in 1917 with a target of $150,000,000. It raised $400,000,000.

Due in part to the references to the poppy in the first and last stanzas, the poppy was adopted as the Flower of Remembrance for the war dead.

Bonfire was to have been returned home to the Todd family in Quebec after the war – but, he never arrived. After McCrae’s funeral, Bonfire disappeared quietly – and it is conjectured that McCrae’s friends wanted to honour their friend by secretly retiring Bonfire to the pastures of France – away from the world of war and suffering.

The casualties of World War I were estimated to be about 40 million; men, women and children consumed by the ravages of war. Over 8 million horses died. Bonfire was a survivor.

Special acknowledgment to the Guelph Collection at McCrae House for the photos, Veterans Affairs Canada, references from Canada’s Great War Album, Minister of Supply and Services Canada, and special thanks to Author Susan Raby-Dunne, for references in her book Bonfire: The Chestnut Gentleman.

Read our book review of Bonfire, The Chestnut Gentleman

Champions Performing Like Champions

Photo by Billie-Jean Duff.

Courtesy of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association.

In just a few hours, Canadian Professional Rodeo’s champions will be crowned. And CFR ‘45 – the first in Red Deer, Canada – will come to a close. Two cowboys who will be in the spotlight on Championship Sunday are 2016 World Champions and reigning Canadian Champions, Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler. The talented duo have placed in every round and tied for first in two of them to put $32,400 in each man’s pocket to date. Both Simpson and Buhler and co-round winners, Clay Ullery and Riley Warren, posted 4.0 second runs – the fastest time of the week.

“The cow that we drew tonight didn’t have the best track record, but it looked really good on the video from the first two times that it went.” Simpson noted. “I just tried to see my start. The round was shaping up to be really fast with three runs prior to us of 4.3 and I knew we’d have to speed it up a bit tonight to stay in the money. We were able to make a good solid run and things just worked out.”

Heading into the final performance, Simpson and Buhler are first overall and first in the aggregate with an overall time of 27.2 seconds on five head.

Another roper who is enjoying a productive and profitable week is Carstairs, Alberta cowboy, Kyle Lucas. The five-time CFR qualifier started slowly, finishing out of the money on night number one, but since then has been on his game with a first, a second and a pair of thirds to move him to first in the aggregate (41.5 seconds on five head). The $25,920 Lucas has earned this week has him $4,700 ahead of two-time Canadian Champion and 2013 World Champ, Shane Hanchey, of Sulphur, Louisiana.

“I had a few mishaps in the first three rounds on my part,” shared Lucas, “that I feel were kind of rookie mistakes. I was  letting the nerves get to me but I was able to set those aside for the next few rounds. I should have been better tonight as well, but I’ll be thankful for third.”

Tight races are the order of the day in the remaining events as well.

In the bareback riding, three-time Canadian Champion, Jake Vold, remains in the overall lead with Dublin, Texas cowboy, Richmond Champion, and Ky Marshall of Bowden, AB tucked just behind him in second and third respectively.

Ponoka, Alberta’s Wacey Finkbeiner is the only man who’s five for five in the bull riding. The second generation athlete holds a $4,700 lead on fellow Ponoka resident, Zane Lambert. However, Finkbeiner leads the aggregate with Lambert sitting in fourth.

Hermiston, Oregon barrel racer, Callahan Crossley, has put together the most lucrative CFR week to date with $47,250 in earnings. With three first place finishes and two seconds, the three time CFR qualifier (and former runner up for a Canadian title) has vaulted from fourth place at the start of the week, to first with a comfortable $12,000 lead over second place cowgirl, Taylor Manning.

Scott Guenthner of Provost, Alberta saw his season lead evaporate during the early rounds of this CFR, but has rebounded with a first and a split of second in the last two rounds to climb back into the driver’s seat heading into Sunday. $15,000 back of Guenthner is Fort St. John, BC dogger Stephen Culling.

And in the saddle bronc riding, 2016 Canadian Champion, Clay Elliott (Nanton, AB) holds a razor thin lead of $200 over second place man, Zeke Thurston. Third place cowboy, Jake Watson, is also in the conversation. While Watson is $15,000 in arrears of Elliott and Thurston, Watson sits first in the aggregate while Elliott holds down third place and Thurston is back in sixth.

The Champions in all seven events will be determined Sunday afternoon, November 4 at the Enmax Centrium, Westerner Park in Red Deer. If you are unable to be there in person, sign up to follow the action on FloRodeo’s Live Stream or tune into CFCW 840 Radio. And look for complete results at rodeocanada.com

Round Five Summary

• Bareback riding round winners: Orin Larsen – 87 points on Big Stone Rodeo’s Mayhem

Overall bareback riding leader: Jake Vold

Aggregate leader: Orin Larsen

 

• Steer wrestling round winner: Craig Weisgerber – 3.5 seconds

Overall steer wrestling leader: Scott Guenthner

Aggregate leader: Dallas Frank

 

• Team roping round winners: (tie) Levi Simpson/Jeremy Buhler and Clay Ullery/Riley Warren – 4.0 seconds

Overall team roping overall leaders: Levi Simpson/Jeremy Buhler

Aggregate leaders: Levi Simpson/Jeremy Buhler

 

• Saddle bronc riding round winner: Zeke Thurston – 84.5 points on Kesler Rodeo’s Navajo Sun

Overall saddle bronc riding leader: Clay Elliott

Aggregate leader: Jake Watson

 

• Tie-down roping round winner: (tie) Logan Bird and Stetson Vest – 7.9 seconds

Overall and Aggregate tie-down roping leader: Kyle Lucas

 

• Ladies barrel racing round winner: Taylor Manning – 13.640

Overall and Aggregate ladies barrel racing leader: Callahan Crossley

 

• Bull riding round winner: Zane Lambert – 87.25 points on Vold Rodeo’s Blow Me Away

Overall and Aggregate bull riding leader: Wacey Finkbeiner

 

All Around Champion: Jacob Gardner

Steer Riding Champion: Tristen Manning

Novice Bareback Riding Champion: Mason Helmeczi

Novice Saddle Bronc Riding Champion: Cooper Thatcher

CFR ‘45 – Changes at the Top

Photo by Billie-Jean Duff.

The first three rounds of CFR ‘45 were not kind to Scott Guenthner. The 2018 season leader had seen his spot at the top of the Canadian standings slip away. It was time for a change.

“I was having the worst luck,” the Provost, AB cowboy admitted, “so I thought I’d switch everything up. I rode a different horse, had a different hazer and it went a lot better.

“I switched horses to “Tyson,” Curtis Cassidy’s horse. Curtis was really good about it even though there’s five guys riding him. (I’m going to be riding him at the NFR in Vegas too.) And Baillee Milan hazed for me. It felt awesome.”

The five-time Canadian Finals Rodeo qualifier posted a 3.7 to win the round and jump back into contention for the Canadian title – which will be awarded Sunday afternoon. While Guenthner re-claimed the overall lead, he sits sixth in the aggregate and still has work to do. Among those who have a legitimate shot at the steer wrestling title at this point are Stephen Culling (who sits second overall and second in the aggregate), Tanner Milan (3rd overall and 3rd in the aggregate) and Dallas Frank who is 5th overall but leads the aggregate.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
Saddle bronc rider, Jake Watson, has been flying under the radar for much of the 2018 season… and the early rounds of this CFR. But tonight that changed.

“I had Lunatic Party of Outlaw Buckers and it couldn’t have gone any better,” the Hudson Hope, BC native stated. “Just a great horse… she goes out and does her job every time. I’ve been waiting quite a while to get on that horse.”

Watson posted his second 87-point score of the Finals to win round four and take home the first place cheque of $10,530. He moved to third overall ($12,000 back of leader, Clay Elliott). Watson, however, leads the lucrative aggregate while Elliott sits fourth and second place man, Zeke Thurston, fell to eight after a Friday night buck-off.

A number of other races also became more interesting as a result of Friday night’s performance. In the tie-down roping, Carstairs, AB roper, Kyle Lucas, took over the overall lead as well as moving to top spot in the aggregate with two rounds remaining.

Oregon barrel racer, Callahan Crossley, lengthened her lead by posting the fastest time of the rodeo to date (13.454 seconds) to win her third consecutive go-round. The three-time CFR qualifier remains first overall and leads the aggregate.

In the team roping event, Kasper Roy and Brady Tryan won the round for the second night in a row while Riley and Brady Minor cling to the overall lead just ahead of 2016 World Champions Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler who lead the aggregate.

Three-time Canadian bareback champion, Jake Vold, holds a $9000 lead over second place man Richmond Champion of Dublin, TX but Champion sits second in the aggregate. Vold is seventh and out of the aggregate standings for the moment.

And in the bull riding, Ponoka hand, Wacey Finkbeiner, continued his dominating performance at CFR ‘45 as he posted an 85-point score to win third – and more importantly – remain first in the aggregate. He is one of only two men to ride four bulls in four performances, the other being Cody Coverchuk of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan.

While the 2018 novice champions were declared after performance three – Mason Helmeczi in the novice bareback and Cooper Thatcher in novice saddle bronc riding – the steer riding event wrapped up Friday.

Tristen Manning of Yellowhead County, AB, went four for four and won two rounds en route to the Canadian Steer Riding Championship.

Bull rider, Jacob Gardner, who grabbed a spot on the CFR bull riding roster when Brock Radford withdrew, claimed the 2018 All Around title by placing in rounds three and four.

And the Miss Rodeo Canada competition concluded Friday with the crowning of Jaden Holle as the 2019 queen.

Round Four Summary:
• Bareback riding round winners: (tie) Orin Larsen – 86.25 points on Calgary Stampede’s Xavier Joan and Jake Vold – 86.25 points on Outlaw Buckers’ American Thumper.
Overall bareback riding leader: Jake Vold
Aggregate leader: Clint Laye

• Steer wrestling round winner: Scott Guenthner – 3.7 seconds
Overall steer wrestling leader: Stephen Culling
Aggregate leader: Dallas Frank

• Team roping round winners: Brady Tryan/Kasper Roy – 4.6 seconds
Overall team roping overall leaders: Riley Minor/Brady Minor
Aggregate leaders: Levi Simpson/Jeremy Buhler

• Saddle bronc riding round winner: Jake Watson, 86 points on Outlaw Buckers’ Magic Carpet
Overall saddle bronc riding leader: Clay Elliott
Aggregate leader: Jake Watson

• Tie-down roping round winner: Kyle Lucas – 7.9 seconds
Overall and Aggregate tie-down roping leader: Kyle Lucas

• Ladies barrel racing round winner: Callahan Crossley – 13.454 seconds
Overall and Aggregate ladies barrel racing leader: Callahan Crossley

• Bull riding round winner: Jordan Hansen – 85.75 points on Girletz Rodeo’s Willy Wonka
Overall and Aggregate bull riding leader: Wacey Finkbeiner

• Steer riding round winner: Carter Sahli – 83 points
Steer Riding Champion: Tristen Manning

• Novice Bareback Riding Champion: Mason Helmeczi
• Novice Saddle Bronc Riding Champion: Cooper Thatcher

Saturday, November 3 will be a busy day at Westerner Park. The fifth performance of the Canadian Finals Rodeo runs Saturday, November 3 at 7:00 pm but earlier in the day (1:00 pm), fans can enjoy the Junior Canadian Finals Rodeo