It starts with an eight-second ride, but it can eventually turn into a full ride.
The Calgary Stampede held its 15th annual Invitational 4-H Rodeo, sponsored by Westcan Bulk Transport, Bayer CropScience, and Lammle’s Western Wear and Tack, on Saturday and Sunday at Olds College in Olds, Alta.
For some of the approximately 100 participants, aged anywhere from 9 through 20, this was the first rodeo of their young lives. Those bitten by the rodeo bug are sure to find fun, thrills, and spills as they progress through Wrangler (junior high) and high school rodeos. And Dave Shields, who qualified for 10 Canadian Finals Rodeos from 1979 to 1990, notes that there’s an even bigger reward available — a top-notch education at a sizable discount.
Like their counterparts who play hockey, lacrosse, or soccer, Shields points out that teenage virtuosos in the saddle could very well land themselves a full or partial American college rodeo scholarship.
“It sure is feasible. There are a good number of Canadian kids each year who enroll in colleges in the United States through rodeo scholarships — some full rides, or full scholarships, and some partial. But it’s all available,” says Shields, of Okotoks, Alta., who chairs the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo committee and has earned the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame’s Legendary Achievement Award. “They really love Canadian roughstock riders in the States, because we raise better bucking horses up here, and they like the fact that kids in Canada will ride in two or three events.
“U.S. college coaches are always keeping tabs on the Canadian high-school rodeo circuit. Word gets around — either through their scouts, or Canadian kids already at U.S. colleges who come up here to rodeo for the summer.”
The Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo — featuring senior (15 through 20), intermediate (12 through 14), and junior (9 through 11) age categories — attracted participants from about 30 4-H clubs from across Alberta, with timed events on Saturday afternoon and roughstock events on Sunday afternoon.
For the second straight year, Desirae Jackson, 16, of Sundre, Alta., earned three senior red ribbons at the Stampede 4-H Rodeo. Saturday afternoon, aboard her 15-year-old quarter-horse gelding Frosty, Jackson won the senior barrel racing event in 14.94 seconds, and then prevailed in senior pole-bending — which combines slalom racing and flat-out speed, with horse-and-rider teams going head to head on identical arena courses — in a time of 20.48 seconds. Sunday, she and Frosty followed it up with victory in senior goat tying, stopping the clock in 10.56 seconds.
Jackson ended up as the weekend’s high-point champion among seniors, earning 44 of a possible 70 points.
Jackson, who’s heading into Grade 12 at Sundre High School, was crowned Miss High School Rodeo Alberta in June and will hold the title for the 2012-13 scholastic season.
“For me, I think rodeo is going to be something I do for fun. I want to participate in college rodeo, but it’ll be in Alberta, because I plan on attending the University of Calgary,” said Jackson, a member of the Sundre Silver Spurs 4-H club. “The 4-H Rodeo is always a great experience overall. Everyone’s friendly, and that’s always nice. Win or lose, you’re always going to have a good day out of it.”
Trinity Thompson of Red Deer, Alta., earned the junior high-point title at this year’s Stampede 4-H Rodeo, with 27 of a possible 30 points. She captured two of the three weekend junior events — pole-bending, in 22.69 seconds, and thread-the-needle, in 11.13 seconds — and placed fourth in the other, barrel racing, aboard her 20-year-old mare, Josy.
Not a bad result during her Stampede 4-H Rodeo debut, although Thompson has been on the junior rodeo circuit a couple of years. “It was an amazing day. It made it special for me, because I got to meet new people and make new friends and prove my skills,” said Thompson, a member of the Noble Riders 4-H club. “And Josy deserves a special treat, for sure.”
Meanwhile, 13-year-old Lucas Brown of Gibbons, Alta., snared the intermediate high-point crown on a busy Sunday afternoon — which saw him and his gelding, Skeeter, compete at both the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo and a Central Alberta Rodeo Association (CARA) event at Bowden, Alta. Brown earned 36 of a possible 70 points for the intermediate title — fuelled by victories in intermediate cow riding, with an 82-point score, and intermediate breakaway roping (a variation on, and occasionally a precursor to, tie-down roping) with a lightning-quick time of 2.27 seconds.
“I’ve been competing on Skeeter ever since I started roping two years ago,” said Brown, a member of the Gibbons Light Horse 4-H club, who’s been participating in rodeos for four years. “He’s really reliable, and even when he’s tired, like today, he’ll still give you his best.”
Luke Wrubelski of Leduc County, Alta., who’s 21, will soon be heading off to Lakeland College, in Vermilion, Alta., for his second year of agribusiness studies — and will be closing the books on a dozen years with 4-H in November, when he competes in a national judging competition at Regina’s Agribition.
Wrubelski’s second and final 4-H rodeo was one he’ll always treasure, thanks to Sunday-afternoon wins in senior cow riding — marking an 81 — and senior steer daubing, with a time of 3.32 seconds.
“It’s been absolutely great,” said Wrubelski, a member of the Lakedell 4-H Light Horse club, of his dozen years in 4-H. “All the life skills we learn are just phenomenal. Leadership, teamwork, communication, networking . . . I’ve met all kinds of people, been to the United States three times for competitions and awards trips. It is absolutely a fantastic youth program.”
Karlyn Janssen of Lacombe, Alta., with the Shadow Riders 4-H, was the weekend’s other double champ, capturing the intermediate pole-bending (21.08 seconds) and barrel racing (15.65 seconds) events.
Wrubelski’s sister Jennifer was the winner in Sunday’s senior breakaway roping competition, stopping the clock in 4.33 seconds. Calgary’s Faith Stewart, of the Big Hill West Light Horse club, won intermediate steer daubing in 3.55 seconds, while Sydney Vanden Berg of Coutts, Alta. (Coutts 49ers 4-H Club), captured intermediate goat-tying in 13.02 seconds.
Stephanie Boles of Three Hills, Alta. (Three Hills 4-H Wranglers), emerged as senior thread-the-needle champ in 11.25 seconds. Riley VanDyck of Edson, Alta. (Edson 4-H Multi), was the intermediate thread-the-needle titleist in a time of 14.14 seconds. Codi Wilson of Sundre, Alta. (Sundre Silver Spurs), prevailed in junior barrels, stopping the clock in 16.07 seconds.
This year’s Stampede 4-H Rodeo was held off-site in Olds, and about a month earlier than usual, because of work on the Agrium Western Event Center, one of the most significant infrastructure projects in Stampede history. For details and artistic renderings of this magnificent 150,000-square-foot agriculture showcase and competition venue, scheduled for completion in 2014, visit http://corporate.calgarystampede.com/about/park-development/agrium-western-event-centre/