The “Grand Finale” of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association season, the Canadian Finals Rodeo has been held at the Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta since 1974 and offers one of the richest purses in Canadian Rodeo. Laura James, formerly of Vanderhoof, BC, is a first time CFR qualifier and is pretty excited, to say the least.
You attended most of the CPRA rodeos this year. Was it your goal to qualify for the 2011 Finals?
“I actually set the goal of qualifying for the CFR this year. I have had my full CPRA card for a couple years, but this year making the finals was my main focus and goal.”
How did you feel when you found out you had qualified?
“I was so excited when I found out I had qualified! I am still excited and can’t wait to get to Edmonton!”
This year’s CFR spotlights six performances held November 9th – 13th and features the top twelve money-winners from each event. James comes into the CFR as number 10 in the CPRA barrel racing standings.
It takes team work to reach a goal like the CFR, and as such, James’ partnership with Zans Finished Star, aka “Stretch”, along with the support of her family and friends, contributed to this year’s successful outcome.
What support have you had, and how important was that support towards reaching your goal?
“I have had an enormous amount of support from my family and friends, which means the world to me. I have traveled with some amazing people this year and have learned so much from them, for which I am grateful. Stretch and I had lots of highs and lows and they were always there pushing me on when I needed a little push and encouraging me to keep going. If I did not have this amazing support system, I would not be where I am today.”
You qualified for the CFR riding Stretch; can you give us a little history on your partnership and training with him?
“I made it to the CFR on one horse, Stretch, who I am very proud of. He is twelve-years-old and I have owned him since he was a three-year-old. He was green-broke when I bought him so once I got a good start and some riding out on him; I took him to the barrels. I took my time on the barrels, was very consistent with his pattern and added speed on the pattern backwards to gain his confidence. I now just exercise him to keep him in shape and work the pattern maybe once a week at a walk/trot unless he needs some fine tuning.”
Each 2011 CFR event pays out $28,214.29 per performance. The top five from each round, and the top five average winners, stand to earn $11,003.57, $8,182.14, $5,360.72, $2,539.29 and $1,128.57 respectively. With the possibility of earning as much as $77,024.99 over the five-day event, any one of the top twelve contestants could be crowned the 2011 CFR Barrel Racing Champion.
Are you doing anything special to get Stretch ready for the CFR?
“To prepare for the CFR I am trying to keep my routine with Stretch the same as what I have been doing all year. I have a great team of equine specialists (massage, chiro, farrier, vet, acupuncture, etc.) that are helping Stretch to feel his best going into the CFR.”
What is your plan to keep you and your horse feeling “fresh” for six performances over a five-day period?
“I am hoping to keep Stretch feeling fresh and good throughout the 6 performances with some good rest periods during the day ( I am keeping him at a friend’s nearby, rather than at Rexall Place downtown Edmonton), light exercise to keep him limber and some massage and chiro work to keep him feeling 100%. For myself, I am going to try to get lots of rest and really focus on my horse and one run at a time.”
Do you have any advice for those wishing to make it into the CFR?
“If the CFR is a goal of yours, a great support team is critical, as well as a positive attitude, tremendous drive, desire and determination. Don’t ever give up!”