We’re a rodeo family through and through. From my bronc riding grandfather down the line to my teenage son. Grandpa was quite the rodeo star in his early days and still wears his prized trophy buckles with pride. Even though the chaps and spurs were retired long ago, he can still rattle off stats on all the top riders, ropers, racers and hazers. My dad was a CFR bull riding champion three years running. So I pretty much grew up roaming around Alberta’s rural rodeos.
Top Canadian Rodeo Performances
The annual five-day Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) in Edmonton is the country’s biggest indoor pro rodeo and the final competition of Canada’s rodeo season. It’s also been a family tradition since I was a little girl. I love that that we can see all seven major events each day: saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding, barrel racing, tie-down roping, steer wrestling and team roping. If we’re not competing we’re cheering on friends and neighbours from the stands. Shoot, we might be the loudest ones here. That’s what we aim for anyway.
From Old Pros to Young Hopefuls
In addition to the seven major categories, the CFR features Novice Saddle Bronc and Novice Bareback, where the upper age limit is 21. Our teenaged son started with sheep riding when he was a little tyke and spent a couple of years in Boys Steer Riding, where young cowboys aged 11 to 14 aim to showcase their flexibility, strength and reflexes. This year was his first crack at Novice Saddle Bronc and he seems to have found his passion.
Partnerships Between Man and Beast
Next up are what’s referred to as the timed events – steer wrestling and roping. The winners are the ones who achieve the lowest times. There are two roping competitions – tie-down and team. Tie-down is the most technical rodeo event and it requires one heck of a working horse. Two of my uncles became experts in the team roping, also known as heading and heeling, where two mounted cowboys attempt to rope and immobilize a full-grown steer. Both were highly skilled. And perhaps being twins had something to do with their almost uncanny ability to work in sync.
Steer wrestling is the perfect triad of timing, coordination and strength. Also known as bulldogging, the work is equally shared between two horsemen – a hazer who keeps the steer running in a straight line and the rider on the other side who dives from his horse to wrestle the steer to the ground.
I’ve always been partial to barrel racing. Gave it my best shot when I was younger. The ladies and their horses at the CFR are a marvel to watch – balancing speed and precision to create that perfect cloverleaf pattern.
Edge of Your Seat Excitement
Bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding are known as the rough stock events. Grandpa always said that rhythm is key in saddle bronc. Grandma credited his success to the dance lessons they took. Bareback is the most dangerous event. I have great respect for the cowboys who try to master this one. The bull riding event is the grand finale. Nerves are tested in the ring and the stands. After all, eight seconds feels like a lifetime when everyone’s holding their breath.