There is no shortage of stories in Kade Sonnier’s world, so why not add another one, from his first appearance at the Ponoka Stampede? The Louisiana bareback rider drew none other than the legendary C5 grey horse Virgil for his debut at Canada’s biggest seven-day rodeo event. The much-decorated horse lived up to his reputation, and kept Sonnier hustling to stay on board.
“Right out of there, he had a bunch of power,” said Sonnier, still gasping for air moments after the ride. “He took his little scoot and when he broke, he kind of hits you in the back, and lets you know you’re there for a fight.”
“I let him roll and I was way ahead of him, and he felt like a dream. I knew I couldn’t stop spurring because he was going to slam me on the ground if I did.”
Sonnier’s part impressed the judges, and they assessed the eight at 89.25, to set a high bar early in the week-long Stampede proceedings.
“That’s one of the ones you dream about,” marveled Sonnier. “They set the world record on that horse – you remember that one for the rest of your life. That’s a hall of fame horse if I’ve ever seen one.”
The 23-year-old rookie came to Canada with traveling partner Tim O’Connell, a three-time World Bareback Riding Champion.
“He’s a great mentor to have, and I’m just super blessed to be in the rig with him, somebody that’s got that much knowledge and experience, and unselfish. He wants us to win just as much as he does.”
Sonnier didn’t follow the usual path to rodeo pursuits. He played college baseball for three years, but injuries in what many would consider a tamer sport drove him to get on bucking horses at the age of 20, after already having both shoulder and Tommy John surgeries.
“God dealt me some injuries and He’s led me here. I live by the motto of God’s plan, and it really is His plan.”
“My Dad made the 2018 National Finals Rodeo in the saddle bronc riding at 39 years old, for the first time. I got to go (watch) and that’s kind of what lit the fire in me. I’d never been on a bucking horse. I knew that was what I wanted to do. Hopefully we make it there in December.”
Joey Sonnier has his own dramatic life path through addiction, which had an impact on Kade’s life.
“He went down the wrong road and chose the wrong path. He ended up getting right with the Lord and making the right decisions. God led him back to the Finals and he proved he could do it sober. So we’ve got some pretty cool stories in our family,” stated Sonnier.
Sonnier is well on his way to his own trip to Las Vegas for the year-end playoffs, as he’s sitting sixth in the world standings, with over $68,000 in earnings, including an eight-thousand-dollar boost in the week since he found out he’d be dancing with Virgil at Ponoka. His busy week of rodeo ahead will include a return trip to Ponoka for the finals July 2nd. Kade Sonnier would like nothing better than to add another chapter to his Canadian western adventure.
A cowboy who didn’t have far to travel to Ponoka delighted the local fans to top an impressive round of saddle bronc riding in the opening performance of the 87thPonoka Stampede. Ben Anderson, of Eckville, threw down an 86 on a C5 horse known as Black Jack.
“That’s a nice little horse, actually an older horse, but I didn’t know that. It’s an electric little horse,” said Anderson, who took advice on the rein length from Wyatt Casper, who won Innisfail this month on the same horse.
Anderson did some updates to his saddle, and feels that also helped his performance.
“I just put new stirrup leathers in today. It feels more even now. I’m excited to roll into the fourth,” explains Anderson, who plans to go from Greeley, CO to Williams Lake, BC before returning to Ponoka for another horse.
Another local competitor shone in the barrel racing. Bobbi Henderson of Alix is known more for her breakaway and team roping abilities, but friends asked her to ride their horse and she sped all the way to the lead in the event with a time of 17.640 seconds.
The only bull rider to make the whistle Monday night was an injured one. Lonnie Phillips, of Elko, B.C., badly sprained an ankle Friday at a rodeo in Wainwright. So he borrowed a cowboy boot three sizes bigger than his own and cracked out of the chutes on Later Gator for 80 points, and the lead.
The best time in tie-down roping after opening day is 20.0 seconds, after Chance Thiessen of Oklahoma was 9.9 in the slack and 10.1 seconds in the performance in the two-head competition. The time to beat in the steer wrestling is 11.8 seconds, after Riley Wakefield of Nebraska put together runs of 5.4 and 6.4 seconds. Team ropers Paul Eaves of Texas and Erich Rogers of Arizona had the fast performance time of 5.2 seconds, giving them 13.0 seconds on their pair of runs and the overall lead.
Tuesday’s second performance of the pro rodeo starts at 1:00 pm, with the WPCA Chuckwagons starting at 6:30 pm.