23 Ponoka Stampede Wrap 5

Dawson Hay has some unfinished business in Ponoka. Last year the saddle bronc rider from Wildwood rolled into the rodeo town nursing a painful torn quad muscle. After treatment from the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sports Medicine Team and knowing the horse he had, the second-generation rodeo cowboy took a chance, made his ride, and spurred out a sparkling 89.25 to finish first after the six performances of the Ponoka Stampede. But the injury proved too painful, and he wasn’t able to take advantage of his earned spot in the Finals.

Fast forward to 2023, and the three-time Canadian Finalist, who’s also been to the National Finals Rodeo three times, is feeling much better and it shows.

He showed that Hay spurring style en route to 88.75 points Friday afternoon, to claim a spot for this year’s Ponoka Stampede finals.

“I had a younger horse today, but if you’ve got a young one you hope it’s a little Calgary horse, because they’ve got huge hearts and they give you the opportunity,” says Hay, about his match Equal Money from the Calgary Stampede stock pen. “I’d seen his first trip this year out at Lea Park, and they were 86 on him and he pretty well did the same thing here. I’m expecting that horse to have a long career doing that.”

For all his arena success in his relatively young career, Hay has never made it all the way to the Showdown Round Sunday evening, where the bonus cheques are big ones.

“I’ve watched my brother (Logan) ride there a couple times, but I’ve only been here to watch.”

This year, it’s older brother Logan who’s on the injury shelf, recovering from Tommy John surgery on his elbow. So Dawson hopes to keep up the family tradition started by his father Rod and uncle Denny Hay, of being regulars at the Ponoka saddle bronc winner’s circle.

Most of all, he’s happy to be healthy.

“Yea, everything’s holding up great. I’m blessed to feel so good this time of year. It’s really important. It’s the crunch time for everyone. To be healthy, and to be  going down the road – we’re entered in a lot of rodeos. So I couldn’t be happier.”

There’s a quick trip to St. Paul Oregon to get on another horse before Sunday’s Ponoka Finals for Hay. Meanwhile, one of his traveling partners, three-time World Champion Zeke Thurston of Big Valley was hot on his heels at Ponoka, marking an 87 on Zastron Acres. Hay and Thurston are second and fourth in the standings, with the 89.25 from Chase Brooks still the high mark.

Another cowboy relieved to be off the injured reserve list is Orin Larsen. The Manitoba-raised bareback rider had to withdraw from the NFR last December before the end, due to a broken thumb. But the 2019 Canadian Champion is back with a vengeance this season, winning two rodeos in Canada last weekend, as well as a go-round at the rich Reno rodeo. And he kept up his streak Friday in Ponoka with an 88.5 on Calgary’s Zig Zag Cherry, to move into second place behind the 89.25 from Kade Sonnier on opening day.

“I was happy to have that one,” says Larsen. “It’s one of the stronger ones in the group. I’ve been on him a couple times and had good luck with him. That horse never has the same trip twice. It’s got ‘Cherry’ in its bloodline, so you never know what they’re going to do.”

After being away from the arena for a while, you could say Larsen is refreshed and hungry.

“I’ve never had so much fun before. I’ve got a whole new outlook on rodeo and how I approach things. The time off was kind of a big struggle for me, mentally and physically, but I’ve got a good family to back me up on that. I had to see if I still have it, am competitive with everybody else. I’m slowly proving to myself I still can, so it’s pretty exciting.”

Saskatchewan’s Jesse Popescul earned his way into the Finals contention in the tie-down roping with a pair of runs totaling 17.6 seconds, for sixth spot behind the leading 16.1 seconds from Tuf Cooper. Baillie Milan made the same kind of move in steer wrestling, securing seventh spot with a total on two runs of 11.0 seconds. The best team roping result of the day was from Roland McFadden of Vulcan and Tyrel Flewelling of Lacombe with 16.4 seconds on two runs, but they’re hold in eleventh spot is precarious with one more round of potential qualifiers to go. None of Friday’s barrel racers were able to crack the Sunday lineup. But there were two more bull rides to add to the qualifying roster, with Nick Tetz of Calgary claiming fourth spot with an 84.25 on the bull Night Walker.

A delegation of more than 50 agricultural journalists from around the world attended the Ponoka Stampede Friday, as one of the tours offered through the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists World Congress, being held in Olds Alberta. Reporters from as far away as Malawi, Kryzechstan, several European and Scandinavian countries, as well as Australia learned about the importance of the Stampede to competitors and the local Ponoka community. They also learned about bucking stock from contractor Jim Lawrence, and interviewed numerous competitors, so they can tell stories in their home countries about the exciting sport of rodeo.

The last chance for competitors to make Sunday’s Finals of the 87th Ponoka Stampede starts Saturday afternoon at 1:00 pm.




Back to Stories