24 Ponoka Stampede Wrap 1

The sport of rodeo is far from predictable. Witness the opening night of the Ponoka Stampede, when all eyes were on the storybook matchup of bareback riding sensation Rocker Steiner and the world’s most famous horse, C-5’s Virgil. The two share the world record 95 mark from when they met in Montana two years ago. This year’s Ponoka Stampede poster captures that moment. Lo and behold, they wound up with a Tuesday night date in Ponoka.

However, this time the two-time World Champion Bareback horse came up the battle winner. The Grey, as he’s known among the cowboys, threw the power at the Texas kid and outmuscled him. Steiner wound up on the ground before the eight seconds were up.

“I thought he was going to ride that horse,” commented Vern McDonald, owner of C5 Rodeo. “I thought about it all day, and actually thought he might set an arena record. It’s not what I expected, but it happens, I guess. It’s rodeo. You never know what’s going to happen.”

“He does feel the crowd, he knows. He might’ve wanted to win today too,” says McDonald, about his superstar horse.

“That’s the strongest trip I’ve ever seen that horse have,” admitted Steiner.
Meanwhile, a pair of Ponoka Stampede champions gave notice they’d like to do it again, as the 88th edition of the biggest regular season rodeo in Canada got underway. Manitoba’s Orin Larsen picked up where he left off last June, tapping out 86.75 points on the C5 horse Cat Nap, to sit first in the bareback riding.

“Every jump that horse is going to give you every single opportunity, and it didn’t disappoint. It worked out good,” says Larsen, who battled a knee and groin injury over the winter and early spring.

“I’m just getting started now. I’m pretty happy to get healthy, and fortunate the way things are going. I can’t let these kids take over – we’ve got to put them in check now and then,” jokes the 33-year-old.

When Emily Beisel left Ponoka last July first with all the barrel racing championship hardware, she had to make a mad dash to Cody, Wyoming for her next rodeo, arriving there with just 30 minutes to spare. But it was worth it, as the Ponoka payday helped pave her way to Las Vegas. The Oklahoma cowgirl was more than happy to be back, as the Ponoka arena is her horse Chongo’s favorite. The two became the early pacesetters again at Ponoka, with a 17.38 second run.

“He’s got good taste in rodeos,” chuckles Beisel.

She recalls her first trip to Ponoka in 2019, when she saw the big arena, and thought it wouldn’t be a fit for her horse.

“I thought he’d be running for the track at the far end past the first barrel,” she recalls. “I was very nervous to run him, and then he just ate it up, and he has done that every run since. This is probably one of the best showings he’s ever had for me. He loves it here.”

“This is one of the most important rodeos for us to make all year.”

Morgan Grant of Didsbury has the early advantage in the tie-down roping, as fast man of the performance with an 8.9 second run. Combine that with his morning run in the slack, and he’s also leading the average, with 19.6 seconds.
The best combined time total in the team roping after the first day’s action is 12 seconds, turned in by young guns Braden Brost and Levi Schmidt.
Steer wrestler Layne Delemont of Cardston, AB had to overcome some fears as he nodded his head for the famous Ponoka long score. But a 5.5 on his first steer, and a time of 7.0 in the evening, puts him first overall with 12.5.
“The PTSD was a little bit real this morning, I’m not going to lie,” confessed Delemont, who only recently returned to action. “After getting packed out of here last year, I was happy to get that first one out of the way. This is always my favorite rodeo, but I was a little bit more nervous because of what happened last year.”

In the first performance of the 2023 Ponoka Stampede, Delemont managed to blow a knee MCL, ACL, both meniscus and do a partial hamstring tear, all in one wreck.

“I couldn’t walk for four months, and here we are, a year later.”

“After it went good this morning, it got the cowbwebs knocked off and it felt good tonight. It was a big sigh of relief, not only for me, but for my family too.”
Montanan Sage Newman inked his name at the top of the saddle bronc riding standings, with an 86.5 on C5’s Bannock Slap.

“That horse was just really good,” says Newman. “It took some rein and just stayed in front of the bucking chutes there, and let me show off my style. We fit each other really well and it was a lot of fun. It was a really good pen of broncs, and it was a good bronc riding altogether.”

An Australian turned Albertan, Cody Fraser met up with a bull called Angry Bob for the second time this month. After the bull bucked him off at Innisfail, this time Fraser made the whistle and 86.25 points, for the Ponoka lead.
“I had a bit of redemption on his today,” says Fraser. “He bucked a lot more rider-friendly today, for sure. Last time it was in the rain and the mud, and he was pretty hard to get along with.”

Fraser has only been in Canada eighteen months, growing up in a ranch and rodeo stock contracting family on the south coast of Australia. Much of that time has been in recovery, after being stepped on last June while bull riding. Broken ribs and a punctured lung took time to heal, and he’s still dealing with some soreness.

But that disappears after a ride like he made in Ponoka.

“It’s awesome. It’s the biggest rodeo I’ve ever been in.”

The second performance of the Ponoka Stampede rodeo goes Wednesday at 1:00 pm followed by the opening night of the pony and WPCA Chuckwagon races at 6:30 in the evening. Top competitors return for the July first finals and Showdown Round.

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