24 Ponoka Stampede Wrap 4

Chase Dougherty didn’t know what kind of bull he’d drawn for his first ever appearance at the Ponoka Stampede. But the Oregon cowboy soon found out when he got behind the chutes.

“Coming up here, I don’t know a lot of the Canadian bulls,” says Dougherty. “I know they’re all so good. Everybody told me ‘you’ve got the best one in the pen, Chase, don’t screw him up’. I said I’ll try not to let you guys down!”

“Definitely one of those pressure bulls – the one everybody wants to have. So you can’t stub your toe on one like that.”

The Vold bull Wolf Bait went to spinning the moment the gate cracked, but Dougherty had a firm seat in the middle, and eight seconds later he had a mark of 86.25, to tie for the Ponoka Stampede bull riding lead with Cody Fraser of Sundre.

“It was an awesome trip,” says Dougherty. “They told me you’ve got to be careful because sometimes he’ll start so close that every round he’ll almost hit his head on the bucking chutes. That’s what it felt like coming right out of there. I thought we were spinning in the bucking chute there for a little while, and then he started to fade out there. That was a cool feeling.”

After making the NFR in 2018, Dougherty switched rodeo gears to spend more time with his young family, competing only in the PBR, which just has weekend events.

“I wasn’t having a whole lot of fun doing that anymore. I missed my rodeo family.”

“This is my first year back to pro rodeo in about three years. My wife really made a point to me to try to go to the ones I want to, and Ponoka is one I’ve always wanted to go to.”

“You can’t beat the people in rodeo. The greatest people you’re ever going to meet in your life are right here at this rodeo.”

A new combination of veterans in the team roping is clearly working. Dustin Bird and Jeremy Buhler, both champions in their own right, roped their first steer at Ponoka together in 5.4 seconds on Friday, and followed that up with a 6.1 in the afternoon. Their combined total of 11.5 is just a tenth of a second behind overall leaders Trey Yates and Jake Clay.

Bird, from Cut Bank, MT, is a twenty-year pro who had decided to stay closer to home and family, and mainly rodeo in his home state. He’s got two Canadian champion header buckles and has been to the NFR five times. Buhler, whose home is in Arrowwood, also has two Canadian champion heeler buckles and five NFR qualifications, along with a World title. But it’s new for them to be together.

“It came up that I needed a partner in Canada this year,” explains Buhler. “I’ve always wanted to rope with Dustin. I got a chance to rope with him at a couple of rodeos five or six years ago. He actually helped me make it to my first NFR, so it’s pretty cool to rope with him for the full season now.”

“When Jeremy called and wanted to rope at a few I thought I’ve got a lot going on right now, but I said I can’t pass up an opportunity like that, so here we are,” smiles Bird.

Buhler has taken home the big cheque at Ponoka twice in his career, and Bird was painfully close once in the past. They’re hoping this rodeo could be a big help in their goals for the year together.

“It’s kind of a marathon here,” adds Buhler. “You run four steers, but it’s the same as we’ve always said – it’s just one steer at a time. You can’t get too far ahead of yourself. You’ve got to keep knocking them down, one at a time.”

Another cowboy to move into second place in the overall standings at Ponoka was tie-down roper Shane Hanchey. His morning time of 8.5 seconds fit well with an afternoon run of 8.6, so the 17.1 second tally on two slides in nicely behind leader Haven Meged’s 16.9.

Hanchey, who lives in Texas now, has been a World Champ, and the Canadian champion four times over.

“I was so disappointed in myself last year, riding Peso here, and breaking the barrier in the first round” says Hanchey, referring to the two-time Canadian rope horse of the year, owned by Logan Bird. “When you’re riding him on this set-up, you just stay out of his way and he’s going to make everything up. He’s the fastest horse I’ve ever rode in my life.”

But with the dramatic downpour in Thursday’s performance, Bird was hesitant.

“I said, man, I’ve got to have him!”

With the sun coming out Friday, Hanchey got his wish and Peso as a partner.

“It’s funny – I told my Mom last night it’s going to be muddy, and she said ‘you’ve roped in the mud a lot’. Being from Louisiana, I remember vividly all the high school rodeos we’d go to and I’d be so upset it was muddy. But you know what? It carved out who I am. This setup is already unique with the lane. When you throw a little mud in there, it gets really unique, and so that’s what I thrive on.”

“This rodeo is so prestigious, and it adds $60,000 now. I mean, this is a gamechanger for not just guys up here, but for us south of the border too, for the NFR. The nerves get to running right here in the perf so you’ve got to really mellow yourself out before you run your second one, and tell yourself it’s just another calf,” says Hanchey.

There’s now a log jam of 86 point rides in the bareback, as Richmond Champion added his mark to the list Friday. The lead is still with Orin Larsen, at 86.75 but there are now three 86’s just behind him.

“It’s so nice to be back,” says Champion, now living in Montana. “I’ve missed it the last couple years. When I found out I had (the Vold horse) Fancy the other day, I was like, let’s be in Ponoka already!”

“I’d seen her a couple times but you can tell with a horse like that, the way they buck, if you do your job, you’re going to be some points. I’d definitely do that again!” says Champion, who’s already got two Ponoka titles on his resume.

“I think the bareback riding, as a sport, is the best it’s ever been, and I’m lucky to be at the top end of it.”

Other contestants who remained at the top of their event leaderboard through the fourth performance included Zachary Dallas in the saddle bronc riding (87.75); Layne Delemont in steer wrestling (12.5 on 2); and Emily Beisel in barrel racing (17.38). There are two more sets of contestants with an opportunity to earn a top twelve spot for the July first Finals at Ponoka.

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