22 Ponoka Stampede Rodeo Wrap 7

Ponoka may be considered a small town in Alberta, but it looms large in the western world for the world class rodeo it hosts. For the first time in three years, Ponoka Stampede Champions were crowned Sunday evening, making a big difference in the travel plans and lives of the winning contestants.

He may come from Sulphur, LA and live in Texas now, but Shane Hanchey is always at home in Ponoka. He was as happy to be back at the 86th Ponoka Stampede as the rodeo fans were. Hanchey came out in a Showdown Round as one of three World Champions, to turn in the fastest tie-down roping run of the week, 7.9 seconds, and add a second Ponoka buckle to his collection.

“This field of ropers might have been the toughest Final Four yet at Ponoka for me with Shad (Mayfield), Caleb (Smidt) and everybody knows how much potential and credibility Kyle Lucas has up here,” says Hanchey, who used the outstanding Canadian horse owned by Logan Bird called Peso. “So that was a good win for me. You know you’ve got to be on top of it.”

“I got off a little faster than what I normally like to get off. I’m 32, no spring chicken. This is such a unique setup. Me and Peso were going really fast. But I knew that once I put my hands on the calf, she was plenty good.”

“I was reading the program, and I saw that Larry Robinson’s won it four times, Joe Lucas won it back-to-back, Mike Johnson won it back-to-back, Blair Burk’s won it more than once. I thought it would be cool to see my name in here more than once. Now it’s happened, so I’m pretty pumped.”

Thanks to the encouragement of his student Beau Cooper of Stettler, Hancheymade a rare appearance in the team roping as well, and he and Cooper made it to the Finals. Despite a miss there, the money won also gave Hanchey another Ponoka buckle.

Who would’ve thought that I was going to win the Hi-Point award at Ponoka?”, he laughs, also noting he now may have to rethink his rodeo schedule.

“I make this rodeo a priority even over the good rodeos down south. Not having this thing the last couple years sure put a damper on a lot of people up here, but for me as well. This also threw a pretty good wrench into my summer plans, now that I’ve got $17,000 won up here. I just know I’m going to have to look at the CPRA schedule and see if I can find a way to get up here to the CFR one more time.”

Qualified bull rides were in short supply at this year’s Ponoka Stampede, with the exception of Jaren Parsonage and Lonnie West. The two experienced hands stayed on all three of their bulls, battling back and forth for the top spot. In the Showdown round, Parsonage marked 89.50 points, but then West came out seconds later on a bull called Hard Not to Get to chalk up 92.75 and claim the Stampede bull riding honors for 2022, not to mention $22,000 in prize money.

“I beat my steer riding score,” joked the cowboy from Cadogan, who was the 2009 Ponoka champion in the youngster’s event. “In my rookie (bull riding) year, I won the average here, and they got me in the four round. So to come back here and win the average and the four round is just unreal. It feels good.”

“I knew I could ride that bull. I knew I had my hands full, but you can’t doubt yourself. You’ve just got to believe and it works out. This place is my favorite rodeo. I was thinking about it right before I got on this bull, there’s just something about these big shows, when the pressure’s on, it just jacks your skill level up. It just makes you try and ride that much more.”

Bayleigh Choate made her first trip ever to Ponoka, traveling with her parents from Forth Worth, TX. She became one of the biggest single money winners of the Stampede by sweeping first every time she ran. Her consistently fast times on her horse Dash of 17.27 seconds, then 17.43 in the Sunday finals, plus a 17.39 in the Showdown, netted her $21,301.

“I just like the atmosphere, and the crowd really gets the energy going in this place. It’s just been awesome, and he really thrived off it,” bubbles the 19-year-old who is leading the world rookie standings in her event. “He really surprised me and I’m really thankful for it.”

“I always have to lift my leg to stay out of his way, because he leaves enough room (around the barrels) for him, and that’s it. That was my main focus. I know he’s going to turn and nail it, but I’ve got to stay out of his way to keep it up.”

“I always say ‘when your money’s up, jockey’, and I love it. The more build-up to a run, the better for me. I feel like I ride my horses a lot better. So I like the bigger, high-pressured intense runs – those are fun for me!”

Leighton Berry was a newcomer to the Ponoka Stampede as well, but he made his presence felt in a big way, when he teamed up with the Calgary Stampede’s horse Yippie Kibitz for 90.25 points in the Showdown, to beat his traveling partner Caleb Bennett by a mere quarter point, and collect a paycheque of more than $11,000.

“Wow, that was the most amazing feeling horse I’ve ever been on,” says Berry, from Weatherford, TX. “Everybody always gives a lot of credit to that horse for having a lot of heart and always doing her part. She’s taken a lot of guys to the paywindow and made ‘em champions, and I’m just so thankful that I got to draw her today.”

“I haven’t been up to Canada very much. This is my first year on my (pro) card. I plan on trying to make the CFR this year, and it’ll be my first time at the Calgary Stampede, so a lot of new experiences for being 23.”

Layton Green grew up in Meeting Creek, not far from Ponoka. Originally, he thought he wasn’t among the top four saddle bronc riders advancing from the Sunday afternoon Finals, but when he found out he was indeed riding at some more cash he made the most of it. Green was matched up with Calgary Stampede’s Yesterday’s Delivery, the same horse he’d been 92 points out several weeks before at the Wildwood Bronc Bustin. This time he managed to squeeze out an extra bit, chalking up 92.25 to take his first Ponoka Stampede buckle, and earn more than $15,000.

“That’s one of the ones you want for big money when it’s all on the line, because it’s either going to go really good or really bad. You’re either going to be ninety-something… or you’re going to go down,” says Green. “He’s one of them where it’s touch and go the whole time. He tries you every jump.”

“This one’s been on my bucket list. It’s one of the hardest rodeos to win in North America. To get the win today, it was pretty cool.”

It was the second time to the winner’s circle for steer wrestling Stephen Culling, who hails from Fort St. John, BC. After making back-to-back runs at the Stampede in under four seconds each, Culling had a big cushion heading into Sunday afternoon. Turns out he needed most of it, but despite a 9.2, he still made the top four. Then he was back to his speedy ways, getting his Showdown steer handled in 3.7 seconds, to collect just over $20,000, as the fastest of the crew.

“I don’t normally get three looks like that here. I kind of dropped the ball a little bit this afternoon and didn’t do my job, but made up for it tonight,” says Culling, who was more than pleased about the performance of his horse Buck, who helped plenty of cowboys win some coin at Ponoka.

“That was the 26th run on him this week. He’s pretty phenomenal here. He gives you a chance every time, and lets you focus on catching the steer’s heads well. It makes it way easier having a horse that works good here.”

Now Culling may also be adjusting his summer plans.

“This is huge. This takes a lot more pressure off of Canada rodeos. I’ve been focusing up here this year, not really rodeoing down in the States very much. But my plans might’ve just changed a bit, and I’ll try to get entered up everywhere I can and get going down the road and make a shot at trying to make the NFR now too.”

The team roping winners both are past winners at Ponoka, but it’s the first time they’ve done it together. Utah’s Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler of Arrowwood tidied up their steer in a rapid 4.6 seconds, a second faster than Jeremy’s brother Clint Buhler and his partner Brett McCarroll.

“We finally had a steer that stayed in the middle and wanted to wait on us,” says Richard. “We’ve been making our run all week. We just needed that steer that let us do it.”

“We’ve put a lot of work into our run. I feel like we’ve got it somewhat established and we’re just going to ride the high. It’s been fun.”

The win was worth $7400 apiece, giving both ropers a big boost in their respective standings.

“This is one of the coolest rodeos you go to all year, so when you can come out on top – that doesn’t happen every day. It’s getting harder and harder to win so when you do come out on top, it’s pretty special,” adds Buhler.

Other Ponoka Stampede winners included Ethan Mazurenko of Thorhild for Novice Bareback; Brodie Roessler of Fairview and Colton Powell of Innisfail sharing the novice saddle bronc honors; and Kahl Wasilow of Maple Creek the steer riding champion. Sawyer Eirikson was the All Around Champion.

The Tommy Dorchester Dash for Cash for the WPCA wagons saw a very close finish with three drivers across the finish line within hundredths of a second of each other. But Ross Knight, driving the Canadian Premium Meats outfit, nosed across first, in 1:20:50, to claim the $50,000 bonus. Obrey Motowylo was the Aggregate winner for the week with his Co-Operators rig. The All Pro Canadian Chuckwagon Championship went to Cole Adamson, running for Pidherney’s Start To Finish in 1:18:39.

22 Ponoka Stampede Rodeo Wrap 6

Into every Ponoka Stampede, it seems, some rain must fall. It is, after all, early summer in central Alberta and there’s a reason the country is so green. So it was no surprise to long-time Ponoka fans when the taps burst forth for Saturday afternoon’s sixth rodeo performance.

It wasn’t a shock to Caleb Smidt either. He’s seen plenty of weather conditions in his ten-year pro career in tie-down roping, and with three world gold buckles under his belt, he knows how to handle all kinds of conditions. The Texas cowboy proved it again Saturday afternoon, when he roped his calf in 8.6 seconds.

“I had a decent calf and got a really good start,” says Smidt. “I actually thought I’d broke the barrier, but it ended up being really good.”

“It’s not fun to rope in the rain,” he adds. “It kind of ruins all of our stuff, but I was glad to get by one. It makes it all better when you win.”

Smidt had already encountered wet stuff this week in Prescott, AZ, and there are more rain clouds in the forecast for his travel route ahead. It’s all part of the territory.

This was only Smidt’s second trip to Ponoka, and the added purse this year helped encourage his crew to make the journey. He’s in line for a big chunk of change, since his first run of 8.3 seconds means Smidt is leading the aggregate heading into Sunday’s Finals, with a 16.9 second tally.

“It’s awesome. We do it for a living so it’s hard not to go to the big ones when you’ve got a chance to win a lot of money. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. I might be a regular up here,” he grins.

Stephen Culling managed quite a feat in the steer wrestling. The 2016 Ponoka champion threw a pair of steers in under four seconds each. It’s a feat that hasn’t happened since 2015 at this rodeo, and gives Culling a real advantage as the new aggregate leader. But it’s all straightforward for the B.C. competitor.

“Drawing a good steer, riding a good horse,” says Culling. “And hazing here is so critical. Cody’s (Cassidy) over there and I’ve got all the faith in the world in him, so that sure helps your confidence when you’re coming down this long score.”

“I’ve never been 7.6 on two (runs). It’s usually hard to be 7.6 anywhere, but here it’s pretty impressive to get two steers that come together that good. I’ll take it!”

Culling is using his horse Buck, a horse he cracked out at Ponoka a few years back as his first pro rodeo. Tanner Brunner used the horse to become the Ponoka champion in 2019.

“It’s a pretty good fit for him at this rodeo. He makes it pretty easy. He puts you in behind the horns and gets out of your way.”

There are new names atop the team roping leaderboard as well, after Brett McCarroll of Camrose and Clint Buhler of Nanton snagged two steers in a time of 11.7 seconds in Saturday’s last regular performance at Ponoka.

“We lucked out, and drew some good steers, and just used them,” says Buhler, the header. “Instead of trying to catch, like I’ve been doing, and missing, I was just happy to come and try and win something. I’m pretty excited.”

“I’m just happy when we’re anywhere near the leaderboard,” jokes McCarroll, who has been in the Ponoka winner’s circle three different times.  “You can’t try to plan too many things in this game, just react. Hopefully we can keep ‘er going this year.”

Local favorite Jacob Stemo managed to ride his way into Sunday’s Finals in the bareback event, by spurring to 86.75 on a Legends horse called After All. It moved him into a tie for fourth, leaving the 88.5 from Tanner Aus in first for the ‘long round’.

Not bad at all, considering it’s only the fourth bareback horse Stemo has been on this season.

“I was working,” explains the Bashaw cowboy, of his rodeo absence. “I work for a drilling fluids company, Newpark Drilling Fluid, so working with rigs, oilfield. I’m enjoying it. I go back to work Monday for two weeks, and then the boss is going to let me go for seven weeks, the rest of the summer after that.”

“It’s the last year in my 20’s and I’m not going to walk away from a good job, but I don’t want to quit rodeoing yet. So I thought I’d go out and give it a shot, and it’ll be what it’ll be.”

“I don’t know if it’s going to be my last year here or not, but I’m not doing it for a living anymore. So it’s almost like the stress is away. I’m just going to go out and have fun, still be competitive, but I’m soaking it all up, and enjoying the sport for what it is.”

“I’m excited for tomorrow.”

In the saddle bronc riding, Sterling Crawley of Texas was the lone cowboy to make the Finals cut, when he marked an 84.75 on Outlaw Bucker’s Bright Lights, to snag one of the last qualifying spots among the top twelve. Dawson Hay finished first for the long round with his 89.25, but shared later in the day on his social media account that his injured quad muscle had flared up again, and he wouldn’t be getting on any more horses until after an MRI next week. As well, bareback rider Rocker Steiner was injured at a rodeo in Cody, WY since riding in Ponoka, and won’t be able to take his spot in the Finals at Ponoka either.

Several barrel racers made the cut for Sunday in Ponoka, with the fastest being Wenda Johnson of Pawhuska, OK with a 17.31 for second best behind BaileighChoate. In the bull riding, it was another day of shutouts for the bulls, leaving only seven qualified riders for Sunday’s Finals, and giving Lonnie West the long round honors for his 88.

Several other presentations highlighted the Saturday performance at Ponoka, as steer wrestler Todd Boggust and legendary bulldogging horse Willy, owned by the Cassidy family, were welcomed into the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. The Errol McMillan award for the 2022 Volunteer of the Year was given to Donny Borg, who’s spent 40 years serving the Ponoka Stampede Association, in a variety of roles including security and at the beer gardens. The Bill Kehler rodeo ambassador award was given to a long-time and well-known Ponoka Stampede Director, Blair Vold.

The twelve finalists compete Sunday afternoon, with the four best scores and times advancing to the rich Showdown round Sunday evening, where there’s $15,000 up for grabs in in each major event.



22 Ponoka Stampede Rodeo Wrap 5

Funny how a day can turn out much differently than you’d think. And there’s no better time than Canada Day at the Ponoka Stampede for such a turnaround.

Dawson Hay came to the Ponoka Stampede mainly to support his friends who were riding, since he was nursing a sore quad muscle that’s forced him to turn out of several rodeos over the past week. He’d planned to do the same at this show. But when he got to the familiar grounds, spent some time with the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport Medicine Team and thought again about the horse beside his name, he made the decision to get on after all.

It proved to be a great choice.

In a stellar section for the fifth day of Ponoka Stampede action, there were some outstanding rides. Hay’s traveling partner Jake Watson was 87 points on Redon Acres, Kole Ashbacher of Arrowwood was 87.5 on Zoaria Hills, and Zeke Thurston spurred to an 87.75 on Zastron Acres. Then it was Hay’s turn to nod his head on Cracking the Till. It was an explosive eight seconds of high-flying hooves and spurs and in the end, the judges handed out an 89.25, making Hay the new leader of the Ponoka Stampede.

“That’s an amazing horse of the Calgary Stampede’s,” credits Hay. “It got me down the other day at the Wildwood Bronc Bustin. I showed up here today wondering if I was going to get on or not. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to get on, but I just had a feeling.”

“I’ve just got to thank God for everything here.”

“You know, it’s been a slow spring for me battling with some of this stuff, and jumping through saddles. It’s kind of been a whirlwind here lately, so a ride like that really pats a guy on the back and makes him feel good. You remember why you love this sport so much, comments the three-time CFR and two-time NFR finalist.

“Going forward it’s given me a lot of confidence.

It’s only fitting to come at the Ponoka Stampede for the Wildwood cowboy.

Hay been coming to the rodeo since he was just a little guy, playing in the dirt back behind the chutes with his brothers and other cowboy buddies, while his dad Rod Hay rode broncs. Then he came to do steer riding, and novice events, and now in the open saddle bronc event.

“This arena, this crowd, the amount of work that everyone does to put this rodeo together,” marvels Hay. “It’s one when I was little I went to every time my Dad was up. I thought this was the biggest rodeo in the world. It’s probably my favorite.”

Tanner Aus might concur. The six-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier from New London, MN took over the number one spot in the bareback riding Friday in Ponoka, by half a point. He marked an 88.5 on Calgary’s Twin Cherry.

“I love coming to this rodeo,” says Aus. “It’s been a few years since I’ve been here. It’s the same every year – the atmosphere is amazing. I’m so thankful we get to come across the border and come rodeo up here again.”

“I was in Reno when I got stock (drawn) for this rodeo, and I kind of got goosebumps. You start thinking ahead, through a few rodeos you’ve got to go to in between.”

“Twin Cherry is an incredible athlete, a tough horse to ride. I’ve been on her before but it didn’t go that well, so I’m really happy that I was able to put it together today.”

Barrel racers from the opening day of the Stampede dominated the top of the Ponoka leaderboard…. until Canada Day. That’s when the Wills’ sisters from B.C. rode into town. Lane Wills rounded the pattern on her horse Halston in 17.41 seconds, to move into second place behind the 17.27 second time from BayleighChoate.  Wills and her sister Brett own the horse together, and both helped train him. But it’s his first year on the pro rodeo trail.

“My goal was to have a really good first barrel,” says Wills. “Sometimes I ‘safety up’ and go a little bit too slow to it sometimes. But today I wanted to get some speed to it, and he had a great first. I’m very lucky he’s very fast and loves to turn, so it’s easy for him.”

Halston is right at home in the wide, open spaces of Ponoka’s arena.

“We were in Airdrie this morning and it’s a really small 13 second pattern and I didn’t have a very good run this morning. He definitely prefers the bigger outdoor pens.”

Wills’ sister Brooke also ran, and her 17.81 second time is right at the cutoff point for who will qualify for Sunday’s Finals. Bashaw’s Marci Laye (17.74) and Ponoka’s own Shelby Spielman (17.77) are also now inside the top twelve.

It was a good day at the rodeo office for Glentworth, SK’s Jesse Popescul. He had the fastest tie-down roping time of the afternoon with an 8.7 second run. His two-run tally of 18.6 seconds is now fourth best, behind Kyle Lucas and his 17.5 second total. Then Popescul and his partner Logan Cullen of Courtenay, BC got a steer roped in 6.3 seconds for best team roping time of the day. Their two run total of 13.6 is third best overall now, trailing the 12.5 from leaders Levi Schmidt and Kyle Wanchuk. Casey Lawes of Provost was the speedy steer wrestler with his 4.2 second run, but his earlier ‘no time’ keeps him out of the overall race, where his neighbor Scott Guenthner is still on top with 9.1 seconds.

None of the bull riders managed to make the whistle Friday afternoon, so there’s only seven qualified rides so far. They’ll take twelve to the Finals Sunday afternoon. Saturday’s rodeo is the last chance for contestants to make that roster. Then the top four from each event Sunday afternoon head to the rich Showdown Sunday night at the 86th Ponoka Stampede.


22 Ponoka Stampede Rodeo Wrap 3

 The Ponoka Stampede has a motto – the Wild West of ’36 Lives On. Well, the new Wild West of 22 made a touchdown in Ponoka Tuesday afternoon. Rocker Steiner came to town. He’s an 18-year-old kid who grew up wakeboard skiing on the water, has flowing locks and a mischievous grin, and boy does he know how to work a crowd. Steiner got to match moves with a Duane Kesler horse called Little Rotten and the result was anything but, giving the cool kid a chance to display his high flying spurring style. Judging by the 87.25 score, the judges were impressed too. 

“This is my first trip to Canada,” says Steiner, from Weatherford, TX. “I’m glad to be here!” 

“I don’t really look at rodeo as just a rodeo. We’re here to put on a show. I try to be more of a showman than a bareback rider, and get the crowd into it and getting everybody wanting to come back.” 

Much like some of the rodeo families around Ponoka, Steiner has the sport in his blood back three generations. In fact, he flew in to Ponoka with his grandpa, Bobby Steiner, the 1973 World Bull Riding Champion. And did I mention his father Sid was the 2002 World Steer Wrestling Champion? Oh, and both his mother and grandmother were barrel racers. He’s the first riggin rider in the crew. 

“My grandmother wouldn’t let me ride bulls and I’m not near big enough to be a bulldogger. Bronc riding wasn’t really my thing, but bareback riding looked pretty fun to me, so that’s what I went with,” explains the five-foot dynamo. 

“It’s wild and western and that’s kind of what I’m about, so that’s why I picked it,” says Steiner, who started wakeboarding at 3, was competing at 8, and then switched to bareback riding at 13. 

“The water sports started leaving, and it was just more rodeo. I just fell in love with this, and it’s hard to have to two loves and do them both. I haven’t wakeboarded much since I was about 14.” 

“This sport fits me a lot better. I was too big of a headcase to be a great wakeboarder.” 

But Steiner did learn to ride out the highs and the lows of the sports world from his time on the water. And he also got some valuable advice from his Dad. 

“He taught me whenever you have a big win, don’t celebrate too long. He said he celebrated too long and it held him back from a couple rodeos. Whenever I have a big win, he tells me not to celebrate too long, to forget about it and go to the next one.” 

Steiner has had to heed that advice plenty already since he’s had enough big wins in his rookie season to be sixth in the world standings, with over $66,000 in winnings, not to mention the lead in the bareback riding. And now he’s in second place in Ponoka, just a quarter point behind Ty Taypotat’s 87.5. 

The best saddle bronc ride of the third performance came from another cowboy with a rich heritage in rodeo. Lefty Holman, of Visalia, CA has a grandpa and numerous uncles who competed at the NFR in the event. Holman marked 85.5 on Mushroom Cloud, to move into third place in the standings behind leader Layton Green. 

The steer wrestling leaderboard got a major shuffle when James Struxness of Texas wrestled his morning steer in 4.7 seconds, and his afternoon one in 5.2. The 9.9 second total gave him the top spot overall. He got the job done on the famous Curtis Cassidy horse Tyson, last year’s World Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year. 

“I started riding Tyson this winter, and had a really good winter on him and now we’re just starting our summer run now,” says Struxness, who hails from Perrin, TX. “He worked good here and we did good.” 

“This is my first time to Ponoka. I like these different setups where you’ve got to run the steers out there a little bit. I’m having fun so far.” 

There’s also been a change at the top in the team roping, where the young rookies turning heads in Canada showed their stuff. Levi Schmidt of Barrhead and Kyle Wanchuk of Sherwood Park put together a pair of runs in 5.7 and 6.8 seconds, to claim first by a tenth of a second. Trenton Smith of Texas had the fastest tie-down run of the day at 9.9 seconds, but both Logan Spady of Alliance, AB and Matt Shiozawa of Chubbuck, ID moved into the standings, with their matching two run totals of 20.2 seconds. The leader remains Shad Mayfield of Texas. Despite a rain shower, Kirby Penttila of Calgary sped through the barrel 

pattern in 17.80 seconds, to slide into sixth place, where Bayleigh Choate of Texas remains the leader. And they added two more bull rides into the collection Wednesday, with Ashton Sahli of Lacombe the highest mark, at 84.25 on Flight Risk. Lonnie West of Cadogan is still high man with his 88. 

22 Ponoka Stampede Rodeo Wrap 2

They call her Stevie Knicks and she’s one of the top bareback horses going down the rodeo road. Ty Taypotat had drawn the Macza Pro Rodeo superstar once before, but at the time he was sitting in the hospital with a couple of broken ribs and some blood in his lungs, so he had to pass up his chance for the meeting.

“It was quite depressing, because you never know. You might never draw that horse ever again. It’s just the luck of the draw,” says Taypotat, who has changed his home base from Regina, SK to Nanton, AB.

When he checked the draw for the Ponoka Stampede, he was thrilled to see his name beside Stevie again. It was perfect timing, when he’s been on a roll and is sitting second in the Canadian Pro Rodeo standings. Taypotat made the most of the eight second encounter, spurring to an 87.5 and becoming the new leader in the event during the second performance at Ponoka.

“Honestly, I was pretty darn nervous because I’ve watched a lot of guys that have messed her up before. It’s one of the best bucking horses in the world going right now,” Taypotat admits.

Those nerves didn’t really dissolve until the whistle went, laughs the cowboy.

“I didn’t have my strongest ride on her ever, but still did OK, I think.”

This despite the fact he is riding with a cracked rib, from competing in Wainwright just a few days ago.

It was the teacher and the student who put on a class in the tie-down roping Tuesday at Ponoka.

Former World and a four-time Canadian Champion Shane Hanchey tied his calf in a solid 9.6 seconds, to go with the 9.7 second run he made in the morning slack.

“2019 was a long time ago, and I broke the barrier in the short round here. I was so mad at myself I wanted to get back up here and redeem myself. I had to wait three long years, but we’re here,” says Hanchey.

“What this rodeo does is so underestimated for even the guys down south, with $55,000 an event. This rodeo, this committee – it doesn’t get any better.”

Making the long miles from his home base of Texas is easier these days as he’s traveling with his protégé, last year’s Tie-Down Rookie of the Year, Beau Cooper who lives in nearby Stettler.

The 20-year-old came right after his mentor and Cooper beat him, for the fast run of the day at 8.2 seconds.

“I told Beau if he wanted to make the CFR, you’ve got to make your footprint right here in Ponoka,” adds Hanchey.

Cooper spent time with Hanchey and his wife in Texas, practicing roping. And he bought his horse from them as well.

“That man has done a lot for me,” emphasizes Cooper. “He’s been in my corner. We got a pretty good friendship and I’m lucky to have him.”

“I’ve come and watched this rodeo since I was little. This is my first time I’ve ever roped here. To be able to make a run like that was really exciting!”

Cooper’s total of 18.3 seconds is just behind overall leader Shad Mayfield, with his 17.9. Hanchey is third at 19.3 seconds.

Team ropers Jeremy Buhler of Arrowwood, AB and Rhen Richard of Roosevelt, UT proved their world caliber pedigree with a time of 5.5 seconds, to lead their round, and move out in front overall with 12.6 seconds on two runs. The steer wrestling leader is still Joseph King of Manitoba with 11.8 seconds. The best run of the afternoon came from Colorado’s Logan Kenline at 6.2 seconds, giving him fourth best overall.

The saddle bronc riding leader remains Layton Green with his 88. The highest mark Tuesday was an 84.75, from Jake Finlay of Oklahoma, who’s riding with broken ankle from an earlier Montana rodeo. He’s tied for third.

Tana Millard of Eckville sped her horse Moose around the barrels in 17.70 seconds, to slide into fourth place, leaving Bayleigh Choate of Texas still far in front with her 17.27 second run.

The bull riders were not to be denied Tuesday and there were four qualified rides. Lonnie West of Cadogan sits on top with his 88 point performance on a bull called Positively Banging.


22 Ponoka Stampede Rodeo Wrap 1

The chute gates cracked open to professional rodeo for the first time in three years at the Ponoka Stampede.

Contestants were awfully glad to be back – roping, wrestling, running and riding for an increased purse of $55,000 in each major event.

Opening night performers made the most of their turn, setting the bar high for those to follow. Like in the saddle bronc riding where a pair of Alberta talents treated fans to a spurring clinic. Wildwood’s Logan Hay teamed up with the C5 horse Kitty Whistle – one he’d wanted for a long time.

“She’s an awesome, awesome horse,” says Hay. “If I could’ve picked one to draw here, that’s the one I would’ve picked!”

“She’s really flashy and she really bucks. She just feels good. You do your thing and she’s gonna do hers, and you’re gonna win.”

Or nearly top the leaderboard. 

Hay chalked up 87.75 points, but Layton Green managed to better that by a mere quarter of a point, with his final tally of 88 on Shattered Lunatic. It’s pretty much a hometown show for Green, who grew up not far from Ponoka at Meeting Creek. So his folks and plenty of friends were on hand to catch up with Green,and congratulate him on his great ride.

Both Green and Hay had fathers who also competed at the Ponoka Stampede in saddle bronc riding, so theyare carrying on the family legacy in the sport. Hay’sfirst appearance in the open bronc riding at Ponoka was back in 2019, where he missed the short round by half a point, so even though he’s sitting second, he’s in much better shape this year to be back for a chance for more Ponoka money.

“I remember playing under the stands here watching my Dad rodeo, then came up through the novice. It’s definitely one of my favorite rodeos of the year and I’m so happy to be back. It’s a rank atmosphere. I love it here.”

It was a first trip to Ponoka for the 2020 World Champion Tie-Down roper. But it won’t be his last, since Shad Mayfield crushed the opening round with an 8.5 second run, to go along with his solid 9.4 second run in the morning slack performance. With a 17.9 second tally on two runs, he’s got a more than six second cushion on the rest of the field.

“It’s a little different setup,” explains Mayfield, referring to the famous ‘long score’ at Ponoka, which means the timed event contestants run down the alley a ways before entering the arena, instead of the more common ‘instant start’

I’m still new to it. Before we roped today, I actually pulled out some old videos from here at Ponoka to study the setup here and it worked out.”

“My horse worked great,” says the Texan. “It’s trickyhere. You’ve got to know how to score. My horse made it easy. I haven’t even been on the barrier the first two runs, but just made good runs on the ground.”

“In the short round is where you’ve got to step up a little on the barrier because the best guys will be here that day and you’ve got to bring your A game.”

Another Texan, rookie sensation Bayleigh Choate, showed her A game potential in the barrel racingMonday, by posting a speedy 17.27 second run, just a day after she finished winning the Wainwright Stampede.

Utah’s Ty Allred was the fast steer wrestler of the opening performance at 4.0 seconds, but Joseph King managed to put together a pair of runs in the Stampede leading time 11.8 seconds before he jumped in the truck to be back at work in Virden, Manitoba at 9am Tuesday morning. 

Team ropers Bobby Louis of Vernon, BC and Daniel Kaiser of Breton, AB doubled down by being fastest of the performance in 6.3 seconds, and also leading on two runs with 19.1 seconds.

It was an NFR caliber pen of horses in the bareback riding, but in the end, the high mark came from Saskatchewan’s Danny Vandenameele. He counted up85.75 points on C5’s Sesame Street. The bulls exerted their muscle in the first night, tossing all seven riders before the eight second whistle.