Just because you’ve won the Ponoka Stampede before once, or even twice, doesn’t make it any easier to do it again.
Especially if you’re a hometown hero.
Jake Vold acknowledged that, right after he turned out his toes for an awesome spur ride that the rodeo judges rewarded with 88.75 points on Friday afternoon, making him the new bareback riding leader.
“This is more pressure here than at the NFR,” Vold admitted. “It’s unbelievable, I’ll tell you. I’ve had good success here in the past and still, every year, I’m nervous all day.”
“It’s one of those rodeos. But it makes you try hard.”
The fourth performance highlight came courtesy a Calgary Stampede cayuse called Y Not Crystal, who took a few shots at jamming Vold’s legs in the chutes before they headed out. After that, the action was fast and furious for eight energetic seconds.
“That horse, he’s really bucky. I’ve seen him be really good, and he’s bucked a few good guys off. I can see why. He leaves really hard and he hits hard. It kind of took me a couple jumps to get my chin tucked back down and squared up, and then try to tee off.
“I was giving ‘er everything I had, and when I heard that horn, it was time to get out of there. It felt good.”
“You know, you’re at Ponoka Stampede and it’s one of the greatest rodeos in the world, especially on the fourth of July run. You’ve got a good horse, you’ve got an opportunity to try to win first, you might as well take it.”
Vold just returned to action earlier this month, after sitting out since the National Finals Rodeo mishap that broke his kneecap and required surgery. While he’s feeling other body parts ache from his last few rides, he confirms the knee is holding up well.
“It feels great. I rehabbed it properly. Prairie Therapy – Brandon Thome and his team, Dr. Hiemstra (the surgeon) – I have such a great team behind me. I wasn’t going to rush it. I’m glad. I made sure it was strong when I came back.”
“The longer I waited, the hungrier I got.”
The patience and persistence seems to have paid off, as Vold can book his sixth Showdown qualification at the Ponoka Stampede. He’ll likely be joined by his traveling partners, since Richmond Champion moved into third place with an 86 mark on Zig Zag Cherry and Caleb Bennett sits tied for fourth with an 84.75.
A good representation from the famous Wright Brothers clan made their first appearance at the Ponoka Stampede, joined by their brother-by-marriage, CoBurn Bradshaw. It was his second time in Ponoka, and he made it worthwhile. His 86.25 point ride takes him to the top of the saddle bronc standings.
“I was really happy to draw Tiger Warrior,” stated Bradshaw. “It went good in the past, at the National Finals. I figured if I got by him here, I should get another horse in the short round. I’m glad to get him covered. They don’t ride that horse a whole bunch. So nerves are always there.”
“He’s just a bucker. He’s really big and has moves. He’s a bucking horse.”
Bradshaw and Jake Wright, who tied for second place with an 85.75, will be back for Monday’s Finals in Ponoka. The others in their truck, Alex and Jesse Wright, got bucked off their horses, both from the Calgary Stampede. But don’t think you’ve seen the last of the Utah bronc riding family in this town.
“There’s a lot of money up here and I really like the rodeo. It just costs a lot for us to get up here. I think I’m going to start coming up here every year,” added Bradshaw.
Four-time World Bull Riding Champion Sage Kimzey also made the Ponoka Stampede a ‘must’ stop on his Cowboy Christmas run. Kimzey, from Oklahoma, had the best ride of the day when he chalked up 84.5 points on Calgary’s Click Clackin. Ponoka’s own Wacey Finkbeiner still leads the charge after his 88 point ride on Thursday.
Make it two Texans now on top in the barrel racing. Stevi Hillman’s 17.560 second run on opening day is still the pacesetter. But now it’s Taci Bettis in second spot, after she rounded the barrels in 17.602 seconds, on her horse Smash.
“This is my first trip to Canada, ever,” she smiled.
Bettis came to Canada with Tammy Fischer, a fellow Texan who makes plenty of trips north.
“She’s showing me the ropes. She helped me all year last year qualify for my first NFR.”
A rain shower made a brief appearance in Ponoka on Friday, but the sun had returned come barrel racing time, and Bettis points out it didn’t slow them down at all.
“I thought actually it packed the ground down a bit and made it even faster.”
Saskatchewan’s Scott Sigfusson had the best steer wrestling time, in the rainy part of the round, at 5.5 seconds. He’s in sixth overall, where Ponoka’s Craig Weisgerber continues to lead on two runs with his time of 11 seconds even. In the tie-down roping, 11-time NFR qualifier Ryan Jarrett was the speed man of the day with an 8.4 second run, to slide into third overall, behind leader Clayton Smith of Eckville with his 17.9 second total. The best team roping time of the afternoon was 6.7 seconds from Montana’s Chase Tryan and Oklahoman Brenten Hall, putting them in second overall, behind current leaders Tristin Woolsey of Nanton and Denver Johnson of Strathmore, and their tally of 12.6 seconds.