Matt Lait and I at the rodeo office this morning.

My “Promise” for this year’s Stampede was to meet a real cowboy. I had the incredible opportunity to meet Matt Lait, a bareback rider and genuine, bonafide cowboy!! Matt is a five-time Canadian Finals Rodeo qualifier. In 2004, Matt was the reserve Calgary Stampede Champion, winning $25,000 for his efforts, at the age of 21!

Before we get started on his interview, here is a brief lowdown on what Matt’s passion is- Bareback.  It is one of the most physically demanding rodeo events. Using one arm, the cowboy holds onto the rawhide handhold of a riggin (a leather pad cinched around the horse’s girth). The handhold is snug-fitting and is customized to the individual’s grip. The stress on the rider’s arm is intense as the riding arm absorbs most of the horse’s power.
A bareback rider will be disqualified for touching the animal or equipment with his free hand, or bucking off before the end of the eight-second ride.
The bareback rider tries to reach as far forward as he can with his feet, then rolls his spurs back up toward the riggin. At the same time, he must keep from being pulled away from the handhold. The higher and wilder the rider spurs, the higher the marks. Sounds pretty crazy, right? Let’s read on and see what I learned from my chat with Matt this morning.

1. When did you start rodeo?

I was about 12 or 14 when I first got into it.  It was a slow entrance into rodeo…some kids are born into it but it was my best friend that got me into it.

2. What was your first big moment in rodeo?

I would have to say winning the $25, 000 right here at the Calgary Stampede in 2004 was my finest moment (so far!). That is a lot of money to win at the age of 21.

3. What did you do with your earnings?

Paid my truck off and went to school at SAIT for Petroleum Engineering Tech.

4. Where is the farthest rodeo you have travelled to?

Arcadia Florida is the farthest. That’s a lot of miles to put on!

5. Have you had any injuries that have hindered your progress in rodeo?

Unfortunately, yes. My biggest injury was a broken leg in 2004 that put me out for a year and half. Six weeks ago I broke my wrist so that has been really challenging. It’s difficult, lots of adjusting. When you’re healthy you let it hang out but when you’re hurt you have to change your technique to be in the least amount of pain.

6. Are you friends with your competitors?

Yes, it’s a pretty tight circle. Rodeo is like one large family. I am really lucky that my Mom and Dad are my biggest fans, along with my wife Allie. They try to travel with me as much as possible.

7. Do you have your sights set on winning big this year?

I had some big goals but being out for 6 weeks is going to maybe hinder them. But you can’t let them get out of sight… I’m still trying to accomplish them. I want to be Canadian Champion and make it to NFR (National Finals Rodeo) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

8. How do you get to NFR?

You have to ride a lot. Money won is points. It usually is about $68, 000 to qualify.

9. What is the hardest part of rodeo?

Being away from home, and staying healthy. Travelling definitely takes its toll.

10. I have been asking everyone I interview about his or her “Promise” for this year’s Stampede. I was surprised to learn you were actually IN one of the television commercials!

Yeah, I was in the Goth ad (to Promise Plaid is the new Black). For me, I promised my wife I’d win some money.

Matt, thank you so much for meeting me at the Rodeo Office today. I know how busy you are during Stampede- you are an amazing Cowboy and wish you all the best for the rest of this year’s rodeo as well as hope you make it to the NFR. I’ll be watching for you in the ‘big show’ on Sunday!

There are still lots of great seats available for the rodeo over the last few days of Stampede so come on down and cheer on Matt as he sets his sights on winning some big prize money. For updates and info on everything Stampede, make sure you follow us on Twitter at @calgarystampede , on Facebook through our official Facebook fan page, and stay tuned to the official Stampede Blog to learn more about some of the things happening Here. All Year.