It was a Stampede special moment. As barrel racer Mary Burger’s name was called Saturday afternoon, the crowd began to roar even before she entered the arena.
Sure, she was the winner in the opening round of Pool A action.
True, she does have a talented, speedy horse she calls Mo.
But the real reason Burger has become such a crowd favorite at Stampede 2016 is what she’s accomplishing at her stage in life.
Let’s just say she’s not a blushing teen. And she doesn’t seem to mind announcers telling the thousands of rodeo fans in the grandstand her real age. She’s not bashful about being just a month away from her 68th birthday.
Mary Burger just lets her actions do the talking. And they were talking fast during Round 2, as she and Mo blistered around the barrel pattern in 17.72 seconds, bettering the rest of the gals by a long shot. That means two days in a row, she’s earned the commemorative bronze, and the $5500. With her $11,000 total, she’s a shoe-in to get right through to Sunday’s Showdown round.
It’s all a lot of fun for the Oklahoma grandma and horse trainer, who’s currently the leader in the world barrel racing standings too.
“You know, several years back I used to think, ‘well, I’ve got a little age on me’,” admits Burger with a twinkle in her eye. “But I’ve had so many people come up and say ‘you’re my inspiration’. When I hear the crowd go, I just get goosebumps all over, and I’m really, really proud.”
“My horse just really tries to please me, and he knows his job. He set a little bit hard on that first barrel, and popped my stirrup, so I was just hanging on, saying ‘go boy, do your thing’! And he did it.”
Look closely at the photo above. You can see despite Mary’s foot being out of the stirrup, and a smile on her face, and that says it all.
“I was just going with him. When I was real young, I rode bareback all the time, so it don’t bother me too bad.”
“All my life, I’ve been horse crazy, and it’s just in me. I just love it.”
His rope is hot – no doubt about it. Fresh off setting a new record for Cowboy Christmas rodeo earnings at $32,293, Shane Hanchey rolled into the Calgary Stampede and has already picked up another ten grand. The Louisiana cowboy, who’s the current Canadian champion in tie-down roping, snapped up the first place $5500 cheque and the bronze for a smooth run in just 6.9 seconds, to go along with his second place finish on opening day.
“I knew that if I got a good start, I could show out on the ground. When I backed in there, 7.2 was winning it, so I knew I had to let my hair down,” said Hanchey, the Pool A leader.
Hanchey gives full credit for his success to his 17-year-old wonder horse Reata, who’s been with him his entire roping career. But it was his girlfriend, barrel racer Taylor Jacob, who convinced Hanchey the horse was ready to roll again after an extended pasture break last season. Since returning to the arena in March, Reata has helped Hanchey win some $72,000.
“That horse is like laying down in my bed at night for me, I’m so used to his moves and how he does everything. He’s so quiet in the box, and he leaves so hard, I can be ready to rope. This is his set-up.”
With the momentum Hanchey is feeling, don’t bet against him come the Sunday showdown.
“This year, with winning what I won before I got here, and being really high on my confidence, I know that I can do this. This rodeo means an awful lot to me. I want that big bronze at the end of the week so bad I can taste it.”
It’s getting to be a real race in the Pool A saddle bronc riding. Bradley Harter joined the fray by winning $5500 in Saturday’s round for an 84 point ride on a Big Stone horse called Rubels.
“I’ve been home more than usual, not traveling as much,” explained the Lousiana cowboy, who was half a point out of placing in Round 1. “When I’m at home baling, I’m thinking about riding bucking horses. So I was a little hungry come today, especially when I didn’t win yesterday.”
“Every time you come to these big rodeos, you want to win every day. When you’re half a point out of the money, it makes you go back and you’re in bed all night, thinking about what you can correct to win the next day.”
Harter enjoyed his victory lap, letting his long, curly locks fly.
“My wife thinks it’s my mid-life crisis,” he laughs, about his current ‘mullett’.
Harter will need to keep riding up to catch his fellow bronc busters. Nebraska’s Cort Scheer leads Pool A with $8500, after placing second both days, while Rusty Wright has $7000.
More big grins from Caleb Bennett, as the Utah bareback rider won for the second straight day. This time he was 86 on the Outlaw Buckers horse Sexy Bucks, to claim top spot in Pool A with $11,000. Wyoming’s Seth Brockman takes home the bronze in steer wrestling, for his 4.3 second run. It’s his second payday, and he’s in the Pool A lead with $10,000.
It was back to back wins for Canadian cowboys in the bull riding. This time, Devon Mezei took the victory lap, after he rode the Outlaw Buckers bull 2 Dark 2 C for 85 points and $5500. But Oklahoma’s Ryan Dirteater sits on top of Pool A, after taking second place two days in a row, with $8000.