Saturday turned into quite a family affair at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo. The odds are always high when it comes to being among the best two out of the twelve contenders to earn a spot to Showdown Sunday. But it proved to be all ‘relative’ this year.

In the saddle bronc riding, the Cajuns were hot. Brothers Heath and Cody DeMoss rose to the top of the heap. Cody was 87 points on Calgary’s Simply Marvellous, while younger brother Heath was only two points behind at 85 for his trip on Evening Mist. That led to a very special victory lap for the two Louisana cowboys, including what looked like a little brotherly horse race during the victory lap.

DeMoss Brothers 9

“Doing that victory lap with my brother was cool, very cool,” grinned Cody. “Aw, we just kind of let ‘em go right there at the end, and hollered a little bit. We had a good time.”

“Me and Cody were both talking about it,” added Heath. “That was probably one of the more memorable victory laps I’ve ever had. To get to go around the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth and get to look at your brother in the background… with I don’t know how many thousands of people out there, it was a very memorable trip I won’t soon forget about.”

Both brothers are big fans of Canadian bucking horse power. Heath was impressed with his draw, which gave him $5000, as well as the Sunday spot.

“He’s a buckin’ little rascal. Coming from Louisiana up here to Calgary and Canada in general, this is a bucking horse rider’s dream to get on these caliber of horses. Just fortunate enough to get on top of it, and to win is a bonus.”

“That horse helped me out,” noted Cody, who earned $6000. “I got to work out a few things I’ve been working on, and let me feel my feet. If it looked half as good as Heath’s, I’m happy with it.”

Mary Walker 9

Barrel racer Mary Walker and her horse Latte zipped around the barrels in a time of 17.94 seconds, to claim the $6000 payout, as well as at least one more run on Sunday.

It was an emotional day for Walker, but she drew strength from that. She shared with the Stampede crowd that this day was her late son Reagan’s birthday. She and her husband Byron lost their only son in a car accident in 2011.

“I flew home to Texas and yesterday put flowers on his grave, and wished him a Happy Birthday, so today’s for him,” said Walker, blinking back the tears. “I feel like he’s with me all the time and encouraging me to keep going.”

“The mud doesn’t bother us. Here, I think the arena’s always better if it’s got a little mud in it,” smiles Walker. “I don’t like the rain, but my horse liked it.”

Walker’s been close to the $100,000 before, making it to Sunday at the Stampede in all four of her appearances, but has hasn’t yet claimed the big cheque. Joining her from Wildcard Saturday is Kimmie Wall of Utah, who was excited to accept a late invitation as a replacement to compete at the Stampede.

Both Walker and Wall appreciated the commitment the Stampede has made to keeping the running ground safe during the trying wet conditions.

“I will give amazing credit to the ground crew. They worked so hard for us, and it’s an amazing committee Calgary has,” stated Wall. “It was less than desirable but all the horses handled it amazing.”

“My horse Foxy is a ‘mudder’. She really does like the mud. It doesn’t scare her at all. I’ve won several rodeos in the mud, so she does love it.”

Bull riders put on an impressive show with lots of rides that would’ve taken top dollars at most rodeos. But on Wildcard Saturday at the Calgary Stampede, it requires a little extra to take the cake. Texan Cody Teel set the bar when he spurred out an 88 on Nailed. Brazilian Robson Palermo thought he’d have a chance to ride on Sunday when he was 85.5 on Blue Bell. But Alberta’s Zane Lambert took full advantage of a re-ride opportunity, when he was 87 on a bull called Be Bop, giving him the second spot for Showdown Sunday.

Zane Lambert 9

Watching the weather and being prepared proved to be a wise move for the Ponoka cowboy.

“I had to go back and switch ropes,” explained Lambert. “Luckily, I brought another rope. I knew the weather was going to be bad, so I had an extra rope in the bag. The guys in the dressing room helped me take the bells off my old one and put my pad on this new rope to get out here in time. That first rope got drug all the way through the mud, and it was soaking wet, so I had to trade it out.”

The Calgary Stampede marked Lambert’s first bulls back after an injury hiatus. In May, at nearby Stavely, he was stepped on by a bull, suffering two collapsed lungs, among other wounds. The fact he’s riding at all is a feat of determination and hard work.

“It was my goal, right from when I got hurt, to come back and compete at the Stampede. I never wanted anything more in my life, so it’s pretty cool to move on to Sunday, and have a chance at winning it. That’s what I’m here for. It took a few bulls to get the rust knocked off.”

“I think today with the re-rides it took my mind off of over-thinking things, and I just went to riding bulls, and it felt good.”

It may have been sloppy in the arena, but Hunter Herrin of Oklahoma was sharp on the start, the catch and the tie, capturing the $6000 for first in tie-down roping. He snagged a Sunday appointment, and so did Timber Moore of Texas, the defending Stampede Champion, when he got the job done in eight seconds flat.

Keeping up the family theme, Timber’s cousin Clayton Moore of B.C. was fast man in the Wildcard steer wrestling round, with a 4.4 second run, to snatch a Showdown qualification, as well as $6000. Donalda’s Cody Cassidy accomplished exactly what he needed to do, when he was 4.7 seconds for second place money of $5000, but just as importantly, a chance to run again at his first $100,000 Stampede title.

A cowboy who’s been to the stage for the big stage twice in his career gets to go for a third one Sunday. Kaycee Feild of Utah rode Xceptional Margarita to 85.5 points for first and $6000. Yvan Jayne was raised in France, but he proved real cowboys can come from anywhere. He was 84 points on Raggedy Ann, and he’ll be vying for his first Calgary championship, with $5000 stuff in his jeans from Wildcard Saturday.

Novice champs

Call it a Saskatchewan sweep in the novice riding event. Chase Zwiefel of Paradise Hills became the only novice saddle bronc rider to make the whistle on two horses. But he rode with style Saturday, chalking up 77 points on Unit Doctor for a 149 point total. The 19-year-old could hardly contain his excitement as he clutched his trophy bronze.

“It was just tons of fun. It’s an adrenaline rush that can’t be matched riding a horse that great in front of this many awesome fans,” bubbled Zweifel. “I’ve never been anywhere where the atmosphere is this electric, breathtaking, really, it’s just awesome.”

“You look at the past champions of this thing, and it’s cool to think you’re following in their footsteps.”

It was an incredibly close race in the novice bareback event, where Lane Link wound up a half point ahead of two other competitors. The Maple Creek cowboy was 74 on September Skies, for a 147.5 total overall.

“It’s outstanding,” stated Link, about his championship win. “I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s what I hoped to do when I came here and the chips kind of fell in my favor, I guess.”

“To be able to get on a veteran bucking horse was pretty neat.”

“It’s awesome. I’m extremely happy to have it. It was one of the goals I always wanted to achieve, and tickled pink that I finally got to.”

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It was truly fun in the mud for the youngest rodeo competitors, in the wild pony race. After they took their turns with the ponies, and got dirty, they took full advantage of the opportunity for a little mudbath. Poor Moms who have to hose them off. But that’s the definition of Stampede spirit!

Photos by Mike Copeman