Caleb Bennett can’t get enough when it comes to riding bucking horses this month. The Utah cowboy was the first bareback rider to strike gold at the 2016 Calgary Stampede, adding $5500 to a rodeo bank account that’s been growing by leaps and bounds.
Bennett rode a Calgary Stampede horse called Shadow Warrior to 87.5 points, which topped Friday’s opening round of Pool A competitors.
“I’d been on that horse before, but today he was a lot more challenging,” grinned the 27-year-old. “There wasn’t one jump throughout the whole ride where I felt like ‘oh, I got you’. It was just a fist fight, kind of a battle the whole eight seconds.”
Being the gunner in his event didn’t phase Bennett, who’s had the Midas touch this month, collecting almost $30,000 over the busy ‘Cowboy Christmas’ rodeo run. The Calgary Stampede has always been a friendly place for him to do business.
“First out, first day. I remembered last year, Pool B, I was the first guy out, same score 87.5, to win the round, and set up the rest of my week. The way I look at it is I’ll set the bar for these guys, set the bar for the rest of the week, whatever I’ve got to do. I’m here to play and here to stay.”
Bennett knows the $100,000 Stampede feeling, having lifted the champion’s cheque in 2013.
“I actually feel more confident this year than I ever have. I want to win it again.”
Sore but successful. That’s how you’d describe Dakota Buttar after his bull ride Friday afternoon. The two-time Canadian champion made a dramatic 87 point ride on Kesler’s Houdini Magic, but some head to head contact after the whistle blew was not what the doctor ordered for the Kindersley, SK cowboy who had some concussion issues last week.
“As the ride went on, the bull kept getting stronger, and kind of wanting me on his head. At the end, he finally got me, and whipped me down pretty hard,” he winced.
Buttar has been a regular visitor to the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sports Medicine Team, since he also hurt his shoulder at the PBR event less than two weeks ago at Ponoka.
“The shoulder’s feeling really good, it’s just my noggin’ I have to keep looking after. That’s not really how I wanted the first one to go, hitting heads like that, but hopefully I can get rested up for tomorrow. Sports Med helps a lot. I’ll go back to them right away.”
The $5500 helps ease his mind, and he’s happy to be one step closer to fulfilling a childhood dream of winning the Calgary Stampede.
It was ‘Hello Calgary’ for Tyler Waguespack. The Louisiana steer wrestler was the fastest in the opening round of Pool A competition, netting $5500 for a 4.3 second run.
“I got to Canada for the first time yesterday,” stated the 25-year-old. “It’s great so far. My Mom and Dad are here in the stands. It’s their first time to Canada too, so everybody’s having a good time up here.”
“Cowboys dream about going to certain rodeos, and this is definitely one on the list.”
Waguespack was mounted on 2014 world steer wrestling horse of the year Cadillac, and he credits the horse for help with the W.
“He does his job outstanding. I got a good start today, and my buddy (fellow competitor Clayton Hass) got him hazed up just right, so I was able to get a good lay at him, and everything worked out.”
The fastest tie-down roper of Round One was Utah’s Clint Robinson with a smooth a 7.6 second run, for his $5500 go-round win, which should help the diaper fund since his family grew by a new baby girl three weeks ago.
Another Utah cowboy, Rusty Wright, of the famous Wright family riding clan, claimed the $5500 in saddle bronc riding, as the 20-year-old notched 87.5 points on the CS horse Wild Cherry. Oklahoma cowgirl Mary Burger and her horse Mo raced away with the big barrel racing bucks, in 17.46 seconds.
Story by Dianne Finstad
Photos by Mike Copeman