Steven Peebles 5

Steven Peebles has been thinking about the Calgary Stampede for a long time. It’s powerful motivation when you’re lying in a hospital bed… again.

The Oregon bareback rider proved he was more than ready to ride when he was the biggest breadwinner Tuesday for his 85.5 point ride on a horse called Sourdough.

How did it feel to be back on the riggin?

“It feels awesome,” declared the 27-year-old. “Words don’t even explain how happy I am right now.”

“I’ve battled a lot of injuries, and couldn’t ride here last year. I was hurt and in the hospital for a few weeks. It was hard. It was the first year of my career I had to watch (the Stampede) from a hospital bed. To be back this year, and coming off another injury, and to be on top and be winning my first ride back, it feels pretty cool.”

You could write a medical case study on Peebles’ injuries. In fact, there are few bones in his body he hasn’t broken. Last July, he came within inches of his life when a bad rodeo get off the week before the Stampede fractured ribs, which sliced a major artery, filling his chest up with blood.

Six weeks later he was on a bucking horse again.

In December, he rode all the way to a World Bareback Championship at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

Then in February, Peebles and his brother were out in their Polaris Ranger, and had a freak accident.

“We rolled about five times, and it ended up landing on me upside down. I broke my back and my shoulder, and it tore me up pretty good, so I was right back out on the sidelines.”

With a back brace and shoulder surgery, which also repaired some old, lingering rodeo injuries, Peebles spent a quiet winter healing up.

Five months later, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat.

“I just kept trying to tell myself the National Finals was only a few weeks ago, and to have that same mindset rolling in here.”

When Peebles got the invitation in March to ride at this Calgary Stampede, he accepted, despite his bedridden condition.

“I made a goal that I was going to be there, and told them to enter me up. They called me a few times to ask if I was on track. I said ‘don’t worry about it. Don’t take me off the list. I’ll be there!’”

“First one back, and the shoulder feels strong and so does the back. I figured what better rodeo to crack out at than the Calgary Stampede?” he grinned.

Peebles admits it’s been hard to get his body back in shape while he was still healing.

“I’m a little bit not on top of my ‘in-shape’ level right now. I might be huffing and puffing a little more than I normally do when I get off, but I’ll just have to keep my head straight, and push through it, and try to win this deal.”

You could call Peebles the Comeback King, and in his typical upbeat approach, he finds the sunny side to it all.

“I guess the only good part about being hurt is that you come back hungrier than anything, (wanting it) more than anybody wants it because you’ve been sitting out.”

Peebles jumps to the early lead of the Pool B bareback race with his $5500.

Zeke Thurston 5

When Zeke Thurston left Stampede Park last July, it was with a very large bronze and a $100,000 cheque in hand. The 21-year-old saddle bronc rider picked up his winning ways right where he left off when he rode Spring Planting to an 84.5 point victory Tuesday afternoon.

“I had that horse in the Final Four here last year, and was 90.5 on her,” recalled the Big Valley cowboy. “You can’t ask for a better horse. She just turns out of there and bucks, and does the job and is honest about it. That’s what you want as a bronc rider. Luckily, I stayed on.”

“Me, being a young guy matching up with an old veteran mare like that, it’s kind of cool.”

Thurston jumps out in front for Pool A with his $5500 payday.

Lisa Lockhart 5

Another defending Stampede champion raced to victory as Pool B got underway Tuesday when Lisa Lockhart and Louie rounded the barrel pattern in 17.61 seconds, to also keep up their Calgary winning ways.

“I love Calgary,” bubbled the busy Mom and horse trainer from South Dakota. “Sure, there’s excitement on Sunday, but it’s every day here! My heart was racing, and it’s just the atmosphere around here, and you just know that the stakes are so high. Knowing you’ve done well here before you have some big expectations, and you just go out there and do what you can do every day.”

“I’m thrilled to have a win.”

The $5500 win puts Lockhart on top after the first day of Pool B competition.

Fred Whitfield 5

Another cowboy who’s no stranger to the Stampede awards stage made yet another trip there Tuesday. Texan Fred Whitfield matched the fastest time at this Stampede when he wrapped up a calf in just 6.9 seconds, to collect his $5500, and ink his name at the top of the Pool B list.

“It’s probably the toughest group of guys I’ve been in up here,” noted the seven-time World Champion. “To get the first go-round win, it takes a little bit of pressure off of you, but I mean, I’m not into Sunday yet by any means. I’ve still got some roping to do. I’m just $5500 ahead of some of the guys.”

“I’m 49 years old this year, and I don’t rope as much as I used to. I just try to keep in halfway decent shape. This is my 27th year to rope at this rodeo, and to still be competitive is just a blessing in disguise.”

“As long as they invite me, I’ll come up here and rope.”

That’s exactly the same sentiment two-time Stampede Champion bull rider J.B. Mauney of North Carolina expressed. The 29-year-old proved he’s still in his prime when he made his eight seconds on Heavens Basement worth 88 points, capturing the $5500 win, the event lead, and the trophy bronze.

Dakota Eldridge also made the walk on stage to collect his hardware, for a 4.1 seconds in the steer wrestling, putting the Nevada bulldogger on top for Pool B with his $5500.

Irricana’s Luke Ferber leads the junior steer riding with a 78; Dawson Hay of Wildwood is first so far in novice bronc riding with a 78; and there’s a tie at the top in novice bareback riding with both Danten Metzger of Carbon and Jake Plotts of Drayton Valley turning in 70.5 point rides.

Ranch Girls and Warriors

The Calgary Stampede Ranch Girls enjoy a photo moment with the Indian Warriors in the new home of Indian Village at Enmax Park before taking part in the CS Rodeo Grand Entry.