On October 27, 1937 in Stettler, Alberta a rodeo legend was born. Growing up surrounded by cowboys, bucking horses and the rodeo lifestyle, a young Winston Bruce was inspired to follow his dreams, pursuing a career as a professional rodeo athlete and champion.
And what a champion he was. During his time as a Saddle Bronc rider, he won the Novice Bronc in 1954 and ’55, the Canadian Saddle Bronc championship in 1957 and ’58 and the World title in 1961.
Laurence Bruce and Winston Bruce, 1959
To his fans and followers he was a superstar who had a near-perfect sense of balance on a bucking horse and whose smooth ride left audiences in awe, to those who knew him personally there was much more to Winston Bruce.
“He was my hero, mentor and friend. I wanted to grow up and be him,” said Kynan Vine, manager, western events, Calgary Stampede. “I could go on for days about the admiration and respect I have for him, anyone who knew him knows what I mean.”
In 1968 he hung up his saddle as an athlete and stepped into a new role as rodeo manager and arena director at the Calgary Stampede, a job he loved until he retired in 2002.
During his time at the Stampede he helped shape the vision for the future and kick-started our world-class Born to Buck™ breeding program, and was a great leader and mentor to volunteers, employees and anyone he met.
Winston on Red Wing, 1966
“He was influential in every cowboy’s life and saw the world through the eyes of a champion,” said Heather Weatherly, member of the Stampede’s broadcast team and who is also the daughter-in-law of former competitor and fellow stock contractor Stan Weatherly.
“Stan and Winston grew up together and worked together for years. Since Stan’s passing, Winston was always right there if we needed anything and that’s just the kind of man he was. No matter what your goals were, he encouraged you to be the best you could be and he remembered absolutely everyone he met,” shared Weatherly.
Beyond the silver buckles and world titles that hung on the breast collars of his Appaloosa horses, Idaho and Boise, Winston was a man of kindness and a lover of all things rodeo.
“He was still putting on Saddle Bronc riding schools until this year and helping teach new cowboys the sport and how to be successful. He had great pride in where he came from and pride in his family,” said Weatherly.
Clar Manning, Doug Harkness shakes Winston Bruce’s hand at the Grandstand in 1959.
In 1989 he was inducted into the Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs and was the first Canadian inductee. In 1995, he and his father Laurence, former rodeo producer and stock contractor were inducted into the Canadian Historical Rodeo Hall of Fame. He also served on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Board (PRCA) of Directors for four years and sat on the advisory committee. The PRCA named him Cowboy of the year in 2005.
“Winston was very influential in the rodeo community as a former competitor and world champion,” said Keith Merrington, stock contractor and consultant for the Calgary Stampede. “Everyone knows and admires him from Houston Texas all the way to Grand Prairie; he’s impacted the world of rodeo in a big way.”
In addition to his many accomplishments, he also loved to write.
“He wrote about how he imagined the current bucking horses would feel if time had not robbed him of his ability to be a saddle bronc rider forever,” said Weatherly.
Aside from being a major influencer in the rodeo world, he was also dad to Christie and Laurence and grandfather to Zoe, who was his world. He recently attended her graduation and she spent every moment she could with him.
“The world of rodeo has lost a huge legend, he will be greatly missed and remembered,” added Weatherly.
Winston passed away peacefully on Monday, July 10, 2017. He was 80 years old.
Winston Bruce, Joan Langford and Bill Prat, 1969.