In the rodeo world, December is a time for the celebration of champions. The best in the world are gathered in Las Vegas right now – Calgary Stampede Champions, Canadian Champions and, soon, newly crowned World Champions. The National Finals Rodeo (NFR) is the culmination of a year of practice, hard work and well-earned wins, with the top 15 in each event riding for the chance to capture a world championship.

Rodeo veteran Tiger Warrior is one of 15 Calgary Stampede Horses invited to compete at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

The Calgary Stampede is well represented in the bright lights of Vegas. The athletic beauties that carry the CS brand are well-known for being among the best-of-the-best in bucking stock.  Fifteen horses and one bull have been invited to compete. Veterans such as Tiger Warrior, Shadow Warrior and Wild Cherry are among the Stampede horses looking to carry cowboys to the win in Saddle Bronc. Younger stock such as Arbitrator Joe and Yippee Kibitz are representing in Bareback. In Bull Riding, a lone Calgary Bull – Night Moves – is showing off his moves in the Thomas and Mack Center.

The Calgary Stampede rodeo arena is a much different setting than the indoor Thomas and Mack Center.

The Calgary Stampede Rodeo is the world’s largest outdoor rodeo – big, exciting and high energy. In comparison, the NFR is also exciting and high energy, but in a much different venue. For the cowboys and bucking stock, it’s a unique experience.

At the Stampede, the stock is brought in to Calgary daily and stay for just a few short hours. In Las Vegas, the horses and bulls make their home-away-from-home right next to the arena, in the middle of the city. Ensuring they are comfortable, confident and feeling at the top of their game during their stay is essential, and a great partnership exists between the individual stock providers and the NFR to ensure the best possible care. The calibre and success of the competition, which began December 5, shows that care in action.

Calgary Stampede and Canadian Champion Saddle Bronc Rider, Zeke Thurston, keeps his cool in high-pressure competition.

We know competitors like three-time Calgary Stampede and current Canadian Champion, Zeke Thurston, have no trouble keeping their cool under the bright lights of Las Vegas. It’s exciting to see this year’s Stampede champs competing for a World Championship. Thurston paired up with our Shadow Warrior for a second place finish in round three. Round six saw You See Me capture a buckle for the Stampede in a three-way tie for top spot in Bareback. You can catch You See Me’s performance here. Two more horses, Tiger Warrior and Wild Cherry have both earned Rank Horse of the Night awards in Saddle Bronc.

Photo credit: Tom Donoghue (NFR). Zeke Thurston rides Shadow Warrior to a second place finish in round 3.

It’s also exciting for the Calgary Stampede to be involved in the incredible experience that is Cowboy Christmas at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Calgary Stampede volunteers and employees are sharing some Stampede Spirit with visitors to the event, sharing our stories and answering questions about The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. We also had special guests, with several of our Chuckwagon competitors stopping by to share their knowledge of the sport with guests. The Stampede is as well the title sponsor of the Great Wall of Rodeo, a fun and interactive display highlighting the broad reach of the sport.

Guests visiting the Calgary Stampede’s booth at Cowboy Christmas in Las Vegas. 

Finally – a quick brag about the Canadian Finals Rodeo, which was held October 29 – November 3. The Calgary Stampede had 40 bucking horses and bulls invited to compete and celebrated seven performance-winning rides. We had 10 more top three placings with a total of $159,360 earned by cowboys riding CS horses and bulls. We couldn’t be more proud of our four-legged rodeo athletes!