The Lakeland Rodeo Association named its first Ladies’ Barrel Racing champion from this area in more than 25 years at Showdown 2010, as Ruby Braconnier of Elk Point added the best average time over five performances to points earned in first, second and third place runs to win the Welsh’s Saddlery and Western Wear award.
Although she’s been following the cloverleaf pattern around the barrels for more than 20 years, Braconnier says, “This was really my first year of going hard.” Her plan was to keep going if she kept winning, and starting off with a win at Gooseberry Lake and then by placing second at Thorsby and Tofield events, she could afford to keep racing. “If you’re not making money, you can’t keep going down the road.”
Performing before the crowds at the smaller rodeos was good practice, but Braconnier found Showdown “big time different. I’ve never seen that kind of crowd from the arena before. The (cheers of the) crowd made me ride better.” She was also excited to be in the top 10, coming in sixth overall for the season.
Of those 10, Braconnier says, “Only three of us were able to keep all our barrels upright through the five performances. Sonny’s not one to knock barrels, and he does take off between them.” Her close relationship with the horse has grown since he was rescued from a meat horse buyer when he was a year and a half old. “I started training him, and have been riding him for five or six years now. He’s a better indoor horse, and we’re still working on the outdoors racing. Horses will humble you.”
She notes she had one advantage over competitors, in that she got to bring Sonny home at night. “He’d been in a box stall for days at the Alberta Barrel Racing Association finals just before Showdown, so he enjoyed that. I had good runs there, but they didn’t clock well. I used it as a warm-up for the Showdown finals, where he peaked when he needed to.”
Her championship win “still hasn’t sunk in, but it was a good, good thing, a great experience, and Lakeland does a great job with their finals.”
The last Showdown barrel racing championship wins from this area went to Wanda Austin of St. Lina in 1985 and Anne Lawes of St. Paul in 1984, with Wendy Lorenson (now Young) of Elk Point winning the junior barrels in both those years.
Like Braconnier, St. Paul junior barrel racer Caitlin Stark also made her first Showdown appearance this year, with a third place time in the first performance and a fourth place time Friday night. Season leader Rene LeClerq of Holden came back from a tipped barrel in the first performance with four top times, including a 13.067 run that far outdid all the senior racers, to win the Cowboy Country buckle and saddle.
Elk Point team roping header Steve Brooks and heeler Mark Fletcher of Wainwright came into Showdown in 10th spot, and thrilled the local cheering section with their second place, 6.9 second run in the first performance. They placed fourth in both Saturday performances, but failed to rope their final steer and didn’t add up enough points to match season runners-up Riley Roy of Strathmore and Kurt Fletcher of Wainwright, who took home the Lincoln County Oilfield and B and R Eckels championship trophies with a win, two seconds and a two/three split.
Season leader Derek Frank of Stony Plain took the Master Flo championship in the steer wrestling, with first, second and third-place runs. Tie-down roper Riley Warren of Stettler also led the season coming into Showdown, taking home the LRA championship saddle and a second St. Paul Journal buckle with three winning runs and a fourth place time.
In the rough stock events, Chad Randle of Fort Vermilion came into the bareback finals in eighth spot, and added a final 75.5-point win to first, second and third place marks earlier in the weekend to take the Boulet Boots championship.
Season leader Mark O’Dempsey of Mayerthorpe took home his fourth saddle bronc championship since 2004, with the top score in three performances, a third and a three/four split for the CFCW trophies.
Bull rider Dakota Buttar of Kindersley, Sask. also came in as season leader, and was one of only two riders to reach the eight-second mark on three bulls. He edged past Jacob Anderson of Niton Junction by a mere 10 points to win the LRA saddle and buckle. Buttar was also named Rookie of the Year.
In the junior events, Zeke Thurston of Big Valley added up three firsts and a second to win the LRA novice horse riding trophies. Calgary junior bull rider Jake Stemo added two firsts and a second to equal that championship from the LRA, while Tristan Carlier of Medicine Hat racked up a first, two seconds and a one/two split to win the Hahn Welding and Upper Mann Contracting awards for junior steer riding.
Tie down and team roper Jim Gunsch of Thorsby was named all-around winner.
The Showdown finals also featured the hilarious antics of rodeo clown Ricky Ticky Wanchuk and family at all five performances, as well as three sessions of junior wild horse racing sponsored by Zarowny Motors. Teams from Chauvin, Provost and Wainwright were joined by local competitors on the Xtreme Oilfield Technology and St. Paul Ag Society teams as these toughest kids in town took on some agile, wily and totally incorrigible ponies. The final configuration of the Ag Society team, made up of Paul Wanchuk, Cody Smith and Baxter Bailey, got the job done in 5.2 seconds in their final run to take the honors for fastest time of the three shows.