The Professional Bull Rider (PBR) Canada Monster Energy Tour expanded to two nights this year, adding a second evening of bull riding due to big demand.
Last year’s event sold out, which signalled to organizers that Calgary Classic could host an additional night of bull riding at the Nutrien Western Event Centre in Stampede Park, which pleased a lot of competitors.
Jason Davidson, the director of operations for PBR Canada, aims to increase Canadian competitions, giving riders an opportunity to travel less and decrease burnout.
“It’ll allow some of our Canadian talent to stay closer to home and compete in Canada more than have to cross the U.S. border to make it,” says Davidson.
Experienced riders value home turf competitions
For most bull riders and rodeo competitors, their lives are largely spent on the road. Traveling most weeks away to compete and make a living, their fellow competitors become their family.
But leaving home constantly has riders like Aaron Roy from Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan feeling burnt out.
With 13 years of professional competition under his belt, Roy welcomes any opportunity to stay closer to home.
“Being able to go [compete] around in Canada, 90 per cent of them I can go to [and] I’ll be back the next day or even that night. It makes it a lot more enjoyable and it makes bull riding not seem like a job.”
Coming home at night also means more time with his wife and children.
“I did a lot of years of travel to the States and then throughout Canada too. I got to the point where I was pretty sick of the travel and living in hotel rooms.”
At 31, he says at times he’s been beaten up, broken, bruised and exhausted in his career, but doesn’t give in.
“Once I turned 18, I joined PBR and I haven’t looked back since. That’s where I’ve spent my whole career.”
As the first Canadian rider to make a million dollars in earnings, he’s committed to the travel.
“It’s a pretty surreal feeling passing into making a million and it never was my goal. My goal was to just go ride bulls and have fun, and that’s been the bonus being able to make in your career.”
Seasoned riders versus newbies
At 19, Riley Gagnon says that with pro bull riding as his job, he plans to take every opportunity, regardless of most of his week being spent on the road.
He moved from Innisfail, Alta. to Bowie, Texas this winter to compete in the US competitions.
“Some of these older guys, they get the opportunity to skip out on a few bull rides and still know they’re gonna get their bulls covered at the next ones to make up for it. Being my rookie year, it’s not going to slow me down how far I’m going to travel.”
Compared to the seasoned riders, he’s got energy to travel and the year to prove himself, willing to face the burnout that comes with the 26-hour drive back to Bowie.
The traveling hasn’t worn him down yet.
“Yes it does make you a bit sore but it’s all worth it in the end.
“You’re away from family a pile and you group up more with the rodeo guys. It plays a big effect,” says Gagnon.
“You’re always gone, so when you’re at home it’s really not home.”
Finals competition standings
The constant travel didn’t wear on the rookie during the competition either. Finishing his final round strong, he rode reigning PBR Canada Bull of the Year Happy Camper for 89 points, landing him second overall.
Gagnon earned a $4,539.85 check and is now ranked in the Top 10 in national standings.
Roy didn’t have a successful run over the weekend, but his love of the sport means facing it and moving on.
“I find if you think of it as a job, you’re not going to succeed as well. If you just go and have fun, hang out with your buddies and do a little bull riding, make a little money, it makes the pay an awful lot better.”
Josh Frost finished third, beginning the final night of competition with an 82.5-point ride on Tough As Kade and covering Jack Sprat for 84 points.
The event concluded with Jordan Hansen getting a perfect 3-for-3 to capture his career-first win in the PBR Canada Monster Energy Tour. Hansen was ecstatic that the rides went so well, but he’s excited for more upcoming travel.
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- By Casey Richardson