13 horses from Calgary Stampede Ranch compete at National Finals Rodeo

Horses from the Calgary Stampede Ranch prepare for bareback and saddle bronc competitions at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. (Submitted by the Calgary Stampede - image credit)
Horses from the Calgary Stampede Ranch prepare for bareback and saddle bronc competitions at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. (Submitted by the Calgary Stampede - image credit)

The National Finals Rodeo is underway in Las Vegas, and among the 210 horses on hand for bareback and saddle bronc events, 13 are from the Calgary Stampede Ranch.

The NFR is commonly described as the Super Bowl of rodeo — the grand finale of the cowboy calendar.

"For us to have 13 of the 210 is quite a feat," said Tyler Kraft in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener. He manages the Calgary Stampede Ranch and its stock contracting business.

"We're very excited when they do get voted into the NFR itself."

Contestants at the rodeo vote on the animals they'd like to take part in the competitions, Kraft said, with horses travelling from ranches all across North America.

In both the bareback and the saddle bronc events, rodeo participants attempt to hang on to a bucking horse. The performance of both the rider and the horse contributes to the points awarded, according to the Calgary Stampede website.

Eight of the horses, from Weekend Departure to Zastron Acres, will compete in the saddle bronc competition. Five will compete in bareback, including Xplosive Skies and Yipee Kibitz.

LISTEN | Tyler Kraft describes what it's like to be in Las Vegas with 13 Calgary horses:

Kraft says the horses' names come from the year they were born.

"Yesterday's Delivery, for example, she was born in 2011. So she's branded with a Y to not only represent the year that she was born, but then we've thrown an awareness of the mare that she … was out of," he said.

"Her mom was Zippy Delivery. So, that's how you get Yesterday's Delivery."

Submitted by the Calgary Stampede
Submitted by the Calgary Stampede

Both male and female horses take part in the competitions, typically when they're between seven and 16-years-old, says Dr. Greg Evans, a veterinarian who's worked with the Calgary Stampede Ranch for about 15 years.

"I would say in most, in a good number of stock contractor's herds, that the females might even outnumber the males," he said. "There are some bucking horses that will buck … right up to around 20 years of age."

Having taken care of many of the hundreds of horses at the ranch, Evans says he does feel a connection to the animals competing at the NFR.

"I've been involved with them since they were young horses and have sort of followed them up from those training trips all the way to their first, you know, competitive rodeos," he said.

"Now they're at the sort of peak of their athletic career. So it is neat to sort of follow those ones along."

WATCH | Take a look at how the Calgary Stampede Ranch operates in this archived video:

Kraft says he's particularly excited for Tokyo Bubbles, a 15-year-old gelding who's been to the NFR eight times already. Then there's some 7-year-olds, Cloudy Skies and Come Along, entering the competition for the first time.

"We're real excited for them to be making their debut on the world stage," he said.

"We're promoting these horses and the Calgary Stampede brand all year long.... This is kind of the Super Bowl."

Alberta also has a contingent of cowboys competing at the NFR, including Zeke Thurston, Kolby Wanchuk, Kole Ashbacher, Dawson Hay, Logan Hay and Jeremy Buehler.

The competition runs until Dec. 10.

WATCH | Cowboys and cowgirls explain what it's like to ride in a saddle bronc competition: