Rodeo veterans train tomorrow’s riders

Meadow Stampede Association volunteers Terry Villeneuve (left) and Mark Campbell look on as Ricky Lafond attempts to maintain his balance during Saturday’s calf and steer riding clinic at the Meadow Lake Stampede Grounds.

Meadow Stampede Association volunteers Terry Villeneuve (left) and Mark Campbell look on as Ricky Lafond attempts to maintain his balance during Saturday’s calf and steer riding clinic at the Meadow Lake Stampede Grounds.

by Phil Ambroziak

The Meadow Lake Stampede Association may have roped some future riders.

In preparation for the annual indoor rodeo, held as part of Stampede Week June 2-9, the group hosted a calf and steer riding clinic at the Stampede Grounds on Saturday for children between the ages of eight and 16. Fifteen participants were on hand to learn from seasoned veterans.

“We’re just trying to spark some interest by having this area’s cowboys and cowgirls get started in the sport at a younger age,” explained Meadow Lake Stampede Association member and former bull rider Terry Villeneuve. “In recent years, we’ve seen it swing from quite a few contestants one year to not so many the next. We want to keep it more consistent because, when you have a lot of local contestants at the rodeo, it brings out more local fans.”

Villeneuve also said the Stampede Association believes it’s important to keep the spirit of the rodeo and the cowboy lifestyle alive.

“One way we do this is with our Buck Off event in September,” he said. “We’ve held that event for two years now as a way of getting more kids in their high teens involved in the sport. Now, we’re taking a big step back to give the younger kids a taste of what it’s all about. It could turn out some of them may want to pursue it further as they get older.”

Among those to take part in Saturday’s clinic was eight-year-old Dorintosh area resident Birch Campbell. His mother, Bluesette, said rodeo is something that’s interested her son for a while now and she’s never one to discourage his interests.

“We live on a ranch and have calves here,” Campbell said. “Birch is always jumping on them and trying to get them to do something, but they never really do. This is about giving him an opportunity to take part in something unique and to take part in something physical that requires athleticism.”

While it’s not a requirement, Saturday’s participants do have the option of competing at the indoor rodeo Friday, June 6. And, although the rodeo continues to be a popular event each year, Villeneuve said, like anything, the level of interest from the general public can have its highs and lows.

“Today we have a handful of regular riders – maybe half a dozen – whereas years ago we had 20-plus,” he said. “Over time, I think as the community grew and other programs came available, people’s interests changed.”

Whether or not Birch could have a future in rodeo, Campbell isn’t opposed to keeping an open mind.
“I’ve never had any dreams of my child becoming a professional bull rider because I think that could be a very dangerous field to get into, but this is certainly a good experience for him,” she noted. “It’s my job, as a parent, to expose him to all kinds of opportunities.”

Villeneuve, meanwhile, said the clinic involved a lot more than just riding.

“There’s a lot of mental preparation, physical preparation, learning respect for the animal,” he said. “My number one priority is safety – it’s not about having a good ride as much as it’s about getting on safely and getting off safely. That’s my philosophy.”

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