Saddle bronc rider Kolby Wanchuk is competing for the first time at the Cloverdale Rodeo this weekend after 20 years helping his dad, beloved rodeo clown Ricky-Ticky, entertain the crowds.
Rodeo is all about family for Kolby Wanchuk.
The 22-year-old cowboy attended his first Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair at age two, entertaining the crowds with his father, rodeo clown Ricky-Ticky, and the family’s dog, a pair of rabbits and some chickens.
This weekend marks Kolby’s 20th year at the rodeo — but this time, he’s here as a serious competitor.
A rising star on the rodeo circuit, the young saddle bronc rider was thrilled to receive an invitation to compete at Cloverdale, his dad said Saturday, several hours before the start of the rodeo.
Standing on the edge of the dirt arena, Ricky-Ticky crossed his arms across his chest to contain the nervous energy running through him. Kolby stood quietly next to him, dressed in black with a gleaming gold belt buckle. A few hundred metres away, the broncs waited patiently in their pens.
During the afternoon events, father and son will be entertaining the crowds as clowns. But in the evening, when the bronc riding is set to start, Kolby will switch roles.
“When he’s riding, I’ll be out there, doing my job,” said Ricky-Ticky, dressed in his trademark purple hat with yellow feather. “I can’t get too sidetracked. But, of course, I’ll be watching him. I won’t be relaxed until he rides.”
Cloverdale is the first of 30 Canadian rodeos that Ricky-Ticky and his family will work this summer. The beloved clown, who calls Sherwood Park, Alta. his home, has been on the circuit for 42 years, since the day a rodeo organizer was short a bull fighter and asked him to help.
Back then, bull fighters (the men who distract the bull from the cowboy after he’s been thrown off his animal) doubled as rodeo clowns, and he soon found his calling.
Driving long distances between rodeos, Ricky-Ticky comes up with routines that keep crowds in stitches during lulls in the action. Kolby and his younger brother Kyle grew up on the circuit, helping their dad, as well as watching their mom compete in barrel racing.
Rodeo clown Ricky-Ticky Wanchuk with his sons Kolby, left, and Kyle. The boys grew up entertaining crowds on the rodeo circuit. Kolby, now 22, is competing in saddle bronc riding at the Cloverdale Rodeo this weekend.Kolby began riding broncs at age 17. Now, he trains year round, following the rodeos to Texas and California, before heading north to ride in the Canadian competitions through the summer months.
When asked to describe bronc riding, Kolby said “it’s a dance, but also a fight at the same time.”
The dance part entails moving with the horse, “feeling what he’s doing and reacting to that,” while the fight part is about staying in control, he said.
“It’s about leading the dance,” added Ricky-Ticky.
Horse and rider each receive a separate score that is then combined. Part of rodeo is drawing a good horse that’s ready to buck. As one of the first events of the season, Cloverdale’s horses are usually raring to go.
The judges watch for eight seconds. After that, the cowboy needs to “find a way to get off” without being hurt, said Kolby. He’s had his share of scary tumbles, as well as injuries.
His plan is to place well Saturday and Sunday, in order to qualify for Monday’s final.
The family will pack up and hit the road after that.
“It’s amazing,” Kolby said of the rodeo life. “Travelling around as a family. It’s a great way to see North America while earning a living. You can’t beat it.”
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