Just over a month after a 16-year-old died in a rodeo accident in Thorsby, Alta., the show was back on, with hundreds of people travelling from near and far to participate in the Haymaker Rodeo.
Ben Stieger, from Turner Valley, was taking part in a saddle bronc junior training event run by the John Duffy Bucking School at the Thorsby Haymaker Centre on April 5 when he was bucked off. People in attendance had called the event a “freak accident”. Stieger was declared dead at the scene.
One rodeo official has noticed a trend - not just over the last few weeks, but over the past several years - in how many participants are opting to wear safety equipment during competitions.
“I’d say 90 per cent of the cowboys are wearing protective vest and then with the bull riders likely 95 per cent of them are wearing helmets now,” said Glen Nash, president of the Wildrose Rodeo Association.
But that wasn’t always the case.
“Earlier, you never saw many people wearing helmets,” said Nash. “It’s just been lately they’ve been starting to do it, over the last three or four years. It’s a new group coming up and they don’t want to get smashed up in the face and head and stay away from head injuries mostly.”
However, there were still many participants at the event that were not wearing protective gear in competitions.
Safety equipment is only mandatory for junior riders. Once you turn 18, it becomes an option. In the end, it’s still up to the riders.
Beau MacDonald came from Strathmore to enjoy the competition. He comes from a family of cowboys and has seen first hand how dangerous the rodeo can be. This time, he chose not to compete.
“It’s dangerous, everyone who does it knows that,” said MacDonald. “You know you are going to get hurt once or twice if you keep doing it. It’s not a joke. It’s a sport and it’s a rough sport. It’s the most dangerous sport in the world, in my eyes.”