Rookie rides high at Canadian Finals Rodeo

It doesn't take a big man to ride a big bull.

A lot is made of Beau McArthur's stature -- all of five foot five and 115 pounds.

But the 18-year-old from Cochrane, Alta., is among the top bull riders in Canada in his rookie year and a national title at the Canadian Finals Rodeo this week would put him head and shoulders above the rest.

In fact, McArthur thinks his lithe frame is an advantage when it comes to hanging on to a bull for eight seconds.

He can make adjustments on the fly faster.

"I can do things that a lot of big people can't," he said recently from Cochrane. "I don't have to make a big move if the bull is spinning into my hand and I kind of get behind.

"It's not as big a move for me as it would be for a tall guy."

He takes some good-natured ribbing from the other athletes for his compact size, but there is another advantage in the area of self-preservation.

"The smaller you are, the less there is for the bull to hit," said McArthur.

McArthur finished the Canadian rodeo season as the top rookie and fourth in the bull riding standings with winnings of $20,133.

Kagan Sirett of Neilburg, Sask., topped the standings with $31,628 followed by Scott Schiffner of Stettler, Alta., and Luke Ellingson, of Weyburn, Sask.

The top 10 in each event -- saddle bronc, bareback, calf roping, steer wrestling, bull riding and ladies barrel racing -- have qualified for the Canadian championship.

Team roping, novice saddle bronc, novice bareback and boys' steer riding are also part of the CFR competition that offers $575,000 in prize money.

The CFR, which in the past has drawn over 90,000 to Edmonton's Skyreach Centre, opens Wednesday night with the first of six performances.

The athletes with the most points on Sunday win their respective events.

McArthur has already drawn his first three bulls -- Mission Impossible, Tad Pole Skoal, Canada's bull of the year last year, and After Blaster -- all of which McArthur says are big-point beasts.

"I've got the bulls to do it," said McArthur. "As long as I do my part, I've got a pretty good shot.

"It would be great (to win the title), but the business isn't done until the last bull is out of the arena."

McArthur competed at the CFR as a 12- and 13-year-old in the boys steer riding, so the scene in Edmonton won't be new to him.

"You just take it as another rodeo, there's just a lot more people," he said.

He believes the key to doing well at the Canadian championship is consistency, which he demonstrated during the season with money rides at almost every rodeo he entered.

"To go to any finals, if you can consistently win a bit every rodeo, it all adds up," he said. "Instead of having a two-week hot spell and winning everywhere, if you just win a little bit every time you nod your head, I think that's better.

"It means you ride your bulls a lot more."

In addition to Sirett in bull riding, the top money winners this season were Kenton Randle of Fort Vermilion, Alta., in bareback, Glen O'Neill of Water Valley, Alta., in saddle bronc, Al Bouchard of Altario, Alta., in calf roping, Todd Maughan of Calgary in steer wrestling and Jill Besplug of Claresholm, Alta., in ladies barrel racing.

All except O'Neill will be part of the Canadian team that takes on the U.S. Feb. 9-11 in the Winter Olympic Challenge Rodeo in Salt Lake City.

Although O'Neill has landed immigrant status, he is still considered an Australian so Rod Hay of Wildwood, Alta., will be part of the Canadian team.

By Donna Spencer