It wasn’t exactly the ride that Dylan Bilton had in mind for his hometown rodeo when he jumped aboard Kesler Rodeo’s Starburst on Friday night at the Innisfail Pro Rodeo at the Daines Rodeo Ranch.
Last season, Bilton finished his hometown rodeo in a 3-4-5 split with Colin Adams and Matt Lait, but it wasn’t to be this year.
“I knew it was a good horse and I didn’t want to mess it up. He kind of just had one of those stutter steps there at the beginning and I kind of stubbed my toe the first couple of jumps,” said the bareback rider, who managed to post a qualified ride on the horse but wasn’t able to crack the leaderboard.
“I felt like I finished off the ride real good but just wasn’t quite enough points to win it.”
Bilton, who hails from Red Deer County just outside of Innisfail, is making a strong push to qualify for his first Canadian Finals Rodeo as a pro this season after finishing just shy of the top 15 cut off last year, ending the season in 19th place just $3,000 out of the 15th spot.
“I feel better this year than I did last year. I feel stronger, I feel like I’m riding better. So I definitely want to get to all of the rodeos I can and make sure I get there this year,” said the former Canadian Novice Bareback runner-up.
For Bilton, that means getting to as many rodeos as possible between now and November, when the CFR gets underway in Edmonton, including his hometown rodeo in Innisfail.
“It’s real nice. You always want to try a little extra hard because you don’t want to mess up in front of everyone you know,” laughed Bilton about competing in front of his hometown crowd.
Despite the tough ride in Innisfail, Bilton has been making some waves in the bareback standings so far this year, currently sitting in ninth place with $2,632.28 in the early rodeo this year.
“I’ve been trying to hit all of the rodeos and see if I can make enough money to make the CFR. I’ve made a few cheques here and there. I was hoping in Innisfail to do a little bit better than I did but that’s alright. There’s always more rodeos next weekend.”
This year’s Innisfail rodeo was a good one that featured good crowds, good weather and some really great rodeo action.
“It went really well. We had really, really amazing weather and without the weather you can’t get the crowds. But we had the crowds and the weather so we lucked out this weekend,” said Denver Daines, one of the organizers of the rodeo.
The weekend featured four performances and included some of the top cowboys and cowgirls in the world competing in nearly every major rodeo event.
“Our rodeo is pretty well known to have really good bucking horses and some of the top cowboys that come up. We had some great matchups,” Daines said.
Among those roughstock matchups were bullrider Ty Pankowitz’s 86 point ride on the Calgary Stampede’s Uptown Funk to win that event, defending Canadian Champion bareback rider Caleb Bennet putting on a 87.5 point ride aboard Imperial Beach from Kesler Championship Rodeo, and, one of the highlights of the weekend, 2008 Canadian Champion saddle bronc rider Dusty Hausauer riding the Calgary Stampede’s Stampede Warrior to an 86 point ride to claim the top prize.
It was the second year in a row that Innisfail’s top prize was won aboard Stampede Warrior.
“It was a great rodeo. We have some of the best stock contractors in Canada and you’re going to see good rides like that,” Daines said.
Other champions crowned last weekend were Dallas Frank, who put up a time of 4.4 seconds to win the steer wrestling, Steele Dapoli and Kasper Roy, who won the team roping with a time of 5.7 seconds, Rhen Richard, who put up a time of 8.4 seconds in Thursday night’s slack to win the tie-down roping, and Cayla Melby, who just barely beat her mother, Jane Melby’s time of 15.778 seconds with a time of 15.634 seconds to win the barrel racing.