In a homecoming that he could not refuse, Kolby Wanchuk will be returning to the Cloverdale Rodeo this weekend as a saddle bronc rider.
Kolby may have been destined to compete on the rodeo circuit — he has been working rodeos since he was just two years old, lending a hand to his dad, Rick. Cloverdalians might know Rick better as Ricky Ticky Wanchuk, a beloved and long-serving rodeo clown who is a familiar sight at the annual May long weekend rodeo.
Although Kolby wasn’t able to help out a whole lot during his first Cloverdale Rodeo, in the years to come he would be able to contribute more and more. Every summer, Kolby travelled with his dad to close to 30 rodeos, always starting with the Cloverdale Rodeo on May long weekend and working straight through to September.
“You couldn’t pick a better way to spend your childhood,” Kolby told the Reporter. “Travelling around with your family … getting paid to act stupid and have fun.”
It was natural for him, as he got older, to move into rodeo competition. “I kind of always wanted to ride broncs,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you exactly why.”
The first time he rode a bronc was when he was “just about 17.”
“The little horse came out and went to spinning. I didn’t get a whole lot done. I stretched a bit and made the whistle,” he said. “I got off and thought, ‘This is easier than I [expected].’”
He laughed when he explained that he “got thrown off soon after that” — before he started to get too confident.
Now 22, the Alberta native has since had his share of injuries, and then some. His most recent break was also his most severe; in July 2017, he broke his skull.
He ended up with six plates, 27 screws and some mesh. And yet, he’d be the first to tell you that he was fortunate.
“I was very, very lucky. Extremely lucky there,” he said. “Somehow I didn’t even end up with a concussion out of it, from what the doctors could tell.”
He treated it like a broken bone — not exactly his first — and simply waited for it to heal. Two months after, he was travelling down to Texas for a couple of rodeos.
This is his second year competing as a professional saddle bronc rider, and he’s already made an impression. As of Tuesday morning, Kolby was sitting 17th in the saddle bronc riding world standings, as per the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and was fifth in Canada.
He’s already been to about 35 competitions this year — from Washington to Texas and back again — but the Cloverdale Rodeo will kick the season off in earnest.
He is “absolutely” looking forward to it, he said. Cloverdale’s rodeo is an invitational competition — they invite the best cowboys and cowgirls in North America to compete for $300,000 in prize money — and he’s been “waiting to get the call for a while.”
“Cloverdale has always been one of my favourite rodeos,” he said. “It’s always exciting to head out there and start the season off.”
He was last at the Cloverdale Rodeo about five years ago, helping out his dad.
“I’m very excited to be back there,” he said. “It’s always one where the horses are going to buck.
“They have some of the best stock — they bring the good ones to Cloverdale. Everything’s fresh.”
And, of course, his dad will be right there to watch him compete.
“My dad really likes being at any rodeo I’m riding in now, and it’s great because I can help him clown during his events and he gets to watch me ride. He’s always been a huge support of my passion for saddle bronc riding and does whatever he can do to help keep me on the road,” Kolby said in a Tuesday press release.
Kolby Wanchuk is competing in Pool B at the Cloverdale Rodeo this weekend, on from May 17 to 20.