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Colorado bareback rider wins big in Helena; Oklahoma barrel racer repeats at Last Chance Stampede

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Seth Lee Hardwick rides Current Smile

Seth Lee Hardwick rides Current Smile in the bareback riding event at the Last Chance Stampede on Saturday night.

HELENA – Bareback rider Seth Hardwick’s rodeo year has been up and down, just like a carnival ride at the Last Chance Stampede in Helena.

And after scoring 86.5 points, he was at the top of the ride.

The Ranchester, Wyoming, cowboy rode the Brookman Rodeo mare Current Smile for 86.5 points to win his event at the 60th anniversary of the Stampede and Fair.

He had never ridden the horse before, but he researched her, watching videos before coming to Helena.

“That horse bucked out there for three or four jumps then turned back in a circle, then jumped out of it. It was a pretty good ride. You can’t ask for much better than that.”

His year has been up and down, just like a carnival ride, starting out slow in the winter, then hot, then cold, and now hot.

“I had a really slow winter,” he said, “then a pretty good spring and early summer. The last couple weeks have been really slow. It’s been a bit of a drought.”

“Then comes Helena,” the exuberant cowboy said, “to pick me back up and get me going again, to finish strong.”

He’s currently ranked twenty-sixth in the PRCA world standings, about $18,000 out of qualifying for his second Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the pinnacle of the pro rodeo world and where world champions are determined.

A win in Helena will leapfrog him closer to the top.

But there’s plenty more rodeo before the season ends Sept. 30.

He and his traveling partners Orin Larsen and Kody Lamb will compete as much as they can.

“We’ll enter everything we can, go everywhere we can, and win as much money as possible. “

This is the first time Hardwick has competed in Helena. The last weekend in July is busy with rodeos: Cheyenne, Wyoming; Nampa, Idaho; Salinas, California; and rodeos in Canada. But the pandemic changed things: Salinas moved its rodeo to the fall, and Hardwick isn’t going to cross the border, so the men were able to compete at the Stampede.

“What better than to compete at a $10,000-rodeo five hours from my house?” Hardwick said. “It’s much closer than Canada.” Ten thousand dollars is added to the bareback riding pot.

For the second time in a row, Dona Kay Rule has won the Stampede.

The Minco, Okla. cowgirl, ranked third in the world standings, turned in a time of 17.33 seconds.

She’s riding the AQHA/WPRA Barrel Racing Horse of the Year, High Valor, “Valor,” who has won the award twice.

Valor has carried Rule to two Wrangler NFR qualifications and she’s on target to make a third, but acknowledges that the competition is stiff. “There are a lot of good horses and horsewomen out there.”

After Helena, she heads to Idaho Falls, Idaho; Heber City, Utah, Jerome, Idaho and Hermiston, Oregon, in the next few weeks. She’s staying in the Northwest because of the climate.

“I came out in June, and though it would be best for my horse’s health to not change climate too much, so I stayed up here.

“There’s a lot less humidity and even though the temperature is fairly hot, I feel like changing climates would be a bit more difficult for his system.”

She has been married to her husband John for 41 years, and they are rarely separated for this long. Before she began rodeoing full time, the couple worked together in the same saddle shop. “It’s tough on both of us,” she said.

The team roping title went to header Caden Camp, Belgrade, Mont., and heeler Delon Parker, Worden, Mont. Camp won third in the steer wrestling, and was able to secure the coveted all-around title, which includes an elk ivory 14-karat gold ring, custom made by Jensen Jewelers. Camp is a student at Gillette (Wyo.) College; he will graduate in May of 2023.

Other 2021 Last Chance Stampede champions include steer Sterling Lambert, Fallon, Nev. (3.5 seconds); tie-down roper Beau Cooper, Stettler, Alb. (7.7 seconds); saddle bronc rider Tanner Butner, Daniel, Wyo. (88 points) and bull rider Cole Wagner, Valier, Mont. (85.5 points).

The 20121 Miss Last Chance Stampede Queen was crowned tonight. Clancy Olson, Helena, Mont., won the title. The nineteen-year-old cowgirl is a student at Miles Community College in Miles City, Mont. and is studying equine science. She is the daughter of Joe and Vanessa Olson and served as the 2018 Montana Saddle Club Association Queen.

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