Bucking broncos and bulldoggers ride into town

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Photo: Jay Ouellet

Unlikely dance partners. A bull rider must keep his composure for eight seconds.

In the shadow of Quebec City’s anniversary celebrations, the sleepy town of Ste. Catherine de la Jacques Cartier was having its own fun. Bulldogging, roping, and bareback riding were the orders of the day at the town’s fifth annual rodeo.
This year’s rodeo was on track to beat last year’s attendance record of 10,000 despite the rival festivities in Quebec City. Friday’s attendance hovered around 3,000, while Saturday’s attendance soared to 4,000. The population of Ste. Catherine de la Jacques Cartier alone counts just over 5,000 residents.

“The longer we put on the rodeo, the more popular it gets. ... The sport is constantly evolving in Quebec,” said Sylviane Gagné, the spokesperson for the event.

The rodeo not only has numbers, it’s also lively. Ste. Catherine de la Jacques Cartier has won the prize for the Best Ambiance the last two years from the Association des Cowboys de l’Est du Canada.

 

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Unlikely dance partners. A bull rider must keep his composure for eight seconds.

 

Gagné says the rodeo’s popularity is largely due to the support of people who live in the region.

A number of the riders were local as well. Pascal Vézina of Pont-Rouge was feeling the pressure of riding close to home despite his 15 years of riding broncos bareback.

“I know a lot of people here so I hope I ride well,” Vézina said. Pont-rouge is a mere 13 kilometres from Sainte Catherine, “but my girlfriend is also one of the judges,” he said, laughing.

The sport is now a hobby for Vézina; he works as a cow trainer. Vézina says it’s hard to make a living in the sport.

“When I won the North-Eastern Championships in the United States, it was enough to pay for my expenses for the year and a little extra.”

Vézina was the only rider who seemed a little nervous. All the other riders, including 15-year-old Maxime Bouchard, were surprisingly calm and collected, joking and talking amongst themselves.

The Drummondville native comes from a long line of rodeo entertainers; his father is a bullfighter, his sister barrel races, and two of his uncles are also rodeo riders.

“Breathing is the most important,” Bouchard said, adding, “Once you’re on the ride you have to be aggressive; if you go in soft, you’ll fall.”

“Sometimes the horse is bucking so hard you lose consciousness in bursts,” another rodeo veteran, Éric Amos added.

Amos explained the camaraderie amongst riders exists mostly because the rider competes against the horse, not against the other riders. If a rider manages to stay on his horse for eight seconds, he is awarded a score – half of the points for the rider’s performance, the other half for the horse.

“Guys with two or three years of experience can win simply by drawing a great bucking horse,” Amos said.

A number of bucking horses, calf ropers, bull riders and other things western and rodeo will be touring around the Quebec City region this summer and fall. Look out for the rodeo in Saint Victor en Beauce, July 19 to 27; in Inverness, August 26 to 31; in Ste.Tite, September 5 to 14; in La Guadeloupe, September 21 to 23; and the finals in St. Agapit on October 3 to 5. Links to the events can be found at the Association des Cowboys de l’Est du Canada website:

www.acecrodeo.com/rodeoevents.