The 2008 Ontario Finals Rodeo The Province's Premier Rodeo Finals: The OFR
Thursday, 02 October 2008 19:00


The culmination of the 51st season of rodeo brought the Ontario Finals Rodeo, mentioned herein as the OFR to a familiar venue, Stratford, Ontario. The Ontario Rodeo Association celebrated the biggest schedule in the Province with 12 events to qualify for the 3-Round intense competition held in conjunction with the 167th Edition of the Stratford Fall Fair.


As the contestants checked in, they were informed of the ORA’s offer of Commemorative OFR Jackets, which incidentally are available for a limited time online at www.ontariorodeoassoc.com, which added to the atmosphere of the Rodeo. As the season had played out, there were only a handful of events where the Year-end Champions were within reach, which meant it was really going to be a free-for-all for the OFR Title Gist Silversmith Buckles.

At 7pm on Friday Night, the OFR Commenced with Round #1.

Selkirk, Ontario’s Rob Smelser rolled into the 2008 OFR in the #1 Spot in Bareback Bronc Riding. Even if only one other person were the sole person to ride a horse, he would still be crowned ORA Year-end Champion. The exciting part of his introduction was the Cowboy’s history. A mere 4 seasons previous, he was an invite to the 2004 OFR where he made his first ever career qualified Ride. But hands-down champion would have issues with the Best Bucking Stock in the North-East. The horses were an eclectic mix of A Bar K Rodeo’s stock from Holstein, ON, and Rawhide Rodeo’s stock from Pontypool, ON and Leicester, NY. The A Bar K Stock were the picks of the A-Pen from the Central Ontario Ranch, and the Rawhide Rodeo Pen were the Elite from both the Canadian Herd and the American Herd, with a majority fresh from the Championship Short-go Round at the second-largest rodeo in the Country, Ste. Tite, QC the weekend previous. Smelser’s First Round Draw was Rawhide Rodeo’s #C60 Big Gun, a solid bucker that was unridden in 2 attempts in Ontario in ’07. The Champ of Round #1 would be the sole contender to ride one, Kalvyn Doan, a Woodstock, ON Cowboy. Doan, a 3-time Ontario High School Rodeo Association Year-end and Finals Champion Bareback Rider covered Rawhide Rodeo’s #44 Chunky Monkey for 61-Points. An exciting start for the cowboy’s first OFR.

Steer Wrestling was an event that could have the OFR decide the ORA Year-end Championship. Season-leader Matt Mousseau of Dashwood, ON, the 2008 ORA Year-end Champion, had just over an 800-point lead over the second place Alvinston, ON Tyler Foster, the Reigning ORA All-around Champion. The round was pretty gruelling as a contender for Rookie of the Year, Dan MacIver of Shelburne, ON pieced together a 4.9 second run. As they worked up the order, ORA #2 Foster smoked a 3.9-second Run, tying Cory Illman’s 2003 Arena Record. With anticipation, it was expected for Mousseau to unseat the time, especially as he held the fastest time of the season at 3.7 in Leamington. However, he broke the barrier for a 10-second penalty to take his 4.2 up to 14.2. He would still place, but Foster’s Round-Winning Run brought him 600 points out of First.

The most-dangerous Junior Rodeo event of Junior Bull Riding was also an event that could see the OFR Champion become the ORA Champion. London, Ontario’s Tyler Ewart-Collver, the reigning Ontario High School Rodeo Association’s Rookie of the Year, had just short of an OFR Round-Win buffer over the second and almost third place contestants rolling into round #1 of the OFR. As the round ended, Ewart-Collver placed second vs. Rawhide Rodeo’s #541 Tiny Dancer, while Hagar, ON’s Matt Kippax, the 2008 OHSRA Year-end and Finals Champion Bull Rider won the round with 71 points vs. Rawhide Rodeo’s #NT Whacko Jacko.

Back into the Timed-event end for Team Roping, a tight match-up was in play for the Year-end Championship. On the Heading side, Shelburne, ON’s Jason Thomson led the standings over one of his old Team Roping Partners, Campbellford, ON’s Trevor Dunk. The two contenders had won the 2005 OFR Together, and now were battling out for the Year-end Championship by about 1,000 points. A closer race was prevailing on the heeling side between Rockwood, ON’s Ross and John Scully. The two were just less than 200 points apart, and while John Scully had led most of the 2008 Season, Ross Scully had claimed the lead during the final weekend of open competition. 3 of the 7 teams would catch. Trevor Dunk had also qualified for the OFR as a Heeler, and his header, Jeremy McCulligh of Fergus, ON, the 4-time ORA Year-end Champion Header would win the go with a 7.7. Dunk also made a second cheque by placing 2nd in with the previously mentioned heeler Ross Scully. The bump would bring Dunk closer in the Heading and help Ross Scully advance more in the season standings, claiming just over a 375-point lead for the second go.

Sticking in the Timed-event End, the next event would the Fastest Event of Rodeo, Break-away Roping. Qualifying in the number 6 spot, Georgetown, ON’s Charlotte Eskra, the 2008 Roping Association of Ontario’s Finals Champion would post a 2.8 to win the go. Brantford, ON’s Stephanie Gregson followed her with a 4.3 to end out 3rd, and near the top of the Order, Sheri Cahill of Strathroy, ON was second fastest overall with a 3.3. What was really interesting in the First-go was the new Rule brought in following the 2006 Ontario Finals Rodeo. The controversial rule related to the use of 2-loops in the Finals. In the other Timed Events, a second loop is allowed if the first attempt isn’t successful. In Tiedown Roping, the rope can drag or be removed as the Roper rolls on with the Run. However the new Rule in Breakaway roping states that once the first loop breaks off the saddle horn, the Run ends, no matter if it was a catch or not. This rule would affect one of the contestants, and cause a little confusion with a Judge’s Conference. It also set the tone for the remainder of the Finals: there would be no room for error.

The second Bronc Riding Event, Saddle Bronc Riding had the same calibre of Broncs as the Bareback Bronc Riding. The Year-end Championship was almost guaranteed to London, ON’s Dean Dobinson, a cowboy who had won the title 3 times before. The marquis Match-up would be the best ride of the Round, and it was a massive Ride. The Bronc was a long-time favourite in Ontario, Rawhide Rodeo’s #N35 Mardi Gras, the 2005 International Finals Rodeo Saddle Bronc of the Finals. The Cowboy was Lonoke, Arkansas’ Tyler West, the 2006 International Finals Youth Rodeo Saddle Bronc Champion, and 2007 International Professional Rodeo Association Reserve World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider. The pair posted a 79-Point Ride for the new Arena Record, formerly held by BJ Prince from 2005 at 77 points, and the Highest Score of 2008, held by both West and Prince. Though that ride would take the top money of the night, the Season Leader Dobinson would also ride for 2nd, along with most of the remaining finalists covering. It could be said that they definitely came to ride at the 2008 OFR.

The most Interactive Event of Rodeo, Cowgirl Barrel Racing was going to be an OFR-only Title Race. Acton, ON’s Robin Williamson, the 2007 Rawhide Rodeo Extreme Tour Year-end Champion and 2x Extreme Tour Finals Champion had a stellar Season. She had hands-down won the 2008 ORA Season Championship. She had won the Championship Round at Ste. Tite, Quebec a week earlier, and was leading the IPRA World Standings by over 6,500 points. Williamson was on Fire, along with her horse that was nothing but electric, the Championship pair would look to dominate another 2008 event. Unlike the other events, the Order was drawn, and Williamson would be third to Run. Caledon, ON’s Kelly Caslor, competing at her first OFR of the new Millennium posted an 14.915 to set a new Arena Record. Williamson, a travelling partner of Caslor’s, ran 44 hundredths of a second faster with a 14.871 for an even “newer” Arena Record. The following run after that was Tamaran Gray of Hillsburgh, ON who ran a 14.879, 8 thousandths of a second off of Williamson. This showed why Barrel Racing uses all of the number on the Electric Timer. During Barrel Racing, an injury occurred to the 2nd place Denise Riddell of Dundalk, ON. As the medics prepared her for the enroute ambulance, Funny-man Ryan Rodrigues and Announcer Joe Scully filled the time with numerous antics. Continuing with the “history in the making”, Rodrigues got Scully to do his first ever Headstand...

Continuing with Barrel Racing, Junior Barrel Racing was next. Leading into the first round of the 2008 OFR, the season Leader, Shelby Pattison of Acton, ON, daughter of 2008 ORA Barrel Racing Year-end Champion, Robin Williamson. She had a commanding lead over the field of 5 qualifiers for the Year-end Championship. But as the First-Go concluded, First, Second and Third place points went to the bottom3 of the field to shake up the year-end Standings. Hillsburgh, ON’s Callie Gray, the 2007 OHSRA Rookie of the Year won the go with a New Arena Record of 15.121, taking over a half of a second of the previous record held by Morgan Grant Junior of 15.792 in 2003. The Go-Round win moved Gray from 5th to 4th in the Season Standings.

Similar to the Williamson Barrel Racing Scenario, the Tiedown Roping Year-end Championship was a lock. Shelburne, ON’s Jason Thomson had successfully won his 5th ORA Year-end Tiedown Roping Championship of the New Millennium (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008). Though the one Championship buckle had been spoken for, there was one that remained, the 2008 OFR Tiedown Roping Championship. Similar to the Broncs, a majority of the herd was fresh from the Championship Round of Ste. Tite, Quebec. In the field was the 3rd Rank Jarod Nooren of St. Thomas, ON, who had flown home from his first year on a Rodeo Scholarship at University in Oklahoma for the 2008 OFR. Nooren had been roping well in the South by posting numerous 8-second runs, however wasn’t able to put a run together. The Season leading Thomson was last to rope and won the round with a smooth 11.1.

In the Original Extreme Sport, Man vs. Beast, Bull Riding, Brantford, ON’s Luke McCoag has experienced a stellar season. He commenced the year winning the 2008 OHSRA Year-end and Finals Buckles in the event, and was the hands-down, confirmed 2008 Year-end Champion Bull Rider. He sits in the top-10 in the IPRA World Standings. With so much won already, he looked to win another buckle and some more cash. With the Best Bulls in Eastern Canada provided by Brian Norman Bull Contracting and Rawhide Rodeo, it would not be an easy feat to just “call it in” to win the buckle. On top of the exponentially ranker than any other pen in this side of the Great Lakes, the field of Qualifiers for the 2008 OFR would be gunning just as hard, if not harder for the 2008 OFR Championship. OHSRA Year-end Champions, former ORA Year-end Champions, Contenders from Western Canada, Eastern Canada and Brazil were ready to match the Bulls that were at Ste. Tite and had many gates with the Professional Bull Riders. And, as if the Bull Riding Gods were looking down on the OFR Arena, Champion McCoag would draw deep for his first-round bull. Beside McCoag’s name was the famed 228. Round #1 would showcase the 2008 ORA Year-end Champion Bull Rider against the 2007 International Professional Rodeo Association’s Bucking Bull of the Year, Rawhide Rodeo’s World Champion Bull, #228 Bloody Sunday. Previous to this match-up, Bloody Sunday was Unridden after over 10 attempts. Included in that was when Bloody Sunday was victorious over McCoag in Burford, ON this Year. And by Qualifying Order, the pair were last to go. The 8-second Battle for Supremacy seemed to go for an eternity as the bull bucked hard, spun fast and had two bone-jarring direction changes. A sensational match-up with the rematch going to the Cowboy, McCoag won the Round with 83-points.

Following the closing of the first round of competition, the contestants ventured into the Coliseum for some festivities. Since the Stratford Fair Board had purchased a new adjacent fairgrounds, the property where the Rodeo was held, along with the Coliseum had been selected for Sale. The 2008 OFR and 167th Edition of the Stratford Fall Fair would most likely result in the last parties in the Coliseum; so, the contestants and fans alike took advantage of being part of the History. Once that bar closed the contestants and crew ventured into the Shakespearean town to continue the night. Once there, the parties got split, and I got to spend the night with a number of the Season Champions, locals, and some tourists. The highlight of the night had to be a European Import who was trying to dish out “Lashes”...he obviously didn’t get to spend too much time with us...he left with a couple “Lashes”.

An early morning brought us Round #2 of the 2008 OFR. The cast and crew may have felt a little groggy rolling into the start, but, many joked that the 10 am Start was a little later than the traditional 9am “Slacks” that we were accustomed to over the Season. As the first gate opened, however, the adrenaline kicked in, and the Finals kicked into high-gear again.

With the order reversed, the 2008 ORA Season Champion Bareback Rider Rob Smelser started the round just right vs. A Bar K Rodeo’s #69 Elanor. Though two others would cover, the match-up totalling 70-points between Smelser and Elanor was what it took to win the Round, and take the lead of the Aggregate on 1. Grand Valley, Ontario’s Travis Gillman made his first OFR qualified ride for third in the go with a 68, while Ian Charman of Alliston, ON, the 2006 Year-end and Finals Champion Bareback Rider was second with a 69. These scores would all come into play into the Championship Round later that day.

At the Steer Wrestling End, Season-leader Matt Mousseau would start the Round with a solid 5.0 second run. The second-place contestant, Tyler Foster had a great chance to continue his race for the Season Championship...but missed. The miss was tragic, and he then dropped 900-points in the standings off the lead, from his 600-point deficit going into the second go. Ending out the Go-Round, Dan MacIver would place second in the go with a 9.7 to take the lead of the Aggregate, and Mousseau would sit second in the Aggregate only 4.7 seconds back and almost with the Year-end Championship solidified.

Into the second round of Junior Bull Riding, the season leader, Tyler Ewart-Collver was the first to ride, and he went 2 for 2 and led the aggregate with 127 on 2 head. Then, the first go champion, Matt Kippax rode Rawhide Rodeo’s #387 Bobby Brown to take the lead back with 138 on two. As the Junior Bull Riding heads were spinning on that head-to-head match-up, Petrolia, ON’s Michael O’Neill, competing in his first OFR posted a 75 vs. Rawhide Rodeo’s #NT Whacko Jacko for the win of the go, and the new highest score of 2008.

The second go-round of Team Roping had the order Reversed, and the Team of Jason Thomson, seated #1 as a Header and John Scully, seated #2 as a Heeler started things off with a 12.4. They needed a good OFR for the Year-end Championships, and the team they were really competing with for the year-end succumbed to the pressure during the morning round. Only two other teams would catch. Interestingly enough, the Mousseau Cousins, Cody Mousseau of Aylmer, ON, a 2-time OHSRA Year-end Champion, and Matt Mousseau of Dashwood, ON, became the only team to go 2 for two. The numbers came in for the team of Scully and Thomson...Thomson had guaranteed his season win, and Scully had now moved to within 98 points of the Season win. It would ALL come down to the Championship Round for Scully, who was slightly behind his son, Ross Scully in the Heeling.

Go-round #2 of Breakaway Roping saw 5 of the 7 contestants catching, all with smoking runs. Round #1 Champion, Charlotte Eskra would place second with a 3.0 to lead the aggregate with 5.8 on 2. Stephanie Gregson tied the 2003 Arena Record, shared by Sheri Cahill with a 2.4 to win the go and to sit second in the aggregate with 6.7 on 2 head.

The Broncs selected for the Second Round proved quite rank and almost un-rideable in the Saddle Bronc Riding. The Season Leader and 3-time Year-end Champion Dean Dobinson would ride Rawhide Rodeo’s #040 Badlands Molly for second Place with 72-Championship points. The ORA Season #2, and reigning Year-end Champion Saddle Bronc Rider, BJ Prince of Pontypool, ON rode Rawhide Rodeo’s #55 Super Sport to win the Round. Even though the #2 man in the Season Standings would win the Round, the Year-end Championship was then awarded to Dean Dobinson.

Into Barrel Racing, the race was intense with the .044 gap between 1st and 3rd. To Recap, Robin Williamson lead the Aggregate with 14.871, Tamaran Gray was second with 14.879 (.008 back) and Kelly Caslor was third with 14.915. In an odd move, the Aggregate Leader, Williamson, uncharacteristically pulled her horse up at the second barrel, making her time roll down to the 17’s. Next to run was Kelly Caslor, who posted a new Arena Record of 14.710. As the rest of the Runners posted times, last to run was Tamaran Gray, who was in an extremely tight race now that opened up by a third with the Williamson pull-up. She Ran a 14.744 for 2nd in the go, just over 3 hundredths of a second back behind Caslor’s time, but she would take the lead of the aggregate. The OFR Race went from tight, to extremely tight, to uber-tight as Gray’s Aggregate time would be 29.623 on two and Caslor’s time would be 29.625 on two...a difference of two thousandths of a second going into the Championship Round later that afternoon!

Into Junior Barrel Racing next as the Aggregate Leader, Callie Gray would take the lead of the Second-Go early with a better time than her first-round arena record-setting run. The 2nd Ranked cowgirl in the Season Standings, Tamara Weese of Alvinston, ON, the reigning 2x OHSRA Finals and Year-end Champion Junior Barrel Racer placed second, while season Leader Shelby Pattison placed third. With the big pays at the OFR, Gray, whom had qualified 5th for the finals, had now moved up to 3rd into the final round with the record-setting 14.949 putting her first in the second go.

The Season Leader for Tiedown Roping, Jason Thomson led the Aggregate going into the Second Round. He was first to rope and went a little long for a time of 13.0. Combined with his 11.1 in the first-round he set the pace in the aggregate with 24.1 on two. The fastest time of the go was a 9.7 from Jarod Nooren while Cody Mousseau would place second with an 11.3. Mousseau would sit 35.3 on 2 for second in the Aggregate, leaving Thomson well in the driver seat by a 11.3 second buffer.

The last event of the Round was as per usual, the Most Dangerous Sport in the World as voted by the American Sports Writers: Bull Riding. The 2008 ORA Season Champion Bull Rider, Luke McCoag was leading the Aggregate prior to the round, but was thrown off early by Rawhide Rodeo’s #376 Cool Hand Luke. The 2006 ORA Year-end Champion and OFR Champion Bull Rider, Ian Charman of Peterborough, ON covered his second-bull of the Finals to go 144 on 2 to lead the Aggregate. But the Champ of the early perf was a Late-comer to the Tour. At the last Rodeo Weekend of the Season, Preston Ferris of Alberta placed 2nd at the Caledonia Stampede Days. Though he was outside of the Top 7 to Qualify for the OFR, injuries opened the door for the Alternate to compete at his first OFR. His 73-Point ride against Rawhide Rodeo’s #4M Wrap It Up gave him the win of the Round and sat him third in the Aggregate going into the 3rd and final round of the 2008 OFR.

Between rounds, the OFR Arena was cleared, and made way for the 167th Stratford Fall Fair Tug-of-War Competition. The teams were from all across the Country, and were very interesting to watch. Their preparations, practice sessions, and attire attracted the attention of many of the contestants. In fact, the 2008 ORA President, and major player in the 2008 OFR behind-the-scenes, Ed DeWetering became an aficionado about the Sport, as we learned that he had once partaken in many seasons with the organizers. Within moments, a team of Cowboys and Cowgirls were put together to combat the Canadian Champion Teams that had been overseas at a World Championship.

The Cowgirl Team had a 2-girl advantage, and was able to win their match-up versus the best team in the Country. The interesting thing that new observers had caught on to was that the Tug-of-War is actually a battle of wits, strength and perseverance. Their match lasted slightly longer than 2 minutes, an average length by International Standards. The Cowboy Team did not fare as well, though had an amazing showing.

After the Big Ropes were put-away, the 28’, 32’ and 38’ foot ones were brought out for the 3rd and final round of the 2008 OFR.

The set-up for the 3rd go of the 2008 OFR was golden in Bareback Bronc Riding. The field of 5 all had a fair chance of winning the OFR. For almost half the field, they would need the highest score of the week-end. For the other half, the half with the 1-score-down advantage, the top 3 were separated by 2 points, with the 4th only 9 points back. As the Round rolled on, the Province’s Rankest Stock would prevail over the Province’s Best Cowboys. Buck-off after Buck-off, it came to a stop with the 2008 Year-end Champion, Rob Smelser. Waiting for the last victorious Bronc to leave the Arena, it was announced that he had now won both the Season and the OFR. The last ride would be for a show, and all the Championship Round Prize Money. His Draw...Rawhide Rodeo’s #44 Chunky Monkey, the exact same horse that was the sole horse covered back in the 1st Go-round. A crack of the latch, a toot of the 8-second buzzer, and a Qualified Ride totalling 66-points would make him the only contender to cover 2, and the extra bragging rights.

The stage in Steer Wrestling was set for amazing competition as a veteran OFR contestant, Zanis Jordan of Sharon, ON started things off with a 5.0, which was the 3rd fastest time of the finals. Second to work would be the Aggregate Leader, Dan MacIver. He needed a 21.4 to take the lead of the Aggregate; however, a 4.7 would give him the win of the Finals. As the flag dropped at the end of MacIver’s run, the clock stopped at 4.5 to give the Cowboy competing in his first OFR the win of his first OFR. In addition, the aggregate win was just enough points to also crown the Shelburne, ON Cowboy the 2008 ORA Rookie of the Year. At the end of the Round, Matt Mousseau put together a long time of 14.1 which also gave him enough points to win his 3rd Year-end Championship (2005, 2006 and 2008).

For the final round of Junior Bull Riding would be similar to Bareback Bronc Riding as the OFR fans saw buck-off after buck-off. A little Déjà-Vu ensued however with Matt Kippax. 6 months earlier, he was the sole contender to ride every one of his draws at the Ontario High School Rodeo Association. Back to the present, he repeated the feat as he went for 70-points versus Rawhide Rodeo’s #14 Snoop Dogg, a rank Junior Bull that had a season-high 83 percent buck-off percentage. That ride gave Kippax the 2008 OFR Championship, and almost the Season-Championship. But as all of the numbers rolled in, the Season-Leader remained 2nd in the Aggregate, which ultimately resulted in Ewart-Collver becoming the 2008 Year-end Champion Junior Bull Rider.

With Team Roping about to commence, there were all kinds of numbers thrown around, but it would not take a major statistician to prologue the event. Cody and Matt Mousseau were the sole team with 2 steers down, meaning all they needed was a qualified run to win their first OFR Team Roping Championship. As they went up the order, they would post a long run of 30.6, but the cannon fired and the hats flew as they won the Aggregate with 77.8 on 3. More times were posted, but it really came down to the last two teams...Trevor Dunk and Ross Scully vs. Jason Thomson and John Scully for the Year-end Championship in the Heeling. 98 points separated the team. It would be as close as Dunk and Scully were 12.5 on 1 and Thomson and Scully were 12.4 on 1. One steer and one tenth of a second difference between the two. Dunk and Scully got a steer in the loops to in 26.4 Seconds. With Thomson and Scully last to go, they needed to match the time to be one tenth of a second faster for last whole in the Aggregate. 26.4 for the Year-end Championship. Thomson nodded and the run was on. Jaws dropped and hearts sunk as he reached far for the steer; there appeared to be no safety-ing up on the run. He caught and turned the steer. Scully threw the loop one stride off the turn. The music stopped. It was obvious what had transpired as the entire crowd began to roar, but they were trumped by the cheers from the Timed-event End. The Announcer, Joe Scully, brother and son to those involved stated, “Grasshopper....meet Master....with a 6 and 6, they win the Round, and Thomson and Scully are your 2008 Year-end Champions!!!” The 6.6 would also be the fastest time of the 2008 OFR.

At the start of the Championship Round of Breakaway Roping, two contestants had the chance of going 3 for 3 to win the 2008 OFR Championship. Charlotte Eskra lead the Aggregate with 5.8 on 2 while Stephanie Gregson sat 9 tenths of a second back with 6.7 on 2. Unfortunately, though Eskra was able to catch each calf at the earlier Roping Association of Ontario Finals to win that Finals, she would post a No-Time at the OFR. Next to rope was Stephanie Gregson, with a lot of pressure: Catch to win the 2008 OFR. And catch she did as she stopped it in 2.6. Continuing with the Championship Round, there were still points and dollars to win. Amidst all the Cheers for the 2008 OFR Champion, the next roper, Barb Lillie, the 2005 ORA Year-end and OFR Champion Break-away Roper worked her way into the history books with a 2.3 for the Brand-new Arena Record, and to tie Kyle Gilbert’s Fastest Time of the Year. As all of this continued, the impending controversial rules were in play and came into effect for another Break-away Roper as her first loop missed , broke off, and she was unable to go on with the run...the rule cost her a Second-Place finish in the OFR Aggregate. As the Championship Round came to a close, the 2008 Season Champion was announced as Kirkton, ON’s Robin Hammond. Hammond’s time of 3.1 back in the 2nd Round was good enough to clinch the championship as soon as Gregson won the OFR.

For the third round of Bronc Riding, the Qualifiers selected the Championship Round from the Entire OFR Herd. The Stock proved strong. In Bareback Riding, there was just one qualified Ride. In Saddle Bronc Riding, there were 3. For the OFR Championship, the 2008 Year-end Champion, Dean Dobinson would be last-to-ride, and he also had a pressure position. The same in Team Roping...Qualified Run or Ride for the OFR. With the Rankest of the Rank, anything could happen, so, potentially it could come down to a best-on-two for the OFR if Dobinson were to Buck-off. Tyler West, the Round 1 Winner went for 72 Points vs. A Bar K Rodeo’s #122 Salt and Pepper. He took the lead of the Aggregate with 151 on 2. The remaining field, save Dobinson, needed to be in the Mid-80’s, and were unable to post a Season-High Score. Last to ride, as previously mentioned was Dobinson. His Championship Round Draw was A Bar K Rodeo’s #412 Nightlife, a horse that had thrown Steve Fisher of Cambridge, ON in the Second Round. Dobinson was able to stay aboard for 8-Seconds, and his 70-point ride placed him second in the round, but crowned him both the 2008 ORA Year-end and OFR Champion. On a slightly sombre moment, Steve Fisher mounted the last Bronc of his Career in the Championship Round. A Bar K Rodeo’s #61 Headlines set Fisher down early, but the Crowd resounded with an abundance of applause as Fisher walked out of the Arena to the words of Announcer Joe Scully, “Mr. Fisher, thank You for the Ride.”

The third and Final Round of Barrel Racing was intense. Like no other event, it was so close that even odds makers would probably not chance attempting to call it before it commenced. Hillsburgh, ON’s Tamaran Gray led the Aggregate with 29.623 on Two, while Caledon, ON’s Kelly Caslor sat two thousandths of a second back with 29.625 on two. Caslor had the fastest time of the Finals, and the New Arena Record from Round #2. What added to the excitement was the drawn running order. Caslor would run 1st. Tamaran Gray would run last. In barrel racing, on top of all of the variables with two athletes (horse and rider) doing 5,000 things at once and trying to achieve 1 combined goal, Arena Conditions come into play. The top of the order is desired as the ground often loosens up at the bottom. Caslor began her run, and it ended with, “three barrels, one cowgirl, one horse...two words...what happened??!!!” She knocked over a barrel for a 5-second penalty and a time of 20.058. Things opened up substantially as the contenders ran, but, even though there were some Aggregate and go-round lead times changes, things were looking really good for Tamaran Gray. 2008 ORA Season Year-end Champion Robin Williamson ran a 14.670 to take the lead of the 3rd Go and to set an even “newer-newer” Arena Record (Williamson set a new one in Round 1 with a 14.871, Caslor set a “newer” one in Round 2 with a 14.710). Then the Final Runner to go lined up to the Centre Alley. To win her first OFR, she needed to run a 15.766. Her run was ever-blazing-ly fast. Time came in at 14.397 for the Arena Record, Fastest time of the Finals, and the OFR Win by 1.371 seconds.

Continuing with Fast Barrel Racing, and the Gray Barrel Racing Team, Callie Gray was leading the Aggregate by over 2.218 seconds. She was ranked 3rd in the Year-end Standings, and was over 120 points back. Though it seemed like a close race, it would never be expected that the bottom-hole qualifier could win the Year-end. The Arena Record had been Shattered already twice. Previously 15.792 sat in the History books from 2003. Gray went 15.121 in the first go, 14.949 in the second go, and mid-way through the third, she ran a 14.635! That run would give her the win of the 2008 OFR, and the Arena Record being over 1.1 seconds faster than the un-touchable time from 5 years previous. The next runner was Shelby Pattison, the Season Leader. The pace was so fast that no analysis could be performed, but a review after-the-fact says that Pattison would have to run 1 thousandths of a second faster than Gray for the Year-end Championship, an almost un-achievable time. Looking back on Cowgirl Barrel Racing, the fastest time of the finals was Tamaran Gray’s time of 14.397, and the second fastest time was 14.670, over the entire 3 rounds in “the Seniors”. Callie Gray’s third-round Junior Barrel Racing Run was the second fastest run the OFR Fans had seen over the entire weekend, and it remained that way. After the Round was completed, Gray was crowned the 2008 ORA Year-end and Finals Champion.

Going into the 2008 OFR, Tiedown Roping was a lock for Shelburne, ON’s Jason Thomson. He led the Aggregate by over 11 seconds, and he would be last to rope. The 2008 OFR Tiedown Roping was pretty spread across the board away from the #1 spot, and looked to come alive in the Championship Round as Campbellford, ON’s Trevor Dunk opened up the round with a 10.9. Cody Mousseau who sat second in the Aggregate went 14.1 seconds to take the lead of the Aggregate, but with a long group of times totalling 49.4 on 3 head. The last contender to rope was Jason Thomson, the 2008 Year-end Champion. As mentioned earlier, he had already clinched his 5th ORA Year-end Tiedown Roping Championship of the New Millennium. Now was time to win his 3rd OFR Championship of the 2000’s. With 24.1 on 2-head, he only needed to be 24.7 to win the OFR Tiedown Roping title. Clock stopped at 12.3 for 3rd in the Round and the win of the OFR by 12.7 seconds on 3 head making him the 2008 ORA Year-end and OFR Champion.

The herd of Bucking Bulls were stacked Heavy for the Championship Round of the 2008 OFR. An Eliminator Round, the intensity of the power of the bovine was obvious when the 2007 IPRA Bucking Bull of the Year was slated as a Re-Ride only. The Herd may not have had the biggest names from the Season, but they were the ones that the Contractors had selected as the Rankest. And they were. Two Contestants could have gone 3 for 3. Dresden, ON’s Phill Henning drew Rawhide Rodeo’s #372 Bubba Ganoush. He was 2nd in the Aggregate on 2 and 5 points back from the aggregate leader. Bubba Ganoush took the chance for Henning’s first OFR Title away. The Aggregate Leader and other contender who could go 3 for 3 was the 2006 OFR and Year-end Champion Ian Charman. In the Final Round, Charman drew Rawhide Rodeo’s #4017 Banana Split. The second marquis match-up of the OFR, this Man vs. Beast retro-rewind went back 3-weeks when the pair went for 78-points to win the Port Perry Bull Riding. Just like the previous rematch during the OFR, the opposite happened from what happened the first time, and Charman was downed. Had he been able to cover the bull a second time, he would have won his second-consecutive OFR by being the only one to ride all three Bulls. It came down to a best on 2, and #6P Prison Bound, #29P Larry, and #376 Cool Hand Luke made it not possible for that to happen for their matched Cowboys. Peter Hallman of Brussels, ON, a former OFR Champion Saddle Bronc Rider covered #33 Big John to lead the third go, and again, the attention went to the 2008 ORA Year-end Champion, Luke McCoag. His third-round draw was Rawhide Rodeo’s #36P Wingman, the bull that had thrown the Brazilian Bull Rider Ilson Gomes back in Round #1. To win the 2008 OFR, McCoag would have to cover the Bull, and score at least 62 points, an obtainable score, should he cover. And like a Hollywood-like Finish to McCoag’s 2008 ORA Season, he would ride for 8-Seconds and the highest score of the finals of Championship Points! With that, Luke McCoag will be the new King of Bull Riding for the Province of Ontario with the 2008 OFR Bull Riding Title, the 2008 OHSRA Year-end Bull Riding Championship and the 2008 ORA Year-end Championship. The ORA hopes that McCoag can continue that momentum in January at IFR 39 in OKC, OK!

After all the competition completed, the 2008 ORA Rookie of the Year was calculated as Dan MacIver, the 2008 ORA All-Around Cowgirl was Barb Lillie, and the 2008 ORA All-Around Champion Cowboy was Tyler Foster. Foster now becomes the reigning Two-time ORA All-around Champion Cowboy.

The weather for the 2008 OFR was perfect. The competition was intense. The crowds were responsive. Stratford, as always, presented a perfect venue for Rodeo, and the 2008 OFR.

As the Award-winning Canadian Cowgirls made one last lap around the Rawhide Rodeo OFR Arena, the contestants, families, friends, fans and spectators made their way to the Coliseum for what was presented as the Final Video Dance Party before the Setting was sold. The Rodeo Dance was well attended and a great camaraderie was felt between all of the 2008 ORA Champions, OFR Champions, Contestants, Cast and Crew.

As the night closed, the new spot for the 2008 OFR was selected, and we believe that the Ferris Wheel will provide a great Birdseye view of the Province’s Premier Rodeo Finals!