If the same number of people that attended Ty and Haley Elliott’s wedding show up to watch them compete in the Wrangler Rodeo Tour Championships, the grandstands at the IPE grounds will be a lot more packed than usual this week.
The high school sweethearts – both are Vernon Secondary grads – married in May, had only intended to have a small wedding. They ended up with about 400 guests.
“We didn’t have that many invitations. It was more a word of mouth thing. It was a bunch of cowboys; it was pretty wild,” chuckled Ty, who rode in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) event qualifier Wednesday and Thursday night.
He and Haley (née Keenan), who will ride in barrel racing preliminary action tonight and Saturday, are both trying to make Sunday’s finals. Each rodeo event pays out $3,000 per day, with $6,000 up for grabs in the finals.
Ty, whose parents, Vern and the late Mona Elliott, were longtime owners of The Cowboys Choice store, is ranked 17th in CPRA bull riding with $12,505 in season earnings. He is 30th in the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Canada loop with $4,972.
Having won back-to-back tour finals in 2009 and ‘10, those are pretty low totals by his standards. He actually qualified for last year’s finals, the first time they were held in Armstrong, but wasn’t able to ride due to injury.
“This last month hasn’t been all that good; it’s been pretty dry compared to how it usually is. Usually I’ve got the (Canadian Finals Rodeo) made at this point already, but I’m kind of on the bubble this year,” said Ty, 26.
“Tour finals have been good to me in the past… and hopefully I can get back to those ways.”
Haley, 25, is rated 26th in CPRA barrel racing with $7,518, and loves competing on the pro circuit.
“This is my second year going hard. My horse, he works really hard and he’s hard to beat if he’s healthy. If he’s not healthy, it gets tough; there’s a lot of maintenance to do on a horse.”
Haley’s 13-year-old quarter horse, affectionately known as Bob, has a bigger retinue than most A-list celebrities. His entourage includes an osteopath, massage therapist, chiropractor, two vets and a horseshoer.
“He’s a spoiled horse. He gets better things than I do. But we’re a pretty good team,” grinned Haley.
And while quick to praise Ty’s horsemanship, she balked at the idea of getting into his line of work.
“Not at all. Not one part of me has ever thought I should go back there (in the bullpen),” she laughed.
But Haley doesn’t worry too much when Ty is trying to earn his eight-second paycheque. Partly because he is level-headed, and partly because she knows he has the guardian angels of the rodeo world – bull fighters – watching over him.
“I’m pretty confident with him when he rides – I know he won’t get himself in a bind. If he does, we’ve got some of the best bull fighters in the world up in Canada. If anyone does get in a bind, they get them out and get them out quick. They don’t get enough credit,” she said.
Having just bought a small acreage in Nanton, Alta. (south of Calgary), Ty chose to compete closer to home this season. More often than not, he gets to travel the rodeo loop with his new bride.
“We’ve been rodeoing pretty hard. I stayed in Canada this year, which is different than I usually do. Usually I’m down south lots,” he said.
“We’re pretty fortunate. There’s times where we’ve got to split up (for PBR events), but if there’s a weekend where it’s just all rodeos, Haley and I can enter together.”