Buckshot Bill and Tequila (not the drink) have been keeping a Vernon cowboy busy.
The two horses belong to Jaret Cooper, 17, a Grade 12 student at Vernon Secondary School, and the reigning 15-to-18-year-old Junior World Finals rodeo champion in saddle bronc, where the competitor must sit on a bucking horse let out of a chute for eight seconds to get an official score.
Cooper won his world champion belt buckle in 2019 in Las Vegas. He has qualified to defend his title next month in Ft. Worth, Tex.
“I’ve been practising at home on Buckshot Bill and Tequila, my practice horses, and Tequila is the nicer of the two,” laughed Cooper, who also works out daily in the school gym to boost his strength.
“I feel good (for the Junior World Finals). I think I’m more prepared than last year. I’m feeling pretty confident.”
Representing Canada a year ago, Cooper claimed the buckle in the final go-around. He had been sitting in third place, a fair distance behind the two cowboys ahead of him. But when the guys ahead of him got bucked off their horses, Cooper sat astride a horse named Cheerleader and rode him to a career-best score of 78 and the world title.
Because of COVID-19, there were few competitions Cooper could attend. He did attend some B.C. high school events in 2020 that went ahead with COVID-19 protocols in place, and earned the title of B.C. saddle bronc champion.
He also went east for some competition and for some coaching from a former Vernon rodeo star.
“I went to a few rodeos in Sundre, Alberta, and went to Clay Elliott’s bronc riding school,” said Cooper.
“He’s a pretty good guy to learn from.”
Elliott is a three-time National Finals Rodeo saddle bronc competitor who suffered a broken neck at a rodeo event in 2019. He’s been recuperating at his home in Nanton, Alta., about two hours south of Sundre. He and his father, Vern, former owner of the Cowboy’s Choice in Vernon, operate a hat shop in Nanton, Gold Spring Custom Hats. The Junior World Finals rodeo is slated for Dec. 3-12.