BY ZACHARY CORMIER
Even though the Canadian rodeo season is just getting started, Lacombe heeler Tyrel Flewelling and his roping partner Roland McFadden are hitting the ground running.
After last year’s whirlwind rodeo season that saw Flewelling claim his third Canadian Championship as a heeler and McFadden take his first as a header, the pair have been finding some success in the early rodeos of the 2016 season.
“It’s April, so it’s just the beginning. They still have some really good rodeos, but you want to be prepared for those big rodeos coming up like the Wainrights, the Ponokas, the William’s Lakes. So we’re starting to rope every day that we can and really get prepared for that big run,” said Flewelling, who currently lives in Lacombe.
The 29-year-old cowboy and his partner kicked the season off with a big splash early in March when they travelled south of the border to take part in RODEOHOUSTON, one of the biggest pro rodeos in the world.
“It’s a great rodeo. It’s one of the best rodeos in the world. And the hospitality that they treat the contestants with is through the roof,” Flewelling said of his experience at the annual bonanza, which is held at NRG Park, the 70,000-seat home of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
“It’s pretty exciting to be down there and to check it all out. It was an unbelievable experience that’s for sure.”
Flewelling and McFadden were among the top 10 money earners out of 40 pairs of team ropers competing at the tournament-style rodeo, having to come out of a three round Super Series against seven other teams as one of the top pairs and fighting their way through the semi-finals and into the championship round.
In fact, heading into that top 10 round, Flewelling and McFadden were the top money earners in the field.
“We didn’t have much success after that, but to go down there and have that much success, we were pretty excited about it, that’s for sure.”
But the pair has suffered a spit of bad luck when it comes to competing on their home soil of late, finishing out of the money in the first three rodeos of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) season.
Flewelling said he isn’t too worried, though.
“Obviously you want to win right off the get-go, but we’re just getting started roping back outside and the rodeo season’s just beginning. So we’re hoping to have more success and hopefully have more luck as we go on here,” he said.
Now the focus shifts to preparing for the rush of rodeos that starts up in early June through July, known among competitors as “Cowboy Christmas.”
“That’s kind of the heart of our season. So you want to be prepared for that.”
That rush of rodeos is critical to the defending Canadian champions achieving the ultimate goal – finishing in the top 12 money earners to qualify for the Canadian Finals Rodeo in November.
But the thought of defending their title is far from Flewelling’s mind.
“That was last year and this is a completely new year. As soon as the Canadian Finals is over everybody is back at the same amount of money won for the new year. So we’re actually behind the eight ball a little bit. Your goal is always to make the CFR and once you get there you try and do your best to try and win the Canadian title.
“If you’re back in the box thinking about that, you’re probably not going to have much success.”
This is Flewelling’s third season with McFadden, a Vulcan native, at the other end of the steer and the partnership has been a good one.
“It’s going good. You know, we had success last year and we’ve roped together lots before, it’s the third season, so I kind of know what he’s doing and he knows what I’m doing. We’re looking forward to it,” Flewelling said of his partner.
There will be a little bit of a change to the native Lacombian’s travelling group this year, though, as he and his wife, Carla, welcomed their first child, Augustus, into the world in February.
“He didn’t go to Houston or anything, but we actually took him to Camrose last weekend, that was his first rodeo that he’s been to. It’s a little bit more planning and you’ve got to take the car seat and the stroller and the diaper bag.
“I think I’m going to have to buy a bigger trailer,” he laughed.
But the company of Augustus, Gus for short, and Carla make the long hours on the road during peak rodeo season a little bit easier, he said.
“It’s really good. My wife is hoping to come to a few more rodeos this year, bring Gus. So that part I’m looking forward to.”