Following the Canadian Finals Rodeo, Jake Gardner needed to reset.
The bull rider from Fort St. John, British Columbia had run into some bad luck at the CFR in early November, getting bucked off during four of his six rides at the season-culminating event.
He came into the RAM Maple Leaf Circuit Finals in Regina, Saskatchewan hoping for an opportunity to regroup mentally and get back on track.
Consider that mission accomplished.
Gardner was the only cowboy to ride all four bulls he faced at the event, resulting in an aggregate score of 336.5 points and a payout of $9,886.
“I just came here and kind of relaxed a bit. I just wanted to have fun, ride my bulls and kind of finish the year off good and get a head start on the 2024 season, so it was good all around,” Gardner said. “I had a very fun week. I drew really good, and I capitalized on my draws, so it worked out.”
After placing third in the opening round with a ride of 83 points, Gardner took control over the final three rounds, scoring an 83.5 in the second go and 82.5 in the third. The exclamation point came in the finals as his effort of 87.5 points was the highest scored ride of the entire rodeo. No other cowboy was able to cover more than two bulls at the event, allowing Gardner to easily claim the aggregate and overall circuit titles.
The Maple Leaf victory was the perfect parlay for Gardner as he transitions from one season to the next. For the 2023 campaign, the up-and-coming bull rider finished 44th in the PRCA | RAM World Standings, with a little over $47,000 in earnings for the season. His earnings were a career best as he finished inside the top 50 for the first time since 2021.
“I felt like this is probably one of the best seasons I’ve had in my career thus far. I learned a lot and I’m progressively getting better at things I need to get better at,” Gardner said. “Bull riding is a tough sport – you’re diamonds one day and dust the next, but the main thing is to keep a positive mental attitude and I feel like I did good on that this year and things worked out.”
With some early earnings already on his ledger for the 2024 campaign, Gardner has one more event scheduled to close out the 2023 calendar before taking a holiday break and restarting in January.
More importantly, he’s got some much-needed confidence, which he hopes will lead to even greater heights.
“Getting this money is pretty important. I really want to win a Canadian title, so it’s good to get a jump on that. And I really want to make the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, so it’s good to get some money in those standings as well,” Gardner said. “I just need to keep picking away and hopefully it works out.”
Other winners at the RAM Maple Leaf Circuit Finals Rodeo were bareback rider Ty Taypotat (333 points on four head); steer wrestler Stephen Culling (17.5 seconds on four head); team ropers Kavis Drake/Denim Ross (13.4 seconds on three head); saddle bronc rider Sawyer Eirikson (326 points on four head); tie-down roper Stran Dunham (36 seconds on four head); breakaway roper Lawrie Saunders (11.2 seconds on four head); and barrel racer Taylor Manning (54.8 seconds on four runs).
Courtesy of PRCA.