2013 Ponoka Stampede: Bull Riding & Wild Pony



I will say I had fun with this lens!  The 70 – 200 f/2 .8 lens is a beast but when tuned, it takes great photos.  I was struggling with how to set up the camera to balance depth of field, ISO, and shutter speed to get crisp photos that weren’t grainy.  Looking in all my results it seemed like shutter speed had to be faster than 1/400 of a second with an aperture no wider than f/6 .3.  Now onto the events!

The Balloon Shoot?

I had never seen this event before.  Basically the cowboy comes out on horseback with 2 different guns and has to shoot several balloons with each gun and is scored on time as well as number of balloons shot.  What was cool to me is seeing how tight the cowboys could corner their horse and dig into the dirt for the turn.  In a lot of ways it felt like motorcycling.

Panoka Rodeo 494   Panoka Rodeo 489

Bull Riding!

Bull riding has to be the most known event in rodeo and is always a crowd-pleaser.  Most of the rodeos I’ve been to have been to have been light in the bull riding arena.  This one did not disappoint!  In the States, I’d never seen women ride bulls.  I guess the Canadian gals cowboy up as well!

Panoka Rodeo 208

The bull is a big animal.  They are usually at least 1000 pounds and the cowboy sits at least 4 feet in the air when settled on the animal.  The goal is to hang on with one hand for 8 long seconds.  Sometimes it’s a good run.  Sometimes you get bucked off.

Panoka Rodeo 234   Panoka Rodeo 233   Panoka Rodeo 236

Unfortunately, at times when the cowboy goes down he goes down hard.

That has to hurt…

Panoka Rodeo 452

And often times the bull is angry!

Panoka Rodeo 205

When that 8 seconds comes together, it’s a beautiful thing.

It’s a high-stakes game in bull riding.  But the cowboy that pulls it off earns his creds on the circuit.

Wild Pony

I have to admit, I struggled watching this event.  The basic tenet is to saddle a horse and ride it a number of meters to the finish line.  I’ve seen episodes of Heartland and other movies where they break in horses but in this event you could really see the fight.

I got lucky in that the team I focused on was successful in completing the event.  Other teams however weren’t so lucky.  In particular this team really struggled.  The horse hit the wall hard:

Panoka Rodeo 276   Panoka Rodeo 277

Panoka Rodeo 278   Panoka Rodeo 279

Looking at the photos, I felt like I could see deep emotion coming out of the horse.  From what I know of the rodeo, the stock contractors take pretty good care of the animals as both depend on each other for a successful series of rodeos.  One of the horses got hurt.

Panoka Rodeo 283   Panoka Rodeo 287

When the horse got up to run on its own, the crowd cheered. The crowd definitely enjoyed the event.  For me, I definitely left with a sense of struggle with the wild pony event.  As the photographer, you have creative license to capture what you want from an event but an obligation to the honest about the entire experience.

This lens gave me window I’d not seen before with the naked eye.  Definitely food for thought.


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