SUNDRE — A local cowboy has become a national champion following some tough competition at the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer earlier this month.
Relatively new to the Sundre area, Riley Warren, who this summer relocated from Stettler to an acreage near Bergen, “emerged as the aggregate champion and parlayed that to a 3,000 point advantage over second place man Logan Bird to claim his first tie-down roping title,” reads a portion of a CFR press release.
“That result, coupled with a second place finish in the team roping, earned Warren his third High Point buckle as well,” the statement says.
Although the 32-year-old managed only a 10.6 second finish in the final round of tie-down roping, CFR officials reported that the remaining overall leaders were plagued by adversity heading into the finals on Sunday, Nov. 7.
Asked how he felt about his performances, Warren told The Albertan during a phone interview last week that the first half of his week in tie-down roping started off really well.
A fourth-place finish in the first round, followed by a split second-place finish in the second round and a first-place finish in the third put him in a good position.
“I kind of had a head start in the tie-down,” he said.
That gave him an edge that carried him through to the championship title despite struggling through the final rounds.
“I didn’t actually place in any of the other three rounds, and ended up winning the average. That’s what tipped me over the top,” he said.
As for team roping, in which he’s partnered with header Steele DePaoli from Longview, the duo were able to overcome a rough start after not placing at all following the first round and scoring no time in the third.
But clocking respectable times and even going on to win a couple of their runs in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds more than made up for it and brought them up among the top contenders once the dust had settled.
“We ended up winning second in the average and second in the overall standing,” he said.
Taking home the high point buckle added more icing to the cake.
“Anyone qualifies that competes in two events or more — that’s what the high point is,” he said. “That’s how I actually got two Canadian titles. I was the average champion in the tie-down roping, and then the Canadian tie-down roping high point champion.”
Overall, the past season — despite its pandemic-induced shortcomings — was a good one, he said.
“I mean, it was a short season — we didn’t obviously rodeo the first couple months of the year.”
But he said the fact he qualified to compete at the CFR essentially summarized the success he experienced this year.
Asked whether he had plans to attend any more competitions this year, Warren said he and DePaoli will be heading to the capital of Saskatchewan near the end of November for the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals.
Rodeo runs in the blood
Being raised around livestock with a father who introduced him to roping early on, the rodeo life seems to have been ingrained in his DNA.
“My dad used to rope and ride saddle bronc horses,” said Warren. “And my uncle Rod used to be a saddle bronc rider, and now he’s actually turned into a tie-down roper, and he team ropes too.”
Those two family figures were arguably his main influences that propelled him toward a career competing in rodeo.
Although his late father, Rick Warren, passed away when Riley was 13, Rick played a big role introducing him to the sport.
“We used to rope together,” said Warren. “I started roping when I was really young. The first time I tried team roping, I was six.”
Although at that time, Warren fondly recalled with a light laugh mainly just excitedly chasing after the steers.
“I wasn’t really catching very much at that time,” he said, chuckling.
“When I was seven, I started actually full-on team roping,” he added.
Since those early days, tie-down and team roping have become his only events.
“That’s all that I do,” he said, later adding his tie down roping horse is a 15-year-old mare named Mona, while he rides a nine-year-old gelding called Jag in team roping.
Having competed at the Sundre Pro Rodeo “quite a few times” over the years, Warren said he looks forward to coming back next summer.
He’s also looking forward to going up next year against the best of the best at the Calgary Stampede, which he’s also previously competed in.
“I’ve been to Calgary three times before in the tie down roping,” he said.
And with the World’s Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth planning to introduce team roping, Warren also expects to join DePaoli for a chance at the title.
“I am qualified,” he said, adding competitors who rank top-5 in Canada get a chance to join the world’s best at the Stampede.
Until then, he’ll get plenty of chances to keep practising.
The reason Warren relocated south of Sundre to an acreage on a property owned by Josh Hillock, whose family he counts among close friends, was to have access to a world-class indoor arena that was built there a couple of years ago.
“I like the atmosphere and all the people and competition,” he said in response to being asked what he most enjoyed about rodeo.
Having only just recently settled in, Warren does not intend to go anywhere anytime soon.
“I just moved, I don’t plan on leaving yet!”