The wildfires that scorched British Columbia ranchers for most of the summer nearly sent the dreams of a young rodeo rider up in smoke.
Jordan Monical had qualified for the 2017 National High School Rodeo Finals in the cutting competition and saddle bronc, but when fire broke out on his family’s ranch near 100 Mile House at the beginning of July, other priorities took over.
With the whole family chipping in to protect the ranch, and the area under evacuation order, the chances of getting out for the big event seemed to be slipping away.
A week into the fire, the B.C. Wildfire Service had arrived to help, and the family decided that Jordan and his mother, Cheryl, would pack up and leave his father and older brother to continue the fight.
“I was worried about my home. Things were so unpredictable,” Jordan said of the decision to leave.
They couldn’t take his cutting horse, which had been evacuated and was suffering from smoke inhalation, but they grabbed his bronc saddle and loaded up the truck. They had two days to drive 2,000 kilometres.
When the cutting competition co-ordinators were told why Monical was unable to compete, the director from Iowa stepped in with a generous offer. Iowa’s candidate for rodeo queen was riding an old cutting horse that was offered up to do double duty.
“I was so surprised that someone would loan me their horse,” said Jordan. “Fridge is awesome. He’s old, but he’s strong and smart. He had so much experience.”
With less than 24 hours between their test ride and stepping into the show ring, Jordan and 23-year-old Fridge, rode to a respectable score of 132. They finished in the middle of the pack after two rides.
Jordan’s mother, Cheryl, couldn’t be more proud.
“This is the biggest youth cutting event in the world. For Jordan to do so well on a horse he had loped once, made me proud,” she said.
“We had the whole Iowa team rooting for them, too.”
Jordan’s saddle bronc rides both ended a second too soon, but his disappointment was offset by the opportunity to meet two-time saddle bronc world champion Cody Wright behind the chutes.
“I want to say a huge thank you to Fridge’s owner, Rob Brown from Ely, Iowa, and to Fritz and Linda Meier of Merritt, B.C.,” said Jordan.
“Also a big thanks to Daryl Mills, Tim Cooper and Jamie Paton for helping me with my saddle bronc.
“It made me realize that there are a lot of good people in this world, and that the rodeo community comes together like family for people. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”
Back at home, the Monical family is rebuilding. They didn’t lose any livestock, but the fire destroyed eight miles of fencing, as well as their cattle handling facilities and one of their barns.