For his first appearance as a professional, Jacob Stemo felt the week was a great success.
Stemo, who makes his home near Bashaw, wound up the 2018 Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) bareback event in sixth spot as the big showcase made its inaugural run out of the chutes at Red Deer’s Westerner Park.
The 25 year-old cowboy walked out with just over $21,000 from the six days, adding to the more than $16,000 he earned during the season which included rodeo victories in Camrose and Dawson Creek, B.C.
Night number two — Halloween — saw Stemo put a scare into the rest of the competitors after Special Delivery helped him pony express mail an 86.75 score. The feeling he got from that was close to what he felt after winning the novice bareback at the 2012 CFR in Edmonton.
In the end however, that would only get him a tie for third on the evening, as Ponoka native Jake Vold would set a new CFR record with a 90.25.
“On the first night, I think there were some jitters, but I’ve been around the rodeo scene and enough CFRs to know what to expect. I come in a little older and have some more experience in how to handle myself a little better, to stay calm,” he explained.
“You don’t really think about what anyone else has to do, you take care of what you have to and the rest will work itself out. That said, Jake is as much a superstar as the horse Virgil that he rode (that night). Though, I had an amazing horse and knew it was my opportunity to show everybody what I can do, that I can ride these calibre of horses and do my job.”
Despite turning pro five years ago, 2018 was the first year he went all out on the rodeo circuit and found all kinds of support out there.
“Partially due to injuries and also still being in university, I think I only went to about 20 rodeos over the previous four years,” said Stemo, who comes from some familiar rodeo family stock in the Stemos and the Dodds from Ponoka.
“About 18 months ago, I had a shoulder surgery and knew it was a time to be going out and start something big. So came a decision point — pursue something else in my life or grind through and stick with rodeo.
“You don’t want to waste a year of waiting for it not to pan out. So, I chose to commit to my goals and one of them was to be at the CFR. I knew there would be a lot of adversity after having sat most of the past four years.”
However, with a great locker room filled with excellent bareback riders — such as Vold — who were willing to share advice, along with support from his family, this season has Stemo brimming with faith for the future.
“The success I’ve had gives me a lot of confidence going forward. My goal next season is to make the CFR and win that buckle. Sure, my sights are set high and rodeo is an individual sport, but you are also so much part of a team — my parents, the great group of guys and riders I travel with,” he said.
“All of that support and family backing you, if you show some incentive and desire, there are so many people ready to support you that it’s unbelievable.”