Jacob Gardner loves being a cowboy. More specifically, he loves the cowboy way of life — constantly being on the road, meeting good people, and doing what he loves: bull riding and steer wrestling.
Gardner has been competing in rodeos since he was 10, and going to pro rodeos for five years. Now, at age 23, he is having his best year on both the Finning Canada Pro Tour and Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Canada circuit, and is ready to take his career to the next level.
Gardner was third in the Finning bull riding standings prior to the Dawson Creek Rodeo August 9 to 11, and is currently eighth in the PBR standings, both career highs. He is coming off a third-place bull riding finish at Dawson, for which he won $1,534.23, a third-place steer wrestling finish in La Crete on August 7, and a tie for second in steer wrestling at the Jasper Heritage Rodeo, August 7 to 10. If you’re counting, that’s three cheques in one week.
“This is my best year so far but I don’t plan on it being the best one. I really want to finish first in the tour for bull riding and win a Canadian title, and the same with PBR,” Gardner said.
Gardner already has a Canadian title though. He was the 2018 Canadian Professional All Around Cowboy, as he is a dual threat of sorts, being able to place in the money in either bull riding or steer wrestling at any given rodeo.
Gardner says there are a number of reasons why he is seeing more success this year.
“I’ve matured as an athlete, and have stayed healthy this year, so I can compete all the time. I’ve also been focusing on doing good at the bigger rodeos where the money is this year,” said Gardner.
That’s not to say he hasn’t had significant injuries and bull riding isn’t dangerous. Gardner has had a couple bad concussions, which he said aren’t fun, as well as a dislocated shoulder and broken ankle.
Peace Region Cowboy
Originally hailing from Fort St. John, Gardner’s parents moved to Dawson Creek after he graduated and that is his current home base. Well, sort of. The truth is Gardner is always on the road. He has a roommate in Strathmore he stays with sometimes, and a travelling partner in Calgary. But mostly he stays, “wherever a guy can find a place to stay or park a camper.”
His life isn’t going to normalize any-time soon. He has made $17,831.05 in Canadian rodeos this summer, and another $10,936.56 from PBR, and thinks he’s ready to make the jump to competing at the American rodeos full time in the winter.
“I’ve been working regular jobs the past couple winters, but I keep telling myself I can make a living out of this and this year I’m going to try and do that this winter and see how it works out,” said Gardner.
Gardner has yet to make a Calgary Stampede, another goal of his, and he’ll receive an automatic entry if he wins the Finning title.
For now, he’ll keep going from rodeo to rodeo and trying his best to hang on to that bull for eight seconds. Or, as Gardner calls it — the cowboy way of life.
“Living the way you want and doing what you want,” Gardner said.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.