Provost native, Leon Laye was recently added to the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Ponoka after years of hard work and determination in the rodeo circuit.
Laye is the 2000 Canadian Steer Wrestling Champion and season leader with 15 Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) qualifications under his belt and he owned the Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year ‘Tuffy’.
It all started through family tradition as his father and uncles were involved in the rodeo scene well before Laye was in the picture.
“[It’s] In the blood I guess you could say,” said Laye.
He started bulldogging by the time he was 15-years-old with the last event taking place in 2013 at the Foothills Cowboy Association (FCA) finals.
The now 60-year-old cowboy has volunteered his time and efforts at the Ponoka Stampede as well as local events near home.
He along with other family members run a ranch with roughly 200 head of cattle which keeps them fairly busy.
One of the highlights of his rodeo days was winning the CFR for Steer Wrestling but also average steer wrestler at the Calgary Stampede twice.
Others include participating and winning at the Ponoka Stampede, Williams Lake Rodeo, Wainwright Stampede, and more.
He ventured to the United States a few times but didn’t compete there as much as others to stay close to home.
Despite the good times, there was also struggle that many athletes that enter the arena face.
In 1994, Laye tore the peck in his right shoulder. This was a year he had qualified for the CFR but chose to sit out in order to let his injury heal properly.
It took until midsummer of the next year for him to get back into the swing of things including bulldogging.
“I’m not the only one that’s happened to that’s for sure,” he said. “We just grin and bare it and carry on and hopefully the next year you get back again. Like my shoulder did heal up good. I made the Canadian Finals quite a few times after that.”
His family was and continues to be Laye’s support system either on the road or at the ranch. “They were looking after things while I was gone, going on the road quite a bit and my brother and nephews would help when I was gone. Dana, my wife, for sure was behind you 100 per cent and Dad was. He always seemed to have horses here for us to practice on and there was always never a shortage of that.”
Leon’s father, Albert was inducted into the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2008.
Laye’s legacy has not tired either.
His family is heavily involved in today’s rodeo scene.
The cowboy’s son, Derek, has entered some amateur finals at different times.
Laye’s nephew, Brendan Laye, has made his mark on the rodeo world by qualifying for the CFR twice as a steer wrestler himself and his other nephew, Clint Laye, has also seen the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in the bareback riding.
“It’s nice to see them carrying on the name and doing good and like making the NFR and then the Canadian Finals in the event that I worked, that’s pretty awesome,” Laye continued.
He alongside four other skilled athletes including Rod Hay, Bo Phipps, Dr. Gary Harbin and Blue Ridge, a bareback horse from the Franklin Rodeo, are to be inducted at a banquet in October.
“It was quite a surprise when I got the call the other day by-god. Some of them guys that are in there – I mean they darn sure deserve to be in there and it’s just amazing to be inducted and be in there with them by-god.” “It’s a feather in your cap that’s for sure.”
Out of all the memories Laye enjoys about the rodeos, it was the quality people he has met along the way and a decent pay cheque at the end of a successful day.
“You know what, I’ve made a pile of friends. Just a pile of friends up and down the road travelling with guys that you sure get acquainted with and oh, for sure the money part of it when you do good and win good.
“It feels pretty darn good to come out of the Canadian Finals and do good up there and have a successful finals and come home with a good paycheque.
“But the friends – I don’t see them as much any more for sure but when you do run across them it’s sure good to visit and reminisce about old times.”
Laye was always appreciative of his fellow riders if he ever needed to borrow a horse and vice versa.
“The horses that I rode – I had some good ones myself but the guys that we travelled up and down the road with, sometimes you ride their horse and I sure appreciated that when you could get on a good horse because that means the world of difference,” said Laye.
“That can make or break you.”
Rod Hay has 19 Canadian Finals Rodeo qualifications, is an eight-time Canadian Saddle Bronc Champion, four-time Aggregate Champion, six season leader, 2007 NFR Aggregate Champion, and CPRA career Saddle Bronc earnings record holder.
Dr. Gary Harbin has been a director on the Ponoka Stampede Committee since 1974.
He also sat on the CPRA board from 1985 to 1991, is founder and president of the Ponoka Stampede Youth Foundation from 2016 to 2019.
Harbin is known to be a respected mentor in the Alberta veterinary community across Canada and into the US.
He recently passed away at the age of 73 after a five year battle with cancer.
Bob Phipps qualified for the very first CFR in 1974, winning the Bull Riding title in 1979.
Phipps went on to judge rodeos and work at the CPRA as Rodeo Administrator, Judging Director and CRES manager, over a 10 year period.
Blue Ridge was chosen as Bareback Horse of the year in 1995 and 1999, Bareback Horse of the CFR in 1996 and was recognized at the National Finals Rodeo for Bareback Horse of the Finals.