To say that is has been a hectic year for Luke Butterfield would be an understatement. The 28-year-old Saddle Bronc rider from Ponoka, Alta. has been everywhere, man.
“I think I entered around 100 rodeos this year,” Butterfield recounts. “I was in 87 Professional Cowboy Rodeo Association (PRCA) events and probably over 10 non-sanctioned rodeos. I was thinking the other day that I have ridden about 150 Saddle Bronc horses this year — and I still remember every ride.”
For several years, Butterfield has been campaigning for a coveted spot at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas, running from December 6-15 this year. The top 15 money earners in each event are invited to compete for the title of World Champion at the prestigious rodeo.
Since turning professional in 2005 at the age of 21, Butterfield has had many wins and titles to his name. He was the Canadian Intercollegiate Saddle Bronc Champion in 2005, the Alberta Circuit Saddle Bronc Champion of 2010 and won the 2010 Grande Prairie Stompede with a score of 89 — an arena record.
Butterfield just won the All American Pro Rodeo Finals and claimed the title of Canadian Finals Rodeo Saddle Bronc Champion this year for the second time.
It comes as no surprise that Butterfield, a legendary name on the circuit, would become a rodeo champion. His father Greg is a three time Canadian Champion in Steer Wrestling and a member of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame. His uncles Brian and Bud are also four and six time Canadian Champion steer wrestlers respectively. The only surprise is that Luke chose to specialize in bronc riding.
“I weighed 140 pounds when I was 16,” laughs Butterfield. “That is a little light for steer wrestling so I started riding broncs. I still compete in Steer Wrestling but broncs are my forte and something that I just kept working at.”
With his goal of qualifying for the NFR, Butterfield kept an intense schedule of rodeos all season long through both the western provinces and the United States. “This year I spent four nights in my own bed in a four month stretch,” Butterfield says. “It’s a lot of fun to be out travelling to rodeos but I start to get tired around August.”
There were some mishaps along the way this year, with Butterfield almost missing his plane to the San Bernardino rodeo.
“I was stuck in a Los Angeles traffic jam where I drove 36 miles in two hours,” Butterfield remembers. “I thought for sure I was going to miss the rodeo. Then, in Kansas City, it took forever for my bags to arrive. I was really worried that I wasn’t going to have my saddle to compete with. By the time they finally got there I was running really late for the rodeo — they were singing the national anthem when I arrived.”
At the Kansas City rodeo, the last of the season, Butterfield knew he had a real chance to qualify for the NFR. After a solid ride, he was in third place, but eventually bumped down to tie for fifth. His pay out for the rodeo put him 16th in the world standings — one spot and $813 short.
“My career goal is definitely to make the NFR,” says Butterfield. “I was so close this year. It is such a tough rodeo to qualify for and why we try our butts off to try to make it. You really have to give it your all the whole season.”
There is no doubt that Butterfield will be on the road again next year, hustling to many different towns and cities to try and make his dream of competing at the NFR a reality.