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Cowboy turns in electric rodeo ride in Eagle

Special to the Daily | Mike Crabtree
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EAGLE, Colorado – Friday night at the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo was the kind of evening people write country songs about.

Between the driving rain and the flashing thunder, history was made when Ryan Gray of Cheney, Wash., turned in a world-record bareback ride at the start of Friday night’s action.

Cheney earned a score of 94 points on board Grass Dancer, a seldom ridden horse from Carr Pro Rodeo Stock Contractor Company. His score tied the record set by both Will Lowe and Wes Stevenson at rodeos in previous years. And, coincidentally, both Lowe and Stevenson were competitors at the Eagle County Rodeo on Saturday night.

When contacted by phone Monday, Gray called the ride one of the biggest of his career. Gray knew he had a shot at a good score when he drew Grass Runner, but he didn’t know how good.

“It’s one of the best horses we have going in the PRCA and it’s been to the national finals,” said Cheney. “You don’t have a chance to get on a horse like that all the time.”

The rain started falling when the rodeo actions began Friday, but the electricity in the arena wasn’t just generated from the lightning overhead. Bareback riding was the first event of the evening and it was a scorcher from beginning to end.

Les Ohlhauser, a professional announcer for 33 years, was calling the action. One of the first riders was Jason Havens of Prineville, Ore., who scored an 87. That ride was followed by Steven Anding of Crossroads, Texas, who also turned in a 87 point ride. Then Clint Cannon of Waller, Texas, the No. 1 ranked bareback rider in the PRCA world standings, followed with a score of 91 points.

“It was pretty wild,” Ohlhauser said.

People in the grandstands were cheering and thought they’d seen the best ride of the night. Then Gray came out aboard Grass Runner.

“The horse left the chute with a tremendous amount of energy and continued to buck wild, but Ryan Gray was in charge of the ride for the complete eight seconds,” said Ohlhauser.

When he got the scores from both judges, Ohlhauser added them up twice to make sure he had the number right to confirm the world record score.

“There wasn’t any inflation or anything in the scoring. That ride was the real deal,” said Ohlhauser. “When you do a world-record event, you’d better believe it’s exciting.”

For Eagle County Fair Manager Brad Higgins, it was a ride he’ll never forget.

“Watching that ride gave me chills,” Higgins said. “The audience liked it, but 90 percent of the people there didn’t really know what they had just seen. That was history, right there.”

What does being the host site of a world record ride mean for the Eagle County Rodeo?

“The cowboys remember the horse more than the place. They look for where that horse will be, and next year, he’ll be back in Eagle,” Higgins said.

Last year, the county fair began working with Carr Pro Rodeo Stock Contractor to provide its bucking horses, bulls, steers and calves. That contract has made a big difference, Higgins said. He noted that his year the top 15 PRCA competitors came to Eagle County to compete. In fact, Higgins had to cap contestant numbers this year because there were twice as many cowboys wanting to ride as there were contestant slots.

“I think the rodeo is getting dialed in. When you have the top 15 riders in the world, you know you are doing something right,” Higgins said.

Ohlhauser agreed.

“That rodeo has done just an outstanding job,” he said. “They know what they are doing and that means a tremendous amount to the contestants.”

For Gray, his visit to the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo was sweet but short. He left Friday night to travel to another competition in Great Falls, Mont. But it was a great ride both in and out of Eagle.

“And I’ll be back, for sure,” Gray said.


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