Before he met his fiancé, Richmond Champion only ventured north of the border for a few large Canadian rodeos each year.
Then Paige Lawrence entered her life. From the tiny burg of Kennedy, Saskatchewan, Lawrence was living in Calgary, Alberta, when the two began dating. That’s when Champion, a four-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier from The Woodlands, decided to make more appearances in the Great White North.
“It just made sense,” he said of competing in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association. “I was going to be traveling up there, so why not see her, make some money and try to qualify for the Canadian Finals Rodeo.”
He’s done that twice now. Over the first weekend in November, Champion put the finishing touches on his first Canadian bareback riding title during the CFR in Red Deer, Alberta, which hosted the championship for the first time.
But the key to the Texan’s title came through the regular season. He competed at several rodeos where the money counted for both the Canadian and Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association standing—he was basically double-dipping, because many of those dollars also helped Champion return to the NFR.
“Rodeo in Canada is such a different feel for rodeos down here,” he said, referring to rodeos across the United States. “It is really the best of both worlds. I just really fell in love with it up there. It’s just more relaxed. People are there because they truly love rodeo.
“It’s just a fun experience all the way around.”
He’ll spend a little more time north of the border in the near future. He and Lawrence will marry in her hometown in late May; family commitments will keep him in Canada when rodeo doesn’t.
Not that he minds. He’s found it to his liking, and he’s adjusted to the weather differences from his Texas home—while he still claims The Woodlands as his residence, Champion actually lives in Dublin. But he likes what he sees when he crosses the 49th parallel.
“It’s fun to see different country,” he said. “We’ve traveled all over the United States rodeoing. But when you go up to Dawson Creek (British Columbia), you start seeing signs that say, ‘Turn right for Alaska.’”
There are plenty of Americans who make a significant living in Canada. In fact, Champion was joined in Red Deer by saddle bronc rider Isaac Diaz of Desdemona, tie-down roper Stetson Vest of Childress, Angela Ganter of Abilene and Shelby Spielman of Dalhart.
“I absolutely love competing at rodeos in Canada,” Champion said. “I wish more guys would go up there and make it a priority, because it really is something special.
“You’re getting on the best bucking horses in the world in the middle-of-nowhere Canada. The Canadian Pro Rodeo Association means so much to a lot of those people. They take a lot of pride in that. To win the Canadian title against those guys mean a lot, because a lot of them would rather win that than the NFR. It’s humbling to compete against those guys; to win it is amazing.” —Ted Harbin
Ted Harbin is a longtime journalist who spent 22 years in the newspaper industry before focusing on rodeo. He owns Rodeo Media Relations and TwisTed Rodeo and is one of just eight individuals to be honored with media awards by both the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. He lives in Maryville, Mo., with is wife, Lynette, and their two daughters, Laney and Channing.