HELENA — Some of Montana’s most dedicated athletes are nestled in the mountains north of Helena, on a gorgeous 2,000-acre ranch. At the end of a long windy dirt road, you’ll find the members of the C5 rough stock, and these bulls and broncs are treated like the pro athletes they are.
“Our company, C5 Rodeo, has a nutritionist that takes care of us and takes care of the animals. You know, the animals, they're on a highly protein, high-fat diet that's designated just for them and a mineral program that's based on the same way and that's what goes into them and we take care of them and in return they take care of us,” Seth Knutson, ranch manager said.
To make sure their ranch only hosts the best, C5 goes back tens of years.
“You can't make them [buck], but they have to want to do it. Yeah, you can help them a little bit. But the breeding side of things is so beyond its time that we're talking breeding lineages that go back into the 80's, 70's and 60's that people have been working to perfect. And now we're here in this day and age in the rodeo industry. You have to have stuff that bucks and we focus on breeding lineage and go from there,” he said.
You'll see these C5 athletes at the Last Chance Stampede for the second straight year, and their board members work long and hard to hand-select which broncs and bulls will take the arena.
“We collaborate with the stock contractor who we want to see here in the arena. And that even pen situation for rough stock is really important to us. But we know that they have, they're loaded with outstanding horses and bulls. And so we want the best of what they have. And they know because they are, it's a local rodeo for them in their hometown, and they're gonna bring their best, and they're gonna shine,” Mike Gurnett, Rodeo Committee Chairman said.
Gurnett is excited to have some of the best national and local talent at the Stampede when it comes to cowboys and rough stock.
“This is a big rodeo, and 14,000-plus people will be here. And the people who own the horses that will buck in this arena, pay taxes in Lewis and Clark County. And so that was a plus, why we selected C5 is that they're their neighbors," Gurnett added. "This is their hometown, rodeo. They rodeo all over the country. But this one is they take a lot of pride in this one. And they have horses that go to the National Finals. In fact, they own the horse that the world record bareback ride was just set on about six weeks ago. So we have outstanding stock. It's a nice situation where they're also neighbors.”
And while looking for the best, one of their main focuses is to have an even pen.
“The scoring of these horses, on an average, across the year is available to us. And so when you get 100 points on a ride, there's two judges, there's 25 points from each judge for the contestant, 25 potential points for the horse or bull. And so we can look at the scores that those horses average out to get. And so they'll be shooting for horses that are averaging at 21 or 22 per judge. And so when we're picking, we want to see those kinds of horses and they want us to buck those kinds of horses so it's a win win. We work together with them, we use the statistics and it all helps us even out that opportunity for the contestants,” he said.
And while the best of the best is in the Last Chance Stampede’s hands, they’ll make sure to have all hands on deck in case things go awry to keep these very expensive animals safe.
“They're phenomenally expensive. Once they get here, we do things like make sure the condition of the arena is very favorable for them to perform in. And we also have all of the facilities in the back here, where we keep them in, in pens, we make sure they have lots of feed, lots of water. We have veterinarians on staff here during the rodeo in case there's either a contestant's horse that needs a little bit of work, or if there's anything that happens. So we want to make sure that the welfare of these animals is first and foremost to the event because it goes into what the experience of the crowd is," Gurnett said.
The Last Chance Stampede is July 27-30. Tickets can be found here.