It was everything a final ride should be.
On August 6, 2016, Zeke Thurston climbed into the chutes at the Home on the Range Champions Ride Saddle Bronc Match. Surrounded by the rustic beauty of western North Dakota, the crowd seated around the natural amphitheatre cheered him on. Thurston settled into his saddle, nodded his head, and exploded out into the arena on the back of the Calgary Stampede’s Lynx Mountain.
“She reared out of there, she was just up and down and had a few moves up in the air,” said Thurston. “She’s just the epitome of a bucking horse.”
At 22 years old, and already a two-time Calgary Stampede Champion, Thurston has many more years ahead of him in the sport. Lynx Mountain, on the other hand, made her final ride that day.
“She’s 15 now, and has done as much as she’s needed to do,” said Stampede Ranch Manager Tyler Kraft, reflecting on her career. “She went to the CFR, Vegas, Texas. To go out on top winning Home on the Range, I felt like it was a nice place to call it quits.”
Lynx Mountain carried Thurston to the win in North Dakota, and earned herself a bronze in the process as the top Saddle Bronc Horse of the event. Finishing in top spot has been a familiar spot for her from the very beginning. Over the span of her career, cowboys who drew Lynx Mountain had a 25 per cent chance of taking first place.
“She’s the horse you wanted. Big rodeo, small rodeo, it didn’t matter” said Thurston Adding, “She’s just been so good for so long.”
As a five year old Lynx Mountain made it to the Canadian Finals Rodeo for the first time, and has been selected to compete every year since then. Her style and ability to allow riders to showcase their skills also earned her yearly trips to the National Finals Rodeo from 2007 – 2016. But through all the years of competition, it wasn’t just Lynx Mountain’s abilities in the arena that endeared her to those closest to her.
“She’s pretty calm, just one of those horses that’s an easy keeper,” says Kraft. Adding with a laugh, “She gets along well with the other horses as long as they remember who’s at the top of the pecking order!” Affectionately describing her as the ‘Queen Bee’, Kraft says Lynx Mountain is definitely a leader, with lots of followers and friends. He points to Fearless Warrior and Gross Beetle as the two horses she most prefers to spend time with both on the road and at home on the Stampede Ranch.
Lynx Mountain will be enjoying ranch life full-time now that she’s retired. The mare is the daughter of a horse named Turtle Mountain and was sired by Stampede stud Walleye Roan. As part of the Stampede’s Born to Buck breeding program, it’s now hoped she can carry on that valuable blood line.
“Her being a mare, that’s special,” said Thurston, clearly passionate about the animals that carry him to victory in the sport he loves. “You can keep that horse’s blood lines with Calgary for many more generations and keep that greatness going. Hopefully we get a bunch of baby Lynx Mountains!”
We hope so too!
Watch a special tribute video here