Rank Mini Pony Farewell Tour
Rank Mini Pony is Canada’s premiere youth rodeo sanctioning body. Responsible for two Junior World Champions in the last 6 years of operations, the Edson, Alberta operation has undoubtedly been a positive catalyst for growth for the sport of rodeo.
From Vanderhoof, BC to Bozeman, Manitoba and all the way down to the Wranger National Finals Rodeo there isn’t a lot of space in the rodeo world where rodeo’s next generation haven’t gone with Rank Mini Pony.
Rank Mini Pony creator Travis James says the interest from competitors, sponsors and various committees through the years has been incredible, and that he is looking forward to building a very special 2021 campaign. "We have come through a lot with Rank Mini Pony. We were the first Canadian body who qualified contestants for the JR NFR in Las Vegas, and even crowned a pair of World Champions along the way," James said. "This has been a labour of love for myself for a very long time and I am looking forward to what the future holds for both the youth in rodeo as well as seeing the next generation start to make an impact in the pro ranks of rodeo."
The 2021 Rank Mini Pony Farewell Tour will be the final season of Rank Mini Pony under the direction of Travis James. With more and more interest in freestyle bullfighting and the growth of Gringo Fighting Bull and the sports in a professional setting in Canada, James says he would like to be able to focus solely on the fighting bulls and the breeding program that supports it. "This is far from an easy choice to make," James said. “For me it is more a decision of what I want to focus on with 100 per cent of my attention moving forward, and for me that is the fighting bulls. I have been lucky enough to become a national champion in freestyle bullfighting and we have seen some incredible talents come out of Canada in the last couple years. I want to be a part of developing the likes of Connor Larrivee and work with icons of the sport like Brett Monea and Kynan Vine on ensuring the western event lifestyle, especially from a bullfighting point of view is grown into tomorrow."
Rank Mini Pony was started in 2015, and steadily grew from there. Partnering with PBR Canada, the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association and even making it to Edmonton to be a supporting event of the final Canadian Finals Rodeo in Northlands Coliseum, the ponies popularity never waned.
For James, he says the 2017 season was one of their biggest years, starting the Rank Mini Pony Canadian Cup in Peers, Alberta. The event acted as the finals, but also boasts being the biggest mini bronc riding event in Canadian history. The event saw 135 ponies bucked, 48 participants and more than $5,000 in prize money over a two-day event. "The Rank Mini Pony Canadian Cup was awesome. We bucked so many ponies, crowned a ton of champions and brought professional rodeo production to a level of the sport that rarely sees it. Dusty LaValley was involved in the judging and mentorship side of the weekend, while professional rodeo announcer Dustin Edwards kept fans and competitors informed," James said. "The success of that event, and the subsequent years editions are a testament to the people who compete with Rank Mini Pony and the sponsors that support this organization."
As for what the 2021 Rank Mini Pony Farewell Tour will consist of, that is still up in the air. But with a huge herd of mini bucking horses and the ability to hold events near his home in Edson, pending the regulations that the region will be under this summer, James is confident a few events will still take place to ensure a final 2021 Rank Mini Pony champion is crowned. "This is an idea that I have had rolling around in my head for some time. This isn’t a COVID thing for me, even though the pandemic has made a lot of folks look closely at what they are spending their time and efforts on. I certainly wish I could build out a season with CPRA, PBR events as well as a stand alone finals, but that likely isn’t going to be the case this season," James said. "I want to make a memorable season for the athletes that have supported Rank Mini Pony for so long in a time where there isn’t a lot of events going on."
The obvious question on the tongue of many is what will be done with the 60 plus herd of Rank Mini Ponies. For Travis, there is a ton of sentiment to the operation be he recognizes the importance of making the herd of buckers and any other assets available to folks to build the sport into the future. "There is no question that I have a massive sentimental attachment to Rank Mini Pony. My mom and I built it together, and I lost her in 2016. This organization and the faces that have come and gone through the Rank Mini Pony family will always be important to me," said James. "If the question is would I ever sell it, then the answer is complex. I would definitely make the assets available to anyone who wants to get involved in this side of the sport. The herd of buckers would be available too. This is by no means a business to get rich quick off of, but I would sure love to hear of someone coming along with that level of passion to continue what has been built here."
Rank Mini Pony Story
After many months of uncertainty, the ponies of Rank Mini Pony finally broke out of the gates last weekend as the Rank Mini Pony Covid Classic went off without a hitch.
The event, which was held at the Edson Rodeo grounds last Saturday gave some of Canada’s rising young cowboys and cowgirls a chance to get back on the ponies for the first time since the R.M.P. Canadian Classic at Northlands in November.
According to Rank Mini Pony founder, owner and operator Travis James, the jackpot-style event was a roaring success.
"Successful would be the word I would use. It’s tough with the COVID restrictions and stuff and with those restrictions I physically couldn’t make any money off that event," said James.
"But at least we were able to get close to breaking even."
James added that the event was also an opportunity to bring some sense of normality back into the lives of the competitors, as well as give the ponies a chance to show that they’ve still got moves.
"It's good to get the parents involved, the kids back involved and the ponies in shape" said James.
He added that he was thankful to everyone in attendance who worked to make the event a success given the safety measures that had to be put in place.
"I think all the parents and all the kids did a really good job and tried their best to social distance," he said.
After the dust settled on a day of (masked) Rank Mini Pony action, three competitors emerged from the 22-rider field to claim the coveted championship buckles.
Blaze Torkleson took the PeeWee division title on Painted Hippy while Elam Podolak took the junior crown aboard RMP’s famous Jelly Bean.
Finally, in what may have been his final ride on a Rank Mini Pony bucking horse, veteran rider Spur Cottingham took home the senior title aboard Midget.
"I'm thankful for kids like Spur who work their butts off for the stuff they want. He comes from no rodeo background at all and he wasn’t all that natural when he started. It was really good to see him walk away with some hardware after putting in four years of hard work," James said.
Regardless of whether or not COVID restrictions are lifted in time for rodeo season next summer, the jackpot last Saturday wasn’t the last you’ll see of Rank Mini Pony.
If government restrictions aren’t eased by the time 2021 rolls around, James said he’s got plans to keep the ponies bucking.
"I'm planning on having at least five events at my house and depending on what the COVID restrictions look like and what other committees and events do we’ll go off of that. Hopefully smaller fairs and festivals will be able to open next summer so we can go back to some of our events but if not we’re gonna try and have a full series, one way shape or form."
Rank Mini Pony COVID CLASSIC
After missing nearly a full season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rankest ponies to ride this side of the 49th parallel will make their triumphant return to the rodeo arena at the Rank Mini Pony Covid Classic next month.
"It's an event for the kids." said Travis James, the founder, owner and operator of Rank Mini Pony Ltd.
The event, which takes place Oct. 10, 2020 at the Edson Rodeo Grounds, will be Rank Mini Pony's first since the start of the pandemic in March and will feature buckles for the winners and prizes for runners up in each age category.
James said that he's hoping the event can serve as a kind of escape for kids who are just getting back into the swing of heading back to school during an extremely stressful period of time in the province.
"It's kind of a nice little getaway so they can reset if they need and it's also a good for our ponies to keep them in shape," said James, adding that the event will be entirely Covid compliant.
Mandatory masks and a limit of 50 people in the building at one time are among the precautions that are being put in place for the competition and all competitors and parents are being encouraged to observe physical distancing recommendations.
"It's gonna be tough because our arena's fairly small, so if we get more than 20 kids we're gonna have to break it down so that half the kids can go the first two hours and the second half can go the second two hours," James said.
Additionally, in order to maximize the number of kids who will be able to participate, the event will not be open to the public and only essential personnel will be allowed inside the building. Each rider will be limited to having one parent in attendance.
The event will be a much-needed return to action for Rank Mini Pony after a season lost to a global pandemic.
"It's just been devastating to be honest. That's basically our whole summer's income. It took forever for me to get some government grants so for the longest time it was looking kind of sketchy. We weren't allowed to do anything. We were just completely at the hands of the government. It was scary, the thought of losing everything including the farm was very real.." James said.
Beyond the government restrictions, James said that it's been tough to drum up support from businesses who would normally sponsor events we attend throughout the year, many of them are also struggling.
"Lots of the committees have been super apologetic and I totally get it. I'm essentially a committee man myself. It's just tough but a lot of them have shifted the focus to next year and whenever we're back to being able to host rodeos, they definitely want to jump on board but I have to look after the health and safety of our community first."
But now that the restrictions have lifted a little, James noted that he and the ponies are excited to get back into the arena again.
"If Covid's gonna be around and linger around next year I've got some stuff in the works for having some events where we can socially distance and do healthy, safe events so It will be nice to gauge and see what group of kids we have moving forward for next year."
The Rank Mini Pony Covid Classic will take place on Oct. 10, 2020 at 1 p.m. at the Edson Rodeo Grounds. Entries are $55 per rider and will open on Sept. 15, 2020 and will be bareback only. Age groups will be 6-8, 9-11, and 12-14
Entries will open up September 15th and close October 1st and fees will be required to be Etransfered as one more method to mitigate the possible spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Rank Mini Pony Canadian Cup
Even though some of Canada's biggest rodeos are coming to an end for the season, don't fret, because next month you can experience Canada's largest Mini Bronc Riding in Peers, Alberta. On August 4, 5 & 6 Travis James of Rank Mini Pony will be hosting the 3rd annual Rank Mini Pony Canadian Cup.
This event will be in conjunction with the Peers Gold Dust Daze. With free admission and $40 for the weekend camping, this family fun action packed long weekend will be one for the memory book.
Events will include things like a tractor pull, show and shine, horse pull, horse shoes, fireworks, freestyle bullfighting and a weekend long slow pitch tournament with a Saturday night dance.
"Rank Mini Pony has always been one of our favorite sponsorships. Every year we get to watch the positive impact they have on these young kids with a dream! It's a great environment for them to put their passion into, it's always well received, and all in all anything that benefits young children and their future is something Outlaw will always be supporting!" Nola Gideon – Outlaw Oilfield Services LTD.
"We are expecting to buck over 140 ponies in three days, "Said James, "With big names like Jayna Hale the only girl to ride at the Jr. NFR, and the Reserve 2017 Canadian Cup Jr. bareback champion coming back to chase after the title, the weekend promises the best of the best in the sport of Mini Bronc Riding" James continued on to say.
Age groups are broken down in the bareback: 6-8 years old, 9-11 years old and 12-14 years old. The saddle bronc is 6-14 years old with size appropriate stock given to the rider. Fees are $100.00 for two rides and a short go. You can decide between riding both ponies on one day or a pony per day. The short round will be held on the Monday. Entries are open now until July 26, 2018.
Performance times are:
August 4th (Saturday) ---2pm & 8:30pm
August 5th (Sunday) ----11am & 6pm
August 6th (Monday) ---11am
Come check out the next generation of cowboys and cowgirls as they ride some of the Rankest Mini Ponies in Canada!
June 30th through until July 2nd, Pro Rodeo fans were able to see some of the wildest, rankest, pint sized cowboys, and bucking horses Rank Mini Pony has to offer. Fans and visitors from across the province, Canada, and out of country, enjoyed the Pro Rodeo entertainment.
After the ponies bucked we were winding down, and a visitor from Vegreville (1 hr East of Edmonton) came up to us and started talking. She went on to tell us she drove down just to watch the ponies go out Saturday night. To be the reason why someone made the trip to the Airdrie Pro Rodeo is definitely something we are proud of.
When asked what it was like to compete at a professional event, Jayna Hale (the only girl to compete at the JR NFR in 2017) timidly answered "It's pretty cool and exciting".
"For rodeo entertainment, I think it's a great addition. Something that's family fun and everyone can enjoy. Once people seen it once, they were in their seats for it each day which was cool." –Rodeo Announcer Dustin Edwards.
Not only did the kids get to compete alongside the top rodeo athletes in the world, a few kids took part in the Canada day festivities as well. "That was one of the largest parades I have ever been a part of" said Travis James CEO of Rank Mini Pony LTD. "I couldn't believe how many people lined the streets chanting and cheering as floats paraded on by.
Airdrie Alberta Canada you sure know how to celebrate Canada Day!
If you liked what you saw and want more Mini Bucking Bronc action, join us in Peers Alberta Aug. 4,5,6 for the Rank Mini Pony Canadian Cup. Free admission and camping available for only $40/weekend.
The best pint-sized cowboys, cowgirls and broncs in Canada are set to take over the arena at the Airdrie Rodeo Grounds later this month.
For the first time ever Rank Mini Pony will be making an appearance at the Airdrie Pro Rodeo for three performances of high-octane mini bronc action that is sure to be a blast for the whole family.
"We're really focused on growing the sport and building talent within the country," said Rank Mini Pony founder and owner Travis James.
"The Airdrie stop will be one of 15 stops on the Rank Mini Pony tour throughout the 2018 season. The rest of events can be found right here on our website on the Schedule page."
"We're going to more events, more places. There's more money up at these events, more prizes. The whole thing's just growing," said James.
Airdrie marks the only pro rodeo on the Rank Mini Pony schedule this year and will feature six to eight riders a day vying for a cash prize and will also include plenty of local talent.
"I'm really excited Rank Mini Pony is in my home town rodeo. It means a lot to me because the people that support me can come watch me ride and that makes me happy," said seven-year-old Airdronian bronc rider Gavin Rose, who will have the chance to ride in front of his home town crowd.
"I'm really thrilled that this entertainment is coming to the Airdrie Pro Rodeo. I'm ecstatic that this event even exists so that young, aspiring bronc riders can grow up with the sport and learn safety and proper techniques," said Lois Jones, CEO of Here's the Scoop, the presenting sponsor of Rank Mini Pony in Airdrie.
"It's a win-win all the way around. It's entertaining to watch."
Jones noted that having an event like Mini Bronc riding at the Airdrie Pro Rodeo will add a family-friendly event to an already stacked roster of rodeo action.
"Because we're a family-oriented paper, we try to sponsor events that are fun for all ages and Rank Mini Pony definitely fits into that category."
The Airdrie Pro Rodeo runs June 28th to July 2nd at the Airdrie Rodeo Grounds with the final 3 performances consisting of Rank Mini Pony Action.
Also this month Rank Mini Pony can be seen in Paradise valley June 23rd and another one of our larger stops in Trochu June 30th.
THE FUTURE OF RODEO will be on display at the Edmonton Expo Centre during the 44th annual Canadian Finals Rodeo this year.
Some of the best young saddle bronc and bareback riders in the country are set to converge in the provincial capital on Nov. 8 to take part in the inaugural Rank Mini Pony Canadian Classic.
For the first time ever, 24 of the top ranked kids on the Rank Mini Pony circuit across four divisions will come together to compete in a kind of mini-CFR, right in the heart of the biggest event on the Canadian rodeo calendar. The top 2 kids in each Division will battle it out in a "Short Go" style format, with the top kid over a 2-head average claiming the Canadian Classic Title.
"It's going to be a really cool opportunity for these kids to come and ride in Edmonton during the CFR," said Rank Mini Pony owner and event organizer Travis James. " of kids are pretty stoked about it."
The event, which starts at 4:30 p.m. and runs until 6:30 p.m. on the 8th will feature 24 of the rankest ponies from both Rank Mini Pony and Kyle Miller matched up against 24 of the top kids in the country, with the top 8 riders coming back at the end of the afternoon for a short go.
The winners of each age group get Troy Fisher buckles while the runners up will receive Jensen Silver pendants. In addition, two kids will be awarded Crooked Horn cowboy protection vests.
As you might expect, the roster of riders is stacked.
Former World Champion and two-time Canada Cup champion saddle bronc rider Tanner Miller will be making an appearance, along with 3 Time Canadian champ Logan Rasmussen, plus the only Girl competing at Both the Canadian Classic and the Mini Bareback World Finals Jayna Hale.
"There's a couple of those kids that have made the World Finals in Vegas a few times, with a handful of those kids going back to Vegas again this year," James said.
To top it all off, four-time Canadian champion bareback rider Dusty LaValley will be judging the event.
This isn't the first time LaValley, whose company, Trusted Dispatch, which is one of the sponsors of the event, will pick up the judge's clipboard for a Rank Mini Pony event. Earlier this year the Canadian rodeo legend was one of the judges for the inaugural Rank Mini Pony Canada Cup, which was the largest mini bronc riding in the county totalling 135 outs and awarding $5,000 in prize money.
"We're really excited to have Dusty back judging for us at this event. He's won the CPRA a few times and been to Calgary a few times also, so it's really cool for the kids to be able to get some feedback from him, and just hangout around their idols." James said.
James added that he'd like to thank all of the sponsors who have made the Rank Mini Pony Canadian Classic possible. Major Sponsors for the Canadian Classic include: Tumbling T Productions, Trusted Dispatch, 1st impressions, Outlaw Buckers Rodeo Corp, Spectra Systems, Outlaw oilfield, and Phoenix Technology Services. Additionally we would like to thank all of our program and conestant sponsors for their continued support as well.
"We're looking forward to hosting another one of the biggest mini bronc riding events in Canada."
The Rank Mini Pony Canadian Classic takes place at the Edmonton Expo Centre on Wednesday, Nov. 8 with the first pony bucking at 4:30 p.m. and is included with your admission into FarmFair International.
A full roster of contestants can be found below:
CANADIAN CUP STORY
PEERS, Alberta - The second annual Rank Mini Pony Canadian Cup will be held in Peers, Alberta this August long weekend in conjunction with the Peers Gold Dust Daze.
Forty pint sized contestants will battle it out over three long go-rounds to make it to the final short go, all within two days. A grand total of $5,000 will be paid out to these rodeo stars, who will be spurring some of Alberta's best mini roughstock..
Announcer Dustin Edwards has had the opportunity to watch these youngsters at several different events over the past two years. When asked what he enjoys most about the Rank Mini Pony athletes, he mentions how they are mini professionals, showing a promising future for the world of rodeo.
"You watch their demeanour around the bucking chutes. How fired up they get when they make a ride; how they smack themselves in the chutes. " he said. "They've got the swagger and charisma of the professional athletes we see in the rodeo arena, and thats what's cool to me about them."
If you've witnessed these kids ride before, you know exactly what Edwards is talking about. To see it firsthand, make sure you're at the RMP Canadian Cup August 5th and 6th in Peers, Alberta at the Peers Gold Dust Daze.
RANK MINI PONY, CORONATION PRO RODEO
Coronation, ALBERTA- The Rank Mini Pony bucking stock will be heading to the Coronation Pro Rodeo this year. This will mark the first Pro Rodeo for the Rank Mini Pony Crew.
"I'm super excited. This is a huge milestone for us." Travis exclaimed.
"I might be a little biased but I believe we're the most professional group in the business. There is an excellent group of parents and participants coming down the road, I am very grateful to be on the Canadian Pro Rodeo scene." he said.
Committee member Marti McKie booked Rank Mini Pony for the rodeo this year.
"We wanted to book the RMP's for our CPRA rodeo just to give them a chance to get bigger and better. We believe everyone has to start somewhere, and why not start in our small community of Coronation. Just a few years ago Dustin Edwards announced his first Pro Rodeo in Coronation." she said. "As a pro rodeo committee, we think it's important that our up and coming kids have the same chance to come to some of the bigger shows as well." she explained.
"What Travis is doing for those kids is an awesome deal. We want to support him 100%, and we hope that other CPRA rodeos will follow in suit."
McKie knows the value of great entertainment at a pro rodeo. "Another reason we decided to hire them on is to give our rodeo fans something new and exciting to watch. Those young kids can sure put on a show and it's pretty exciting for people that have never seen it before."
The RMP's will be featured in the Friday, July 7th performance as well as the Saturday, July 8th performance in Coronation, Alberta.
VANDERHOOF, British Columbia
The Rank Mini Pony tour is making a stop in Vanderhoof, British Columbia for the first time as part of the British Columbia Rodeo Association sanctioned rodeo from April 29th to 30th.
Brenda Ferguson is a member of the Nechako Valley Rodeo Association and is looking forward to having the Rank Mini Pony competitors at the 5th Annual Vanderhoof rodeo.
"We have watched the mini bronc riding for a few years now and have always wanted to have it here.," Ferguson said. "Watching our future rodeo competitors at such a young age is always amazing. We at the Nechako Valley Rodeo Association really push the youth events as without them we eventually won't have a rodeo to watch."
This is the third stop on the Rank Mini Pony tour, running the same weekend as another stop in High Prairie, Alberta. The first stop was this past weekend in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Next stop on the tour will be Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
Rank Mini Pony started in 2015 when CEO Travis James was watching the Wild Pony Racing at Wetaskiwin amateur rodeo. "I figured it wouldn't be too hard to pack around a handful of ponies." said James. He then bought a little herd, dummy bucked them that winter, and found he had a few that worked well. The Mini Bareback Riding World Championship had started a Facebook page, and Travis decided to reach out to them; the rest is history.
Those at the Vanderhoof rodeo will get to watch some of the best mini bucking stock from the Rank Mini Pony string, with five up and coming stars spurring hard each day for the $300 in added money. Though the roster is full, if anyone else wants to get in on the action they can pre register with Travis James by contacting 780-712-0805.
RIMBEY, Alberta- The third and final spring Rank Mini Pony School is set for Saturday, April 15th at the Rimbey Agrim Centre in Rimbey, Alberta.
These schools bring children ages six to thirteen, and had a limit of ten, but with a large interest, they raised it to 12-13 max, and have a wait list full of kids eager to learn.
The main focus at the school is safety. Clinician Brandon Stuart ensures the kids are protected and are full of knowledge before they get on a pony in the chute.
"The biggest thing I stress from the beginning is safety. We go over equipment to ensure helmets fit properly and aren't deficient in any way. Then we move into chute procedure to keep the kids, horses and personnel all ready to keep moving forward. In this there is a lot of body positioning and speed control." said Stuart.
Before the kids sit on a pony in the chutes, he has them practice on a bucking machine to ensure that they are ready to get on the real deal. Students are also taught breathing techniques to keep them calm and focused.
"It has a tendency to calm the less experienced riders and allows the experienced ones to refocus on some technique before nodding for the gate. We also stress proper dismount technique as this is where most youngsters get lumped up and can also pose a serious risk to their pelvis and spine landing on their bum or hip." says Stuart.
Brandon keeps the environment very positive and team oriented, where the kids support one another and keep a positive mindset.
"After they ride, the kids come to me where we address any lumps and bumps from the ride and again do some breathing but mainly drive positivity into their minds from the ride. I use a lot of teamwork techniques to allow the kids to learn by helping me teach and to stick together, stay positive, and coming back for more. Every school has had return students from previous schools and it's unbelievable how each one that returns retains so much from the last school." said Stuart.
In the fall, Rank Mini Pony CEO Travis James, looks to have schools each month over the fall and winter, beginning in October.
The first event of 2017 kicks off in Grande Prairie Alberta April 22, 23 in conjunction with their High School Rodeo. Stock will be supplied by Big D Mini Buckers.
About Rank Mini Pony - Rank Mini Pony (RMP) with headquarters in Edson, Alta. is helping to grow the sport of mini bareback and saddle bronc riding through the use of social media by highlighting the best kids vs the best ponies. Mini Bronc Riding will be at 26 rodeos and counting in Alberta, British Columbia, and throughout Saskatchewan this year. Follow us on Instagram and Snapchat at @rankminipony, like Rank Mini Pony on Facebook, or online at RankMiniPony.ca