There’s an old saying, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Which could be true, unless what happens in Vegas is winning a finals rodeo.
That is exactly what Destiny Stevens is setting out to try and accomplish Nov. 8-12 at the Indian National Finals Rodeo at the South Point Equestrian Center in Las Vegas.
Stevens punched her ticket to her second-straight INFR following a strong season in the Indian Rodeo Cowboys Association and Northern Alberta Native Cowboys Association.
She finished the season in first in the breakaway in the NANCA and IRCA. That alone earned her a trip to Vegas, but, for extra measure, she went on to capture the IRCA title for barrel racing. She didn’t finish the season with the lead in the barrels, but turned in a second, fourth and first place placing during the IRCA Finals, propelling her to Vegas for a second, and unexpected event.
“Breakaway is my favourite event. It’s more my style to rope than to run barrels,” said Stevens.
The INFR pulls from 11 different regions, with the season-leader and finals-winner for each discipline and region making the trip down to Vegas. There is also room for 11 extra cowboys and cowgirls in the event.
Despite the two titles, Stevens remains humble in preparation for the INFR.
“I was pretty excited. It was nice to win both events this year,” said Stevens. As a prize, she won a pair of saddles and belt buckles to go along with a small chunk of cash.
“She is downplaying her success,” said her mother, Crystal. “It is unheard of to win two year end titles. We are very proud of her and all that she has accomplished this season.”
Destiny and her family made the trip to Vegas last year and finished seventh in the breakaway.
She was satisfied with last year’s results, but bringing home the hardware this year would be, “Pretty cool.”
Destiny, a Grade 11 student at Holy Cross Collegiate, has been roping for five years now, as her family has a strong background in rodeo.
Her brother Hayze, took part in the INFR last year in breakaway, but didn’t qualify this year. He competed in team roping and tie down roping this season, but didn’t qualify for the INFR. Her father, Jim, participated in the IRCA and NANCA finals this year in steer wrestling. Jim entered the INFR for steer wrestling last year as well.
“I might razz them a little bit on our trip down, but that’s about it,” said Destiny.
“She has made it plenty clear to her father that he will be her groomer down there,” said Crystal, who manages her families rodeo lifestyles.
The Stevens family will make the three-day drive down to Vegas together, along with her two horses Tom Tom and Becca.
Destiny rides Tom Tom during breakaway events; he is three years old and is a chestnut brown. At 19 years old, Destiny prefers Becca for barrel races.
“I ride Becca in the barrels because she is older, more experienced and has a better feel for the competition than Tom Tom would,” said Destiny.
The Stevens family isn’t strangers when it comes to long road trips. At one point this summer, Destiny and her father travelled up to Saddle Lake, down to Bragg Creek and then back up to Saddle Lake over the span of two days, just to attend competitions. That’s nearly 2,000-kimlometres.
Having rodeo blood can only get you so far. Destiny is extremely dedicated to her craft and puts in long days perfecting her skill.
Destiny and her brother take a half hour bus ride each morning for school. Once school lets out, she will train at Lausen Indoor Arena twice a week. There, she rides horses for two hours, and if the weather permits, she will practice roping outside. If not, she practices roping on a wooden calf.
“She just has so much talent,” said the owner of Lausen Indoor Arena, Lorne Lausen. “I would have been shocked if she didn’t qualify for Vegas.”
Lausen grew up with Destiny’s father and has known her since she was a toddler.
“She is incredibly dedicated, she practices lots, listens to advice and constantly wants to get better,” said Lausen.
Lausen is so confident in Destiny and Hayze’s abilities, he has started bringing them out to his clinics and uses them as instructors.
When Destiny isn’t riding around at Lausen’s, she’s probably out at her families ranch, practising her roping skills on another dummy until the sun goes down.
Las Vegas is in the forefront of Destiny’s mind these days, but she would love to compete in the Strathmore Stampede or even the Calgary Stampede when she is older.