By Jolee Jordan
Red Deer, Alberta — Championship seasons owe their genesis to a couple of different paths. One comes when a high caliber competitor sets a goal to earn a title, stays dedicated to their path and perseveres through the season to emerge as the victor. Another scenario involves those “meant to be” seasons, when everything just falls into place as it should, allowing a competitor to fulfill destiny that they may not have even known was waiting for them.
The latter scenario describes the championship run of Oregon cowgirl Callahan Crossley as she earned her first Canadian Championship following the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) October 30 through November 4, 2018.
“I had no intentions to win the title,” says Crossley, quickly adding, “of course, everyone wants to win a bunch [at the Finals] but I absolutely did not expect to have the week I did.”
The week she had was simply the best in CFR history. Entering the Finals ranked fourth in the Canadian standings, Crossley marched through the rodeo in record fashion, earning four go round wins and the average title en route to earnings of more than $75,000, beating Lisa Lockhart’s 2013 mark of more than $64,000.
A veteran of two CFRs, Crossley was unsure about rodeoing north of the border again in 2018 but had won a good check at the kick-off rodeo of the Canadian Pro Rodeo Cowboys (CPRA) season in Regina, Saskatchewan in November 2017 so she headed north for rodeos in April in Camrose and Coleman.
“I went to the spring rodeos which is earlier than I normally go up there,” notes Crossley. Though she placed at both rodeos, she did not win a lot of money. “They were both in little, indoor arenas where we usually do really good.”
The “we” for Crossley includes her equine partner, Brownie Bi Bogie, the ageless wonder horse by Wrangler National Finals Rodeo stallion Bogie Biankus who was raised by her aunt and uncle, Mary and Butch Knowles. The gelding came to the Crossleys as a six year old and has carried nearly every member of the family to the winner’s circle.
Despite the disappointing finish at the early season CPRA rodeos, Crossley decided to make a bid for her third CFR after winning the Cloverdale (BC) Rodeo in May.
“I didn’t know if I’d go back up there but after I won Cloverdale, I thought, ‘Brownie is telling me he wants to go,’” she laughs. Crossley previously won a Reserve title in Canada, finishing just about $1,100 behind Nancy Csabay in her first CFR appearance in 2016.
The pair worked rodeos on both sides of the border during the season as Crossley worked to earn both the CFR position as well as a trip to the Montana Circuit Finals Rodeo. A former champion in her home circuit, the Columbia River Circuit, Crossley switched circuits because there is usually a conflict between the CFR and Columbia River Circuit Finals.
“I didn’t want to have to possibly decide between the two,” she says, adding ironically, “then they changed the Columbia River Circuit Finals to January so it’s actually the same weekend as the Montana Finals.”
When summer rolled around, Crossley found herself placing a lot, but not winning a bunch of money.
“I was barely picking up the little, last place checks. I was ready to give it up,” she admits. Not surprisingly, it was her close-knit rodeo family that kept her motivated. Mom, Maureen, is a former Columbia River Circuit champ and dad, Shane, was a top hand at the pro rodeos in the Northwest for years. Her two older sisters, Jordan Minor and Jade Crossley, both compete as well both in the breakaway and barrels. “They told me to keep going.”
Crossley was picking up lots of checks but wasn’t winning enough to make her feel good enough about the time spent in the truck traveling back and forth across the border.
“I was so done . . . but they kept telling me to keep trying,” she says. “By the end of the year, like the last four or five rodeos, I don’t know what came over him but we started winning.”
In fact, Crossley and Brownie picked up big wins in Armstrong and Merritt over Labor Day and added a win in Hanna on the final weekend of September to clinch their third consecutive CFR trip. The top 12 in the Canadian standings qualify to compete at the CFR.
Crossley finished the regular season ranked fourth in the Canadian standings after earning more than $25,000 during the year. The thought of winning the title wasn’t on her mind as she set out for Red Deer, Alberta, the new home of the CFR after 44 years in Edmonton.
“I was just hoping to finish in the top four so I’d earn a spot at Calgary next year,” admits the cowgirl.
Leading the pack into CFR45 was reigning Canadian champ Carman Pozzobon, who recently wrapped up her first qualification to the Wrangler NFR. Pozzobon rides Ripn Lady, the pretty buckskin mare who won her second Canadian Horse of the Year title in 2018. She also earned the number one back number at the CFR, after winning more money during the regular season than any other contestant in any event.
Crossley began the Finals more than $18,000 behind Pozzobon but quickly made up ground after earning second on opening night. Second ranked Taylor Manning took the round win while Pozzobon very uncharacteristically hit two barrels.
“It was a lot different. The arena is smaller than Edmonton,” says Crossley of the change in venue. She noted that Red Deer is more of a western town while Edmonton was very much a big city. “And we ran from outside where in Edmonton we got to be inside before we ran.”
Because of the unique conditions, cowgirls had no idea what was happening inside the arena.
“We couldn’t hear any of the times,” Crossley says of running inside Westerner Park Arena. “After my first run, I asked Nikki [Hansen] if she heard my time because I thought mine felt like a 2D run! It felt so slow.”
In fact, her 13.868 was second behind Manning’s 13.772, good for her first 2018 CFR check worth more than $8,000.
“It was so deep, especially in the earlier rounds. I am lucky that Brownie is so big because if I’d been on one of our other horses, the smaller ones, we wouldn’t have gotten through it as well,” notes Crossley.
In the title race, Manning closed the gap on Pozzobon to less than $3,000 while Crossley moved to just about $11,000 behind.
Crossley began to make her championship move in the second go. She won the first of three consecutive rounds with a time of 13.823 seconds. Manning finished second to take the lead in the standings while Crossley moved to third, just under $6,000 back.
She and Brownie won round three twenty-four hours later with a run of 13.569, moving to the lead in the standings for the first time. She raised the bar again in round four with what would be the fastest time of the rodeo, a 13.454 second effort. Pozzobon jumped back to second after Manning suffered a downed barrel.
Holding the average lead as well as being more than $13,000 ahead in the standings as the CFR entered the weekend, Crossley was still not thinking about the championship.
“I was just in shock, really,” she laughs. “I couldn’t even think about it. I just kept going at it like I had nothing to lose.”
For his part, Brownie kept throwing out runs that seemed identical to the last one. Crossley agreed that his consistency is a big piece of his winning formula.
In addition, the 20 year old gelding’s dominance in little arenas had been well documented after earning Crossley the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) title in 2015. In fact, Brownie is a veteran of eight CNFRs with all three sisters. Crossley also finished as the Reserve National Champion at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo that same year.
“We live right next door to Walla Walla and they have that little arena there,” Crossley gives insight into the reason for Brownie’s small pen prowess. “When he was younger, Jordan and I would both run him there . . . she’d run in the open and I’d run him in the youth or something so he’d get two runs in one trip.”
“He just caught on to it faster; we were really lucky,” she says. After spending his early years as a ranch horse, Brownie learned the pattern from Maureen Crossley.
“We secretly bought her card and entered her at St. Paul one year,” Crossley laughs. “She swore she wouldn’t run him but we forced her to go. That was his first pro rodeo.”
After that start, Jordan’s main horse came up with an injury so she took the reins.
“Jordan had the hard part, getting him seasoned,” says Crossley.
Brownie is infamous for his quirks and sometimes difficult corral-side manner.
“People ask me what I do for him,” Crossley says, referring to his age and therapies that many use to keep their equine partners feeling good. “I tell them, whatever he’ll let me do which is nothing.”
Crossley recounted an episode earlier this year that showed Brownie’s independent nature.
“After I won Cloverdale, Nikki asked me if I wanted her to take him for me. I said, ‘I don’t know, he’s kind of weird about stuff,’” Crossley says. Hansen convinced her that she was capable of handling the horse so the pair left Crossley to do her champion’s interviews. Upon arriving back to the stalls, she found Brownie put away but still sporting his leg gear on one leg.
“She said he tried to kick her!” Crossley sheepishly says. “He’s never tried to kick me but I guess I know how to get around him. He doesn’t really do that stuff with me. I guess that’s why he’s mine.”
The head strong horse was definitely taking his jockey for a ride at the 2018 CFR. Completely in the driver’s seat, Crossley held her own in a tightly contested fifth go on Saturday, November 3. The top three contenders for the title finished 1-2-3 in the go with Manning bouncing back for a second round win with her run of 13.640 seconds while Crossley was second at 13.685. Pozzobon stayed alive with a third place finish with her 13.755 but was fighting the deficit coming at rodeo’s end when the average checks would be paid out.
On the final Sunday afternoon, Crossley and Brownie held the hammer with a lead in the average and in the standings of roughly $12,600. Leaving nothing to chance, the pair collected another go round win, this time with a 14.488 to run away with the average. Her six-round time of 81.887 was more than two seconds faster than reserve champ Diane Skocdopole.
“We’ve always said, he just gets better with more runs. If I made a run in an arena and had to come and run right back ten minutes later, I guarantee he would be faster the second time,” says Crossley.
Over six days, Crossley never finished lower than second to earn $75,575 at the CFR alone, a new record for all events. The huge showing also allowed her to finish the season with $99,190, a record for barrel racers, surpassing Lockhart’s 2013 mark of $88,650.
Making the win even sweeter was the presence of Crossley’s entire family, including her mom.
“This was the first year I got all of them up there. I even convinced Mom to take the whole week off [Maureen is a high school teacher],” says Crossley.
Sister Jade and her dad helped with the driving and Jordan was there to cheer on both her sister and her husband Riley, who was competing in the team roping. Though some of the clan flew out in order to get home on Sunday night, Crossley, Jade and Shane stayed in Red Deer and managed a little celebrating. “We stayed the night . . . there is a steakhouse in Canada called The Keg so we had to make sure to go there.”
“Then we were up early and headed home.”
Crossley will enjoy a break for the holidays before beginning the new year in Great Falls for the Montana Circuit Finals Rodeo. She’ll enter that finals—inside another small building—ranked fifth in the standings, trailing the leader by just over $3,000.
For more information and complete results, see rodeocanada.com.
1. Taylor Manning, Good Little Nick, 13.772, $10,530
2. Callahan Crossley, Brownie Bi Bogie, 13.868, $7,830
3. Kylie Whiteside, Isle Be Wright On, 14.069, $5,130
4. Bertina Olafson, Alive N Smashing, 14.207, $2,430
5. Rene LeClercq, Flirt For a Diamond, 14.295, $1,080
1. Crossley, 13.823, $10,530
2. Manning, 13.948, $7,830
3. Diane Skocdopole, JG Hectors Pizzazz, 13.963, $5,130
4. Carman Pozzobon, Ripn Lady, 14.025, $2,430
5. Justine Elliott, Blondys Starlight, 14.097, $1,080
1. Crossley, 13.569, $10,530
2. Shelby Spielman, Fame N Red Hot, 13.798, $7,830
3. Whiteside, 13.941, $5,130
4. Angela Ganter, Bogies French Bug, 13.966, $2,430
5. Skocdopole, 13.995, $1,080
1. Crossley, 13.484, $10,530
2. Whiteside, 13.906, $7,830
3. Pozzobon, 13.920, $5,130
4. Ganter, 14.017, $2,430
5. Skocdopole, 14.037, $1,080
1. Manning, 13.640, $10,530
2. Crossley, 13.685, $7,830
3. Pozzobon, 13.755, $5,130
4. Spielman, 13.873, $2,430
5. Shayna Weir, Moons Dyna, 14.049, $1,080
1. Crossley, 13.488, $10,530
2. Spielman, 13.844, $7,830
3. Skocdopole, Known To Be Wild Cs, 13.863, $5,130
4. Pozzobon, 13.892, $2,430
5. Whiteside/Weir, 14.063, $540 each
1. Crossley, 81.887 on six runs, $15,795
2. Skocdopole, 84.268, $11,745
3. Whiteside, 84.425, $7,695
4. Weir, 85.155, $3,645
5. Olafson, 85.326, $1,620
Total Money Won
Courtesy of WPRA