Zeke Thurston – Big Valley, Alberta ($176,991)
5-time WNFR qualifier
2-time World Champion
No one was more surprised than Zeke Thurston was when he won the saddle bronc world championship in 2016.
He never doubted that he would win that title but was surprised it happened so soon. He competed in high school and college and qualified for their championship events. He joined the PRCA in 2015 and qualified for his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo that same year. He was back again the next year, won the average, and left with the gold.
Zeke is headed to his fifth consecutive NFR this December where he will start in second place with $176,991 earned during the regular season. He also qualified for the Canadian Finals and after dominating in his home country, he won his first Canadian Championship.
“The Canadian title is one I’ve been gunning for a while,” he said in a Canadian Professional Rodeo Association press release. “I’ve accomplished a lot of thing that I didn’t think I would before this one.”
A lot of the money Zeke won at rodeos in Canada also counted in the PRCA standings. A highlight of this year came on the National Day of the Cowboy. He was competing at the Hard Grass Bronc Match in Pollockville, Alberta. He got on Calgary Stampede’s great bucking horse Special Delivery and scored 94 points.
That is one-point shy of the all-time record set by Doug Vold and Glen O’Neill. While Glen was born in Australia, he moved to Canada and called it home while he was competing. Doug is also from Canada and all three of these rides happened there.
Zeke will be proud to carry the Canadian flag at his fifth NFR and will lead the pack of eight contestants from his home country. He also has ties to the U.S. His father, Skeeter Thurston grew up in Nebraska who also competed in the saddle bronc riding at the NFR.
When he’s not on the road and riding bucking horses, Zeke can often be found on a saddle horse doing various ranch chores either in Canada or the sandhills of Nebraska. He and his wife Jayne have a one-year-old daughter, Lucy. They will all be hoping that Zeke has a super successful NFR and wins his second big title of the year.