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Gaasch returned home with 10 checks, the most for any competitor.


July 11, 2024

He was too busy to watch the standings.

But after the dust settled and truck and trailer were parked, Ryder Gaasch took a peek.

“That was a pretty good run,” the teenager told himself after seeing the numbers.

Yes, it was.

From June 28 to July 7, the Northern Rodeo Association and Northern Women’s Rodeo Association sanctioned seven Mountain Health Care Co-Op Tour rodeos.

The NRA and NWRA handed out 343 checks over the 10-day span. There were 32 checks of $1,000 or more handed out, including 16 at Ennis, bringing seismic changes in the standings.

Gaasch, a 17-year-old cowboy from Dillon, was the high-money winner, pocketing $5,378.

Competing in steer wrestling and tie-down roping, Gaasch earned at least one check at all seven rodeos, winning both events on July 4 in Choteau. He returned home with 10 checks, the most for any competitor.

Along with Choteau, Gaasch also won the steer wrestling at Big Timber and Malta, while placing second in the event at Opheim and Ennis. He was also second in tie-down roping at Opheim and Harlowton.

“It was a very simple game plan,” Gaasch said. “Catch steers, throw steers down, be consistent and cash some checks. The tie-down roping started a little tough, but we got it going. I love steer wrestling and I’ve always liked to rope a little.”

Gaasch was the high-money winner in steer wrestling ($3,103) and tie-down roping ($2,275). The profitable rodeo run vaulted him to the top of the standings in both events and the all-around cowboy race.

“Last year I made the NRA Finals and I plan on making the Finals again,” said Gaasch who finished ninth in the regular season steer wrestling standings last summer.

He rode Tailback, his 14-year-old dark bay at Big Timber and shifted to Rooster, owned by Bridger Chambers of Butte. Chambers is a two-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier. Chambers won the NRA bulldogging title in 2013.

“Rooster has been everywhere. He is so automatic. Rooster knows the start everywhere I go,” said Gaasch, who rode Rooster at the Montana High School Finals in June and plans to use the horse at the upcoming National High School Finals Rodeo.

He was aboard his horse Blue for tie-down roping and also borrowed a horse from former NRA champion Jade Gardner of Ballantine.

“I got Blue last summer,” Gaasch continued of the blue roan mare. “She’s not really an angel. She’s so crazy. She likes to buck. Blue needs to be loped 24-7 to get her tired to ride.”

Gaasch, who takes on-line classes, will be a senior this fall. His family ranches and owns The Den, a steakhouse in Dillon. He stopped participating in other sports in eighth grade to focus on rodeo.

“I’d like to rodeo in college,” said Gaasch.

He plans to compete at East Helena this weekend before heading to the NHSFR in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Gaasch finished 89thoverall last year.

“I just want to get my steers caught and hopefully get a good finish,” he said.

Then it’s back to the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour.

“It’s been an awesome summer.”


Jacey Fortier made the most of her time in the arena last week. The Billings cowgirl won the breakaway roping at Big Timber and Harlowton with identical catches of 2.4 seconds. The two first place checks for $2,553 averages out to $532 a second of work … A few competitors enjoyed the hometown advantage. Bailey Bench of Ennis won the saddle bronc riding at his hometown rodeo while sisters Molly and Celie Salmond did the same in Choteau. Molly Salmond won the barrel racing for the second time in three years while Celie Salmond won the breakaway roping. Celie Salmond and their father Mark won the team roping in Choteau in 2022 … A total of 38 breakaway ropers went home with some money while 35 barrel racers earned checks. By comparison, seven bull riders and eight bareback riders won money during the lucrative run.

Up next

The Mountain Health Co-Op Tour slows a little with just one rodeo this weekend. Competitors will be at the East Helena Valley Rodeo, July 12-13. There are 5 p.m. performances each day.

The following weekend, the Tour will have rodeos in Havre, Three Forks and Shelby.

High-money winners, June 28-July 7:  Bareback, Leighton LaFromboise, Helena, $2,164; saddle bronc, Jason Colclough, Libby, $2,361; bull riding, Caden Fitzpatrick, Polson, $1,732; steer wrestling, Ryder Gaasch, Dillon, $3,103; Tie-down roping, Gaasch, $2,275; team roping, Chance Paradis-Shawn Little, Essex, $2,293; barrel racing, Alexis McDonald, Gardiner, $4,110; breakaway roping, Celie Salmond, Choteau, $3,067; junior barrel racing, Tye Brown, Helena, $1,230; junior breakaway roping, Alanah Scafani, Whitehall, $505.

Harlowton winners: Wyatt Warneke, Great Falls, bareback; TW Flowers, Sheridan, saddle bronc; Bennett Weindel, Ronan, bull riding; Austin Whitehouse, Helena, steer wrestling; Camilo Rios, McAllister, tie-down roping; Jason Carlson, Two Dot-Hunter Karlson, Garrison, team roping; McKinlee May, Bozeman, barrel racing; Jacey Fortier, Billings, breakaway roping ;Chaney Akin, Cody, Wyoming, junior barrel racing; Gage Mikkelson, Buffalo, junior breakaway roping.

Ennis winners: Leighton LaFromboise, Helena, bareback; Bailey Bench, Ennis, saddle bronc; Isaiah Sprecher, Deer Lodge, bull riding; Kyle Whitaker, Belgrade, steer wrestling; Nolan Conway, Cut Bank, tie-down roping; Chance Paradis-Shawn Little, Essex, team roping; Payton Levine, Wolf Creek, barrel racing; Haven Wolstein, Helena, breakaway roping; Sophia Neill, Whitefish, junior barrel racing; Brooks Bolich, Belgrade, junior breakaway roping.

Choteau winners: Wyatt Warneke, Great Falls, bareback; Jason Colclough, Libby saddle bronc; Caden Fitzpatrick, Polson, bull riding; Ryder Gaasch, Dillon, steer wrestling; Ryder Gaasch, Dillon, tie-down roping ; Chance Paradis-Shawn Little, Essex, team roping; Molly Salmond, Choteau, barrel racing; Celie Salmond, Choteau, breakaway roping; Sylvia Eash, Fortine, junior barrel racing; Royce Levine, Wolf Creek, junior breakaway roping.

Malta winners: Ryder Gaasch, Dillon, steer wrestling; Trevor Klind, Glasgow, tie-down roping; Easton Bowers-Chris White, Livingston, team roping; Brittney Sporer, Cody, Wyoming, barrel racing; Tiffany Ogren, Hysham, breakaway roping; Chaney Akin, Cody, Wyoming, junior barrel racing; Kenny Helgeson, Hays, junior breakaway roping.

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