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LaFromboise part of rodeo's next generation

Rodeo's next generation showing its skills

Here we come …

Walking down the street …

We get the funniest looks …

From everyone we meet …

No, not the Monkees.

It’s the next generation of rodeo superstars.

The future of Montana’s favorite sport showed itself in full force at the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour stop in Gardiner last weekend.

The bareback, saddle bronc and steer wrestling events were won by competitors who were crowned year-end state champions the previous week at the Montana State High School Rodeo Association Finals.

“We all know each other,” said Leighton LaFromboise of Helena. “We might not get to talk (during the rodeo) because some guys are timed events, but it’s cool to go there with your peers.”

LaFromboise is among the leaders of the pack. The 17-year-old two-time state champion won the bareback titles at Gardiner and Wilsall to start his 2024 Northern Rodeo Association season.

“It was a good weekend,” LaFromboise said. “It got me started well for the summer.”

The LaFromboise name is familiar to NRA fans.

Heath LaFromboise was a top rider for more than a decade in one of rodeo’s most physically demanding events. From 1994 to 2003, the older LaFromboise had nine top four-finishes, winning the year-end NRA bareback championship in 2003.

“I was super young. I could barely talk when my father finished up riding,” said Leighton. “I’ve heard some stories.”

The father is passing that knowledge to his son.

It was Heath who nudged Leighton to the bucking chutes.

“When I was young, around 9 or 10, my dad talked to me about some people who were bucking ponies,” recalled Leighton. “He said, ‘I think you ought to give it a shot.’ I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the thrill. Every time, it’s a battle with an animal that is trying to buck you off.

“My dad has coached me the whole way during my career. My dad has been an amazing coach. I’m learning from the best.”

Immersed into bareback riding, “I crave it right now,” he said, the younger LaFromboise is forgoing wrestling his senior year at Jefferson High School.

“I want to put everything into bareback riding,” he said. Along with competing every weekend, the 5-8, 135-pound LaFromboise hits the weight room four days a week and keeps a tab on his eating habits.

After placing second in the state standings as a freshman, he won state titles in 2022 and 2023. His 2024 was put on pause this spring after tearing ligaments in his thumb at an event in Ogden, Utah.

“I feel good now. I have amazing doctors,” said LaFromboise.

He will take a break from his NRA schedule in July to compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming. LaFromboise finished eighth in the nation last year.

“The key this year is to keep a positive mindset. Know you have the ability to do great,” he said.

LaFromboise finished ninth in the NRA year-end bareback standings for 2023. He had six top-four finishes during the regular season, including a win at Big Timber and second place finishes at East Helena and Boulder.

“Oh, the NRA has helped me a ton,” said LaFromboise, who also travels with his mother Erin and sister Maysa. “I’m able to get on some super cool horses from great stock contractors from all over the state. It helps me get ready for the next step.”

He wants to keep a similar schedule this summer. “I plan to get to everything I can,” LaFromboise added. “To do the small stuff to make me better.

“My dad, he lets me work with what is best for me. He is big on the mental aspect. Believing you’re the best, believing you can win … that you belong up there on the podium.

“I lie awake in bed every night thinking about bareback riding.”

Last week

LaFromboise wasn’t the only teenage talent on display in Gardiner.

Caiden Gray of Miles City was the saddle bronc winner while Glasgow’s Tatum Hansen did the same in steer wrestling. Both are new high school state champions.

Mitch Detton of Great Falls, who is the new high school all-around champion, placed second in both steer wrestling and tie-down roping while Cash Trexler of Corvallis was the tie-down roping winner. Trexler was second in the year-end high school standings.

The veterans flashed their skills in team roping at Wilsall as former champions Ian Austiguy and Sam Levine shared first place with reigning NRA champions Shawn Bird and Zachary Schweigert. Casey Collins of Billings jumped into the all-around race by winning the tie-down roping and placing third in steer wrestling. Only .38 seconds separated the top eight finishers in barrel racing.

Gardiner winners: Leighton LaFromboise, Helena, bareback; Caiden Gray, Miles City, saddle bronc; Caden Fitzpatrick, Polson, bull riding; Tatum Hansen, Glasgow, steer wrestling; Cash Trexler, Corvallis, tie-down roping; Steve Sherwood-Kayden Sherwood, Quitman, team roping; Julie Brown, Helena, barrel racing; Dusti Bird, Cut Bank and Sarai Berg, Deer Lodge, breakaway roping; Tye Brown, Helena, junior barrel racing; Bryar Taylor, Forest Grove, junior breakaway roping.

Wilsall winners: Leighton LaFromboise, Helena, bareback; Hunter Haskins, Superior, saddle bronc; Owen Monfeldt, Cody, Wyoming, bull riding; Ryder Gaasch, Dillon, steer wrestling; Casey Collins, Billings, tie-down roping; Ian Austiguy-Sam Levine and Shawn Bird-Zachary Schweigert, team roping; Brooklin Baukol, Clyde Park, barrel racing; Shawny Sherwood, Grace, breakaway roping; Chaney Akin, Cody, Wyoming, junior barrel racing; Slade Stubblefield, Choteau, junior breakaway roping.

Up next

The NRA and Northern Women’s Rodeo Association head to Bozeman on June 20-21 for the Valley View Rodeo. Both performances begin at 7 p.m.

It is the first of three Valley View Rodeos this summer. The others are July 25-26 and August 22-23. Valley View is new to the NRA and NWRA schedule.

Along with the regular events, Valley View will be offering rookie bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding, along with rookie ranch bronc riding and junior steer riding.

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