By Tyler Lowey, Times Reporter
Nine years after making her first appearance at the Canadian Finals Rodeo with her idol, Avery Aleman returned to the rodeo ring with her idol watching from afar.
At the young age of five, Aleman rode into the ring at Northlands Coliseum alongside Niki Flundra, a professional trick rider, during a break between rodeo events highlighting the future of rodeo.
“It was a way for the kids to dream big and help develop the future of the sport. She came out, did a few simple tricks and then left,” said Flundra. “It’s great to see her continue the sport.”
Flundra has always been a role model for Aleman. One year prior to her debut on the hallowed rodeo grounds, her parents took her to the Strathmore Stampede and saw Flundra perform. It was then that she asked her parents to help get her involved in the sport.
This wouldn’t be the last time the two worked together. Growing up just outside of Strathmore, Aleman teamed up with her idol throughout the years to help foster her growth in the sport, learning from the best.
Flundra runs her own trick riding clinics, travelling across the province to help the next generation of riders.
“Avery is a very talented young rider,” said Flundra. “You have to have a good mix of athletic ability, horsemanship, courage and strength to be successful in trick riding, and she has all those qualities.”
Fast forward to this November. Aleman made her return to the rodeo ring during the 44th and final CFR at Northlands.
Aleman performed on opening night as a member of the Young Gunz trick riding team. Flundra was also on hand, though not in the ring this time. These days, she helps produce the talent shows at the CFR.
“We have a pretty great relationship. It’s pretty cool how she used to teach me and now she watches me perform,” said Aleman. “She’s the reason I’m performing in the rodeo.”
Aleman rode into the ring midway through the opening night of the CFR, so the crowds weren’t nearly as big as the weekend’s draws, but it was still large enough to get the blood pumping in the Holy Cross Collegiate Grade 9 student.
“Riding into the arena and hearing the crowd cheer sent chills down my back and got my adrenaline going,” said Aleman. “It makes me so happy; this is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
In a span of about five minutes, Aleman and her Young Gunz teammate Cora Croteau peeled off a handful of tricks that are not recommended for your average horse rider.
Aleman was hanging off the saddle with one hand, no hands and upside down with a leg hanging above her body, as her horse Rocket raced around the arena at break-neck speed.
For Aleman, this was just a drop in the hat. She couldn’t even bust out her favourite and most difficult move, the Stroud Layout – where she positions herself parallel to the turf, as if she is standing up horizontally – because she was still getting over a concussion she sustained towards the end of summer.
“I hadn’t ridden in a while, so I kept it pretty safe,” said Aleman.
Performing at the CFR was the latest cherry on top of a career that began four years ago, when she started performing at rodeos. A typical summer with the Young Gunz will see Aleman perform in more than 20 rodeos.
The trick riding has carried Aleman all over Alberta, to Quebec, Oklahoma and even Australia for competitions.
When she saddles up for a heated battle, Aleman will perform four tricks, each with a maximum point total up for grabs. Whoever attains the highest point total is the winner.
These days, she has collected several ribbons, sashes and belt buckles from all her winnings.
It isn’t just the flashy trick riding Aleman performs in. She has also had her pro Canadian Professional Rodeo Association and her Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association card for two years now, as she rides her other horse Dolly in the barrels, pole bending, break away roping, goat tying and team roping.
Life has slowed down for the 14-year-old with the end of rodeo season. Hockey occupies her down time these days, as she is a member of the Strathmore Storm female bantam team.
She will start training again in the early spring, looking to learn more difficult tricks for the new season.
If she ever needs some pointers, she knows just who to dial up for some help.
“(Avery) and the Young Gunz choreograph their own shows now. I just enjoy seeing her perform,” said Flundra. “I don’t get to see her as much as I used to, but occasionally we cross paths and it’s great to see how far she has come.”