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Reaching New Heights

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

Riding Bulls and Broncs


Photography by Billie-Jean Duff


At 8 years old, Denver Leitch jumped on his first mini bronc and immediately found his true calling. Now, at 17, he has moved on to conquering broncs and bulls. Earning titles, scholarships and sponsors, you’ll find Denver ranking high in rodeos internationally and at home—from Las Vegas to the Calgary Stampede.


“I was exposed to the sport of rodeo at a young age, and I decided to try it out for myself because it seemed like fun,” said Denver. “It didn’t take long for me to love it, and I haven’t stopped since.”


Growing up in Grimshaw, Denver had a strong group of supporters ready to teach him the ropes. With the help of his dad, Scott Leitch, and the JC Rodeo Company, Denver had the opportunity to learn and practice on local rodeo stock and quickly became familiar with the ins and outs of rodeo.


“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my dad and the JC Rodeo Company. Having their stock in the north allowed me to level up my skills and move forward confidently,” said Denver.


In a short period of time, Denver transitioned from mini bronc riding and steer riding to bareback bronc riding and bull riding.

Nicky Rae Photography

“I think bull riding is the best sport in the world. Nothing compares to it, and the adrenaline rush is amazing,” said Denver.


In early June, Denver earned the title of Reserve Bull Riding Champion and finished third in the province in Bareback Riding at the Alberta High School Rodeo Finals, which were held in Stettler.


On June 10, Denver competed in a Bull Riders Canada event in Beaverlodge. He won first in the long round, first in the championship round and first in the average, earning him $3,750.

He was invited to the Calgary Stampede to compete on July 9 in the Novice Bareback Riding event. He won second place with a terrific ride earning him $2,500.


“I love every second of it. The practices, travelling with friends, going to new places and meeting new people, it never gets old,” said Denver.


With many accomplishments, buckles and titles to his name, Denver has spent the past nine years dedicating his time to rodeo and practicing his skills as much as possible. Aside from having many memorable moments on the rodeo road, Denver has two that stand out the most.


“Last year I was the Alberta High School Rodeo Bull Riding Champion, and I won on a family-raised bull of ours, which was amazing,” said Denver. “Another proud moment of mine was qualifying and riding at the Junior National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.”


After travelling all over the province, and even into the US to attend rodeos, Denver recently made the decision to move to Arrowwood, a small village southeast of Calgary, to be closer to the action and to pursue his passion more fully.


“Moving south was an easy decision to make. There are more rodeos for me to enter, and I don’t have to travel as far to find them,” said Denver.


The sport of rodeo isn’t an easy one, and Denver admits that he has strategies in place to help him stay motivated and focused after every ride.


“Staying sharp and having a good mental attitude is key. I usually keep it simple and try not to overcomplicate everything,” said Denver. “Staying present and in the moment has helped me stay on top.”


For Denver, the challenge is to continuously find better bulls to ride and test his skills at every rodeo he enters. Setting goals is important, and he has his sights set on reaching new levels in the near future.


“This year my goals are to qualify for the Canadian Finals Rodeo and the Bull Riders Canada Finals,” said Denver.


In the long term, Denver hopes to attend the College National Finals Rodeo in the United States and eventually qualify for the National Finals Rodeo.


Aside from the excitement of climbing on top of a bull or bronc, Denver finds that rodeo has positively impacted his life in more ways than one.


“Bull riding has allowed me to get a scholarship to Western Texas College in Snyder, Texas, and has really helped me grow as a person. I’m extremely grateful for this sport,” said Denver.


Denver recognizes the many benefits of participating in rodeo sports, and it’s important for him that people know the behind-the-scenes work that goes into it.

Wild Wood Imagery

“I wish more people understood that these animals are athletes and are well taken care of,” said Denver. “We respect them and make sure they are in great condition to perform, just like we do for ourselves.”


Continuing to ride his way to the top, Denver currently holds memberships in multiple associations to ensure he gets the chance to perfect his skills and complete as many eight-second rides as possible.


Denver is a proud member of the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association, Wildrose Rodeo Association, Lakeland Rodeo Association, Canadian Cowboys Association, Bull Riders Canada and the Alberta High School Rodeo Association.


Being a part of six different associations is no easy feat, and Denver is thankful for his dedicated sponsors that help him get down the road as smoothly as possible.


“I would like to thank NorthWind Land Resources Inc., Rank Pen Cattle Company and Weaver Group Ltd. for supporting me every step of the way,” said Denver. “I also appreciate everyone who has helped me from the very beginning. I can’t thank them enough.”


 

Billy Foster of the JC Rodeo Company was featured in Move Up Issue 22 (May – August 2019) in the article, “Raising Cowboys, Raising the Bar,” where a photo of a young Denver was featured.

 

By Dani Wearden | Photography submitted unless credited


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