Cowboy John Swales of Millarville, Alta., has been named the World’s Greatest Horseman at a major U.S. competition, becoming the first-ever Canadian to hold the title.
Swales and his mount, Heza Diamond Spark, bested a field of 35 competitors to earn the annual distinction at the recent National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Celebration of Champions in Forth Worth, Texas, along with $35,000 US in prize money.
“I’m still kind of in amazement I guess,” he told The Calgary Eyeopener on Friday.
“I’ve wanted to try and win this for a long time. I made the finals in this competition four times before and always sucked. The nerves get to me,” he said.
“This year, for some reason, I was able to keep it together a little better.”
Formed in 1949, the NRCHA draws the best cowboys and cow horses from around North America each year.
Riders competed in four events over three days, and had to use the same horse for each, wearing the same bridle.
“You have to cut, do a reining pattern, rope a steer — it’s called steer stopping — and do fence work,” said Swales.
From there, the top 10 move on to the finals.
“It’s a clean slate finals and you do all four events in one day,” said Swales.
Just making it to the final round was a feat in itself.
His mount, Heza Diamond Spark, fell during the fence work portion of the preliminary round, finishing them in 10th place.
“It was a close call,” said Swales.
The animal is a working cow horse owned by Jesse and Elyse Thomson out of Longview, Alta.
“He’s been shown ever since he was a three-year-old,” said Swales.
“Elyse phoned me in September and asked if I would be interested in giving him a try.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
With files from The Calgary Eyeopener