Wagon Kids Will Be Flying In Las Vegas

(L-R): Chuckwagon Kids Paynton Bensmiller, Jill Flad and Cora Croteau will represent Canada at the North American Trick Riding Championship in Las Vegas.

December in Las Vegas, Nevada usually means the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR). But another competition will be held concurrently with the WNFR, as the first ever North American Trick Riding Championship will be held December 5th and 6th, 2016 at the Convention Centre as well as Horseman’s Park in Las Vegas Nevada. Fifteen trick riders will represent Canada at the competition, among them are three chuckwagon kids – Cora Croteau (daughter of Rae and Allison Croteau), Paynton Bensmiller (daughter of Lisa Bensmiller and Vern Nolin) and Jill Flad (daughter of Darcy and Richelle Flad).

Former trick rider Amber Miller (nee Graham) of the Graham Sisters trick riding act, will serve as the coach for the fifteen entries from the Canadian Trick Riding Association (CTRA). Miller was instrumental in the creation of the CTRA in 2015 as a way to give aspiring trick riders a way to get started in trick riding and be able to compete against kids of their own age. The CTRA also give trick riders the opportunity to compete and not just perform. Traditionally, trick riders were limited to performing after taking lessons and practising until they got proficient enough to get hired on at a western event as a contract act. Miller started her career by taking trick riding lessons from Jimmi Lou Irvine – wife of chuckwagon driver Doug Irvine.

The fifteen young Canadian trick riders who will compete at Las Vegas had to qualify through competitions sanctioned by the CTRA. The top placers in the five different divisions of the CTRA qualified to go. Because this is the first year of a North American competition, they allowed the top performers from both the 2015 and 2016 seasons eligible to compete.

Twelve-year-old Paynton Bensmiller, who started her career at the age of two with the Graham Sisters act, earned her spot to Las Vegas two-fold after winning both the 2015 CTRA Junior Division as well as the 2016 CTRA Senior Division.

Eleven-year-old Cora Croteau, who started her career at the age of four, has been performing professionally with the Young Gunz Trick Riding act, earned her spot to Las Vegas after winning the 2015 CTRA Pro Division.

Fourteen-year-old Jill Flad, who started trick riding just three years ago, placed third in the 2016 CTRA Senior Division, and was made eligible to go because Paynton Bensmiller had already qualified through the Junior Division in 2015. Blake Molle, (daughter of CPCA driver Kris Molle and his wife Wendy) just missed out on the Las Vegas competition by just one spot.

Next week, the wagon kids will be flying in Las Vegas. Best of luck to Paynton, Cora and Jill, as well as the other twelve CTRA trick riders who will represent Canada at the first ever North American Trick Riding Championship. You’ve already done us proud!

Billy Melville

GMC 2017