Blake Schlosser

Handing Over the Reins

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One of the highlights of the start of each perf of
the Ponoka Stampede is when they herd the
rough stock into the arena. Schlosser adds to
the drama with his air-cracking, signature
bullwhip.

Photos by Sarah Timmons

There comes a time for every cowboy to hand over the reins and at age 50, pick up man Blake Schlosser has reached that point. He topped off his career by being voted in for the seventh time as one of the pick up men at the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton. On top of that, he was stunned to be named the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association’s Cowboy of the Year.

“I was more worried about the rodeo,” says a still surprised Schlosser. “The bareback riding was on right after that, and I was concentrating more on it. I didn’t know how I was going to focus.”

And with the end of the 2011 CFR, Blake hung up his gear.
“I couldn’t have written a better script,” he says.  “A long time ago, I said I would quit when I was 50. It was just what I thought would be a good age, old enough. I was going to go for 25 years, but I didn’t reach all the rodeos in 25 years. It turned into 27 in order to make it to all the main rodeos. I missed some over the years, when I was doing the movie, The 13th Warrior, and when I broke my leg at Rocky Mountain House.”

Blake grew up on the a7 Ranche west of Nanton, steer riding, cow riding and even tried bronc riding, but unlike his older brothers Greg, Ron and Lloyd, he didn’t enjoy rough stock.

“I got on two bareback horses. I couldn’t stand it. I had no interest in it. I wasn’t like Greg. I couldn’t stand that bucking around. I guess that’s why I always watched the
pick up men.”

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Schlosser releasing the back cinch on a saddle
bronc at a rain-soaked Innisfail Rodeo. This is the
 part of cowboying they don’t sing about.

Photos by Sarah Timmons

“I always rode colts, and when I went to a Ray Hunt clinic and saw the way he did it, it was just the answer. When they (colts) bucked, I hated it. I was always the opposite of Greg (three-time Canadian Bull Riding Champion). Ray’s way was to keep them from bucking. The way he approached it was a natural way. It’s basically a way of life, and you can apply it to dogs or horses or people,” he says. “It’s just the way nature works. If you set it up and let them learn it, then they’ll remember it. You have to let them figure it out.”

Blake starts all of his horses—“that way I can’t blame anyone else”—but he and Monica are scaling that back a bit.
“We’re down to about 10 brood mares now. Otherwise it’s hard just to keep up. They add up like rabbits,” he says.

Well known for his good horses, the arena has been a showcase ?for his training abilities. At the ?peak of his career, Blake was picking up at 50 to 70 rodeo performances a season.

And that’s where the tipping point came in. Because he uses older, more experienced horses for pick up work, nowadays these are often the same horses that his son Stran and
daughter Reata need for rodeoing.

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His last official duty as a pick up man was helping
Dustin Flundra dismount from Calgary Stampede’s
Lynx Mountain at the 2011 CFR. As Schlosser and
fellow pick up man Gary Rempel head the bronc
towards the out gate, the legendary cowboy
reached across and shook Rempel’s hand.

Photos by Sarah Timmons

At age 12, Stran is participating in junior rodeos. Reata, age 10, competes in Claresholm’s Small Spurs series, and the whole family takes part in the Nanton Nite Rodeo series each summer.

“Lots of times I had a lot of the horses they needed with me. I figured it was time.”

Reata, the child they had to hold back from the moment she could sit in a saddle, is involved in every event she can get in to. When she was little, she was furious that Blake and her mother, Monica, wouldn’t let her lope in the rodeos. She’s built for speed, so she loves barrel racing, pole-bending, roping, and team roping.

“Reata does everything she can,” says Monica. “She’s a go-getter, and lately she’s gotten hooked on roping.”

Stran loves team roping and tie-down roping. Blake says he has potential for doing pick up in the future, but he’s not disappointed that Stran doesn’t seem to have any interest in rough stock.
 

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Schlosser, brother-in-law ustin Blades, and
father-in-law Mac Blades take part in the
annual polo competition at the Bar U Ranch
National Historic Site south of Longview.

Photos courtesy Schlosser Family

Blake’s son Colter (from his first marriage) is already earning his own rep as a trainer in Langley, B.C.

Rodeo is definitely still in Blake’s future. Between the two younger Schlossers, Blake and Monica are going to be kept busy hauling them up and down the road. Lifestyle-wise, it’s not going to be much different except it’ll be the children in the arena, not Blake.

“I need to spend more time with the kids,” he says. “We’ll be at rodeos all the time. They think they’re going to get me home more to do some work, but they’ll be in for a bit of a surprise.”

All joking aside, he’s looking forward to the home time. He’s going to be able to help the kids rope and do other sports. Currently, his brother-in-law, Manerd Bird, and nephew Logan, who live just down the road, help coach Stran and Reata.

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Blake and Reata competing in the Nanton
Nite Rodeo series in the adult/child team
roping last summer.
Photos courtesy Schlosser Family

“I haven’t been home for a summer in 27 years. I don’t know what that’s like. I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
“He has no idea what it’s going to change,” laughs Monica. “He doesn’t know what happens…” She’s looking forward to new opportunities, too, like being able to take a summer vacation.

Blake’s also looking forward to spending more time horse
training, which he’s been doing for 30 years, and he’s
thinking about entering more working cowhorse
competitions.

Blake, along with Nanton horse trainers Sid Cook and Mike Sears, are participating in the Horseman’s Reunion Invitational in Paso Robles, Calif., where 20 participants each start two horses?—?one two-year-old and one three-year-old. They work the horses for five days, with a sale on the sixth day.

“The horsemen start the horses the way they would at home, and people can come and watch it.”

“Maybe that will lead into something new,” he says. “I’m sure I’ll figure out something to do.”

Sheena (Fleming) Read grew up in the hills west of Nanton, learning to love the land and the history that surrounded her.

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