In the rodeo world, it’s not often a lad from La Belle Province makes it to the Big Show, but when they do…
Pascal Isabelle of Saint Julienne, Quebec (about 45 minutes outside of Montreal) is a case in point. Unlike competitors raised in the arena dust, he was introduced to rodeo at the relatively late age of 16.
“I went to my first rodeo with my brother to see him, he rides bull,” says Isabelle in a lilting accent. “I was 16 years old probably, and I went there and I saw the bareback riding and I said, ‘I just want to try that.’”
He tried it alright, and ended up a star pupil at the rodeo schools in St. Tite, QC coached by none other than two-time Canadian Bareback Champion and Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame inductee, Roger Lacasse.
“I went to his school five years in a row,” says Isabelle.
Nine years later in one of the most punishing sports on the planet, Isabelle not only earned his first Bareback qualification to the CFR, but was also declared the winner of the Kenton Randle Bareback Series at the CPRA Awards held at the River Cree Nov. 10.
While the address under his name in the souvenir program says Okotoks, he is all Quebec, and understandably proud. To make his run at the CFR it made sense to move to Alberta after his 2015 run was cut short by injury.
“Last year I broke my ribs in the middle of the summer, so I took a month of rest,” explains the 25-year-old cowboy. “You can’t have a break here and still have a chance to make it to the Canadian Finals.”
Isabelle is the third Quebequois to grace the CFR arena. Bullfighter Wayne Chausse graced the arena with Ryan Byrne twice (1990 and 1992), Lacasse started knocking on the Championship door in 1993 earning 12 qualifications and the Championship in ’98 and ’04; and now, eleven years later Pascal Isabelle is riding under the fleur-de-lis.
So far, Isabelle is making good rides, earning 79.75-pts on Vold’s Up In Smoke on Day 1; last night he earned a fourth place cheque for his 83-pt. ride on Calgary Stampede’s Soap Bubbles. For Day 3 (Nov. 11) he has drawn Outlaw Buckers American Thumper.
“I am so excited to draw that horse,” says Isabelle. “It’s so good, it’s a dream come true.”