Miniota brothers carry on family tradition

Inspired by their grandfather they continue competing in rodeo

Ashten Hawtin, 15, enjoys competing in rough stock events of junior steer or bull riding.

Drawing on the inspiration of a former rodeo contestant and member of the Little ‘M’ Rodeo committee, two brothers now calling Miniota home are proud to recall the livelihood of their grandfather Don Haines, even though they never got to meet him.

The cowboy lifestyle for both Peyton Hawtin and his younger brother Ashten, the sons of Deanna (Haines) and Jon Hawtin, became a part of their life at a young age, thanks to spending time on the Haines farm close to the Westman community.

“From the very beginning I always enjoyed being around the horses and cows, a family trait as my grandpa rode horses his whole life and worked at the PFRA community pasture,” said 17-year-old Peyton. “From a rodeo perspective, I started riding steers with my favourite event now being calf roping, as the adrenaline required can be quite the rush.”

To meet goals in a game of seconds and milliseconds it takes a competitive drive, determination to succeed and a partnership with your horse.

The sport also requires an instructor, who in turn is also a judge and jury.

For Peyton, a second-year member of the Manitoba High School Rodeo Association (MHSRA), who also competes at the levels presented by the Heartland Rodeo Association (amateur) and the Manitoba Rodeo Cowboys Association (semi-pro), the wealth of knowledge of calf roping is drawn from Justin Bridgeman, an MHSRA alumna.

“Swinging a rope around the yard, roping the dummy at home, or roping live calves at the Bridgeman ranch near Binscarth are all aspects of the roping institution,” said Peyton. “Justin has been such an amazing mentor, teacher, taking me under his wing teaching everything required to become an outstanding calf roper. Roping for hours under his guidance is thoroughly enjoyed, learning as you go.”

Seventeen-year-old Peyton Hawtin’s favourite event is calf roping. photo: Darrell Nesbitt

Calf roping, also known as tie-down roping, is a rodeo event in which a lasso-wielding cowboy moves from horseback to foot in pursuit of a hard-running calf. Once the calf has been roped, the cowboy dismounts and runs down the length of the rope to the calf. When the calf is on the ground, the cowboy ties three legs together with a six-foot pigging string. Calves are given a head start, and if the cowboy’s horse leaves the box too soon, a barrier breaks and 10-second penalty is added to the roper’s time. In all of the timed events, it’s the luck of the draw, as a fraction of a second makes the difference between first or fourth spot.

Tie-down roping is an authentic ranch skill that originated from working cowboys, and is still played out.

Locally, Bridgeman is Peyton’s No. 1 tie-down roper, while on the national front he looks up to Texan calf roper Tuff Cooper and Cory Solomon, a fellow Texan, both known to throw down some impressive runs at the Calgary Stampede.

For 15-year-old Ashten, he finds the rough stock events of junior steer or bull riding to his liking, competing in three Manitoba rodeo associations including high school.

Ashten feels very lucky to have met his idol of the bull riding fraternity — J.B. Mauney — a two-time World Champion in the Professional Bull Riding (PBR) ranks from Mooresville, N.C., as he got to rub shoulders with him at the PBR World Finals in 2016, and at the Calgary Stampede.

“Rodeo instills work ethic, helping others and competitiveness,” said Ashten. “The positives of being involved in rodeo are plenty and it has made me a better person. It’s like a big family; everyone is welcome and you garner friends for life.”

The Birtle Collegiate students chase their rodeo dreams supported by their parents and grandma. If not for their help, it would be extremely difficult to take part, they say, due to the rising costs of rodeo and the distance required to compete these days, as the high cost of hosting rodeos decreased the number of local events.

No matter the age or level, the cowboy is admired as tough, resilient, strong, courageous, and independent. They celebrate life, enjoy living and don’t expect things to come easy.

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