Stettler woman rides a long trail headed toward hometown rodeo

Stettler barrel racer Melissa Thiessen is a busy gal and constantly on the rodeo trail, pursuing her love of barrel racing.

Stettler barrel racer Melissa Thiessen is a busy gal and constantly on the rodeo trail, pursuing her love of barrel racing.

Her journey comes full circle later this month when she participates in the Stettler Steel Wheel Stampede in her hometown.

“Seems like I have done it forever,” said Thiessen, 44. “I can’t remember not barrel racing.”

Originally from Williams Lake, B.C., the home of the famed Williams Lake Stampede, Thiessen has rodeo in her blood. Her father, Marvin Gruenwald, and brother Mark Gruenwald were both bull riders, while husband Steve Thiessen is a calf roper and team roper.

Thiessen said while her brother is no longer a bull rider, he gets his adrenaline rush as an SSP (Strategic Systems Program) officer on tour in Afghanistan.

The Thiessens both plan to compete in Stettler’s Steel Wheel Stampede, set for Aug. 17-19, but before that happens they’ll put on more miles hitting rodeos in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Melissa, a competitor in barrel racing and ribbon roping, listed her hectic schedule coming up before Stettler as Aug. 1 – High Prairie, Aug. 4 – Herbert, Sask., Aug 5 – Consule, Sask., Aug. 6 – Writing-on-Stone, Aug. 7-8 – Thorsby, Aug. 9-10 – Irvine, Aug. 10 – Cardston for a 10 p.m. slack run, Aug. 11 – Central Butte, Sask., Aug.11 – Whitewood, Sask., Aug. 12 – Kyle, Sask., Aug. 17 – Virden, Man., and then Stettler on Aug. 19.

Her husband has an equally gruelling schedule, competing in many of the same rodeos.

The couple participates in more than 60 rodeos during the year from Luxton on Vancouver Island to Manitoba and everywhere in between.

“We bought a new truck on the 20th of June and it already has 15,000 kilometres on it,” Melissa said with a laugh.

Both Thiessens are in the top 10 standings of the CCA (Canadian Cowboys Association), a semi-pro association.

“We’ve had a pretty good year and hope to make the CCA finals in Regina,” Melissa said.

The couple also competes in the CSPRA (Canadian Senior Pro Rodeo Association), a pro circuit.

“Steve would have liked to have made more money on the pro circuit this year,” Melissa said. “For me, it looks like it will be next year (before making the finals on the pro-circuit).”

The Thiessens are Stettler business owners operating the Turtle Club car wash. Residents of Stettler since 1997, the couple enjoys the community’s central location as being “within a two-hour drive to most places.”

“Stettler is definitely home,” Melissa said as she prepared to leave for her next stop down the dusty rodeo trail.

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