What started as a fun hobby for six-year-old Denver Leitch has turned into a life full of responsibility that has resulted in two National Finals Rodeo World Championships. Denver Leitch, along with his dad Scott, started collecting a couple mini ponies and took them to local rodeos to ride them and put on a show. Now 13, Denver keeps 80 ponies at the Leitch’s Grimshaw farm, and the Big D Mini Buckers hold an annual summer tour of Northern Alberta rodeos.
“Denver loves his duties as a contractor and is always helping out. He’s also ridden them right from day one, and has qualified for the NFR the last four years,” said Scott. Denver’s sister Hanna, 11, helps out with the contracting part of it as well.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the Big D story is that it has produced two junior saddle bronc world champions. The NFR began allowing Canadians to compete in the junior saddle bronc in 2015, where kids 10-11 ride the miniature horses in Las Vegas.
Colby Stark of Wabamun won the junior world title in 2017 and Tanner Miller did it in 2016. Along with Denver, Big D has some up and comers competing in Vegas each year, such as Chetwynd cowboy Chase Seimens, who rides senior horses.
Big D has the peewee age class from six to nine, juniors from 10 to 11, seniors from 12 to 14 and novice riders from 15 to 17.
“We’re all about building cowboys and starting them young. The saddle bronc numbers have been dwindling, traditionally the entry point has been high school rodeo but the kids are big and need to ride big horses and it’s hard at the start. We start them as young as six on the mini bucks and it makes the transition that much easier,” said Scott.
The Big D Mini Buckers begin their season series and tour at the end of April and go until the first weekend of September. Scott said they regularly have 20 riders per rodeo, and have had as much as 40.