He might only be eight years old, but Tate “Bug” Larouche has his eyes on a rodeo future.
You’ve probably seen him around — he’s the one in charge of rounding up all the ponies after the wild pony races at the rodeo.
“I ride my pony and help the pick-up men a little,” said Larouche.
He got his start as a pony racer like his older brothers, but moved over to herding after he lost his team, said his parents, Dana and Kent Larouche
“It was just an idea we came up with and thought we would try it and it caught on,” said mom Dana. “Bug loves it, he has fun.”
“I like to go in front of the crowd and show yourself,” Bug said. And it’s that attitude that has made him determined to become a saddle bronc or steer rider later on and move up into the big leagues, slowly but surely.
“I want to do the wild pony racing next year,” he said, saying someone will have fill his current job soon. His dad, Kent, agreed, saying he’ll probably be too big to continue to ride Strawberry next year.
But for now, Bug explained that he and his trusty steed, Strawberry, chase the wild ponies back into their proper gates — which isn’t always easy he said.
“You have to stay at the back and not go up the middle,” he explained. “Because otherwise the ponies that are behind you will split up and then you’ll have to go get them again.”
Sometimes, Strawberry gives him a little trouble too — Bug found out the hard way that his little pony still has some buck in him, and so he rides him before each show to tucker him out a little.
Besides the Stampede, Bug’s made appearances at other rodeos, including Paradise Valley, Wainwright and Ponoka over the years.
As for his parents say in his cowboy future, they’ve decided it’s Bug’s choice.
“He wants to pony race again next year, but he also said he wants to ride steers so we’ll see what happens,” said Dana.