Soon after I went pro, my career took an unforeseen detour. But I’m back on track.
Five years ago, near the end of my rookie year as a pro-rodeo saddle-bronc rider, a reporter for the Missoulian newspaper asked me what I hoped to be doing five years down the road.
I’d like to be making a run for the National Finals Rodeo, I told him, and hopefully will have been there a couple times.
It’s five years later, and the first half of that statement is coming true. I’m currently sixteenth with seventy-one-thousand dollars won. But I’ve never been to the NFR. Until this year, I’ve never even finished in the top fifty.
In 2014, not too long after I spoke with that reporter, I was at a rodeo in Stanford, Montana, my home state. I was on kind of a heater. I’d been traveling hard by myself, and I was just worn out. A horse dashboarded me—jerked me over his head—and stepped in the middle of my back. It broke a bunch of ribs, collapsed a lung and lacerated my liver. The doctors told me I was going to be out for a while. Being young and stubborn, I didn’t believe them. I had myself convinced I’d be fine to ride in a month.
A month later, I got on again in Missoula. I almost had the horse rode—he was nice, too—but hanging on was just way too much effort. I was not in the shape I needed to be in. I got dashboarded again, and the horse stepped on my arm and dislocated my riding elbow. That one put me out for nearly a year. After that, I had some bad luck with a few concussions. I didn’t winter rodeo as much. I never really tried to make a run for the NFR.
Last fall, I went back to college at Montana State. I finished that first semester and, I don’t know, something clicked. I just didn’t wanna go to school anymore. I wanted to rodeo and needed to either commit to or not. Me and my buddy Sage Newman went down to Florida to get our qualifications up, because we didn’t have much from the year before. We figured we might as well go give ’em hell in Florida and see if we could get it rolling there!
Being from Montana, Florida was about as far away as we could’ve gone to rodeo, but we figured it’d be a good place to get our names out there and get some money won while everyone else was in San Antonio, Houston and those other big Texas rodeos.
Man, I think me and Sage placed at almost every Florida rodeo we entered. One of us was either pulling a check or winning the rodeo.
Last spring, Sage went back home to do ranch work. I jumped in with Tyrell Smith and Joe Harper, and we did the California run. We ended up doing good, but it wasn’t outstanding by any means. I wasn’t even qualified for Reno. But during Cowboy Christmas this year my luck changed!
It started with me winning Prescott, Arizona, for more than six grand. I won rodeos at Belle Fourche, South Dakota, and Livingston, Montana. I placed at a few others and then wrapped up the week by winning St. Paul, Oregon, which paid nearly ten thousand. I think we entered twelve rodeos in ten days. It was crazy, the best streak I’ve ever had. I won more than thirty-one thousand and nearly broke the Cowboy Christmas record.
In ten days, I jumped from thirty-first in the standings to eleventh.
I tried not to think about it at first. Sitting in the top fifteen kind of freaked me out. I fell off a few bucking horses worrying about it. I honestly don’t know if I’m used to the pressure yet.
As the summer went on, things slowed down a bit. That’s what put me on the bubble. But I’m hoping to finish strong. I’m entered at Amarillo, Texas, this weekend and Pasadena, Texas, after that. The last weekend of the season, we’re entered at two Extreme Bronc matches in South Dakota—an open invitation kind of a deal. This is the first year the money will count towards our PRCA winnings. I think there’s ten thousand added, damn sure enough to make a difference.
I try not to think too much about the money and standings. A lot of guys will do the calculating and try to figure it out to the dollar. They’ve also been to the NFR a few times, so they're probably a little more experienced in handling the pressure. I figure if I don’t think about it, then I can’t get too worried. I’m trying to keep the same mindset I had over the Fourth of July. I wasn’t worried about standings. I just wanted to keep traveling with the guys, keep riding and having a good time doing it. The way I figure, if I just go and try to ride horses the best I can, things will work out how they’re supposed to. Besides, I’ve already exceeded what I thought I’d get done this year. That’s for sure.
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