Here We Go Again

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

This time feels different. I need it to be different.

by Rhen Richard

Let’s just say it’s been a long time coming.

Back in 2007, I won the National High School Finals Championships in calf roping and the All Around. I’m a team roper, too, both a heeler and a header. I turned down football scholarships to seven colleges and chose rodeoing instead. Once you get bit by that rodeo bug, it’s pretty much impossible to do anything else.

I joined the PRCA in 2008, the same year I graduated high school, and in the decade that followed I never once qualified for the National Finals Rodeo. I’ve been close four or five times, finishing sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth. Here we are again. But this time feels different.

photo by Matt Cohen

photo by Matt Cohen

Follow Cowboy Journal

I need this year to be different. Everyone keeps telling me I’m in, but I know how it can be. I’m twelfth in the calf roping with about six thousand dollars between me and the guy in sixteenth. Close enough that I know they can still catch me. It seems like the guys at the bottom always win in the end. Twelfth through sixteenth is really tight this year. We’re all just a few thousand dollars from each other. I am aware of it, but I’m trying not to focus on it.

I’m fourteenth in team roping, with less than four thousand dollars between fourteenth and sixteenth. I don’t know who is behind me, but I do know how close they are. If I rope like I should, it shouldn’t matter who’s behind me.

In team roping, I have three rodeos left. My partner, Quinn Kesler, has five, but he’s also seven-thousand dollars behind me. We’re headed to rodeos in Texarkana, Amarillo and Stephenville. If I get ahead more, I probably won’t go to them all, but I also might have to. Right now I just tell myself I’m going to all three. If I let up one little bit, I could lose my spot, and I’m not willing to let that happen. After all those years on the bubble, I know how quickly it can slip between your fingers.

Sign up for the latest news & updates.

My plan is to win a thousand dollars at every rodeo I go to between now and the end of September. I’d like to win that much in calf roping and team roping. I’m in contention for the All Around, which is amazing. I’m behind Tuf Cooper and Trevor Brazile–not too shabby company. It’s hard enough to make it in one event, let alone two.

This time of the year is hard—on me and my horses. These final weeks are what I call “grind time.” I’m tired and my horses are tired, but we have to get through it.

Festus, my head horse, is twelve years old. He got sore a few weeks ago. I immediately sent him home to rest up, knowing that I’d need him now. I need my best horses during grind time. He works hard. If he makes a mistake, it’s not because he’s slacking off. It’s because he’s trying so hard to set you up. He needed some down time and some work done, and now he’s back to feeling like himself. That gives me a boost of confidence, for sure.

photo by Matt Cohen

photo by Matt Cohen

Thankfully, my calf horse, Patron, is younger than most. At seven years old, he recovers quicker than some of the older horses he’s working against. This is a time when one-tenth of a second can make a difference between qualifying or not. I’m glad I have him with me. I trained him from a yearling, which helps. I know when I can push him and how he’ll approach certain kinds of calves. He’s never slacked off once this year, so I know he’s going to work well these final rodeos.

Let’s hope so. Like I said, I need this year to be different.

Read more about the other CINCH JEANS and Classic Equine athletes fighting to make the NFR. Follow #theCjHASE


More from THE CHASE: On the Bubble

Latest Stories