My two final broncs of the season were buckers. That’s rodeo. It can change in a snap.
That first jump on South Point spooked me a bit. Everyone I had talked to said the Sutton Rodeo bucker was like that, said he would hit and really come under himself for the first few jumps. And he did. I felt myself wobble for a second there, like I was going to lose control.
This was this past Friday night at the Xtreme Bronc Match in Sioux Falls, my second-to-last rodeo of the 2018 season. The week before, after not winning a dime, I had dropped from sixteenth to seventeenth in the standings. I needed to be fifteenth or better to make the NFR. Now I had my chance on a bucker that’s been to the NFR.
Some horses are really quick. Their front feet hit as soon as they’re kicking. They’re just snappier, and you gotta be really fast to find a rhythm. After the first couple of jumps, South Point got to be super nice. He’s flashy, one of them cool horses that gets in the air and kicks and kind of floats. It feels like you’re up there for a whole minute. He gives you all the time in the world to feel everything about the ride. He was cracking ’em, for sure, and I settled in and found my timing. Every jump, I was opened up and in time, setting my feet, bailing high in the air, lifting my rein and then beating him to the ground. When you get tapped off with a nice-feeling horse like that, it’s more like you’re in a rhythm with the horse than straining against him. It’s more of dance than a fight, I guess. That’s the best feeling a bronc rider can have.
I got off on the pickup man, looked up and saw I was eighty-five points. I left Friday night placing first with my fingers crossed that I’d stay there.
The next night, Saturday, I was up at the other Xtreme Bronc Match in Mitchell, South Dakota, where J.J. Elshere was eighty-seven the night before and placing first. I drew a mare from Korkow Rodeo called Nysa. Cort Scheer said he drew Nysa at Cheyenne and that she felt awesome, really electric and a fun one to have. That got me excited.
Nysa took one jump and then really set up for about three and was just bucking. That arena in Mitchell is pretty small. We joke that it’s a sixty-foot round pen. A lot of the horses have trouble getting into the fence. Nysa came around into the fence but didn’t hit it. She set up perfect. She was blowy and floaty and fun! She really fit that pen. I got a full eight seconds and was eighty-six on her. Man, I was jacked. I knew I didn’t beat J.J., but I was like, That’s my last rodeo for the season. I went out with a bang at least, no matter what happens.
I really needed it, too. I haven’t had the greatest finish this season. My year started out strong, but lately I’ve just kind of maintained. It had been weeks since I won a check. Until this weekend. I ended up splitting second and third at Sioux Falls and winning third at Mitchell, which added just over five-thousand dollars to my total.
That’s rodeo. It can change in a snap. All it takes is a couple good draws at the right places, and you can be back on top.
Everyone says rodeo’s ninety-percent mental and ten-percent talent. We only ride eight seconds at a time, but it’s a whole season of eight-second rides, and they all seem to pile into one. Your job is to hang on the whole time. I feel like I’ve been maturing and figuring out how to handle the stress and getting on these better horses. The guys on top usually have a strong mental game. Going and having a weekend like this one showed me that maybe I belong right there with them.
At least I’ll get a shot to prove myself at the National Finals Rodeo. Or I should get a shot. According to my math—and the latest updates on the PRCA website—I jumped from seventeenth to fifteenth. I’m hoping for the best, but I’m going to wait until it’s official to get too excited.
After all, making the NFR has been a dream delayed for five years. I figure I can hang on for another week.
Read more about the CINCH JEANS and Classic Equine athletes fighting to make the NFR. Follow #theCjHASE