The first thing Top Flight did was park it, and then he blew way up in air. It felt like we were friggin’ 10 feet high!
At the National Finals Rodeo in December, I was lucky enough to draw the legendary bareback horse, Virgil, in Round Five. It was my first time on Virgil, and, man, I was pumped. The NFR arena record in bareback was 91.5 points. When the whistle blew, and my feet hit the ground, I heard what I’ll never forget ever in my life, the voice of Wayne Brooks coming over the loudspeakers: “It’s a new arena record!”
I was 93 points.
Two weeks ago, I pulled into San Angelo, Texas, after winning the rodeo in Jackson, Mississippi. I drew a nice horse and made the short round at the San Angelo Rodeo. I placed second in the short round and third in the average. Things were going pretty good. The San Angelo CINCH Chute-Out Rodeo was the next day, Saturday, February 16.
The CINCH Chute-Out is a ten-man, tournament-style competition. The riders with the top three scores compete in the short round for the $7,500 top prize. This year, for the first time ever, that money counts towards the PRCA standings.
For the opening round of the Chute-Out, I drew Pete Carr Rodeo’s Scarlet’s Web. I have a little history with that horse.
I first got on Scarlet’s Web in 2015, during my permit year, at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo in Lovington, New Mexico. She was the first TV-pen, bigtime bucking horse I ever drew. Man, I was excited, but I was nervous. Everybody wants to draw Scarlet’s Web. But if you screw up on her, you’ll get harassed by the other bareback riders. Lucky for me, I was 87 points on her and won the rodeo. That was my first big win and by far the highlight of my career at the time. I’ve always wanted to get on Scarlet’s Web again, but I’ve never drawn her—until the CINCH Chute-Out.
The other riders may have been jealous I drew Scarlet’s Web, but that just put more pressure on me to do good, as well it should have. I was thinking, You better not screw this one up, either!
Bareback riding is like getting in a fight. You’re gritting your teeth and baring down the entire time. But Scarlet’s Web rides so good. She’s like a Cadillac of bareback horses. When she’s bucking, it’s so in rhythm. Get her picked up and get in time with her, and you could make a sandwich while riding her. It’s fun! The other day, she felt exactly the same as when I got on her four years ago. It was déjà vu. I got off on the pickup man and felt like celebrating, but I didn’t. I was 90 points, but it was only the first horse of the night. I still needed to get to the three-man final round.
I came back to the three-man round in second place. I drew Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Top Flight. Oh, man! He’s another dream-come-true of a bareback horse. Top Flight is like a Bentley—fast and luxurious. I’ve been on him twice in my career. The first time I got on him, he went straight. The second time, during Round Ten of the 2018 National Finals Rodeo, he circled around to the left. That night, I ended up 88.5 and placed second in the round. So, yeah, me and Top Flight, we’ve gotten along.
Now, I had another chance to ride him. It felt a bit like one of those NFR rounds, when you have to calm yourself down and relax and focus on the basics instead of the pile of points you stand to win. I was the second guy out. The only thing going through my mind was, Make a good ride, and let the rest pay for itself.
Top Flight was calm in the chute. By this point in his career, he knows the deal. I had plenty of time to get ready. I pulled him, got on and rode.
The first thing he did was park it, and then he blew way up in air. It felt like we were friggin’ 10 feet high! As soon as he landed, he went right and started a tight little circle. I wasn’t expecting that. I’ve had all three of his trips, and I think this was his best. Going right, he stayed a little tighter and got more up in the air.
It felt like he was about to jump out of the arena! I could feel his back hit me in the back, so I knew he was kicking. That’s always a good feeling. I kept thinking, Don’t spur over his neck, because if you do, you’re gonna get jerked down. The way he was coming into my hand, if my foot would have missed his neck and ended up on the other side, there would be no coming back from it.
The whistle blew, and I got off on the pickup man, a buddy of mine named Jeremy Willis. I knew I was at least going to be 90 points, because I was 90 on Scarlet’s Web, and this ride had to beat that ride. I heard my score before I even hit the ground—93 points! I looked at Jeremy, a former bareback rider, and he was whooping and hollering and riding around no-handed.
I don’t go off the numbers. Yeah, the judges said I was 93 on Top Flight, but I’m more concerned with how my horse bucks and how a ride feels to me. That ride felt great. So did the earlier ride on Scarlet’s Web. I got lucky drawing those horses, but I did my job, too. That’s about the best a guy can do.