LAS VEGAS – Rodeo is a roller coaster. Carlee Pierce knows that as well as anyone.
Oftentimes, that first dip is a doozy, which was the case Thursday on opening night of the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Pierce and her great horse, Dillion, tipped all three barrels en route to a 29.11-second run.
With winning times in the sub-14-second range, the Alberta-born, Oklahoma-raised Texan is behind the eight ball. But there are nine go-rounds remaining, and Pierce has proven she can handle the fierce competition that takes place inside the Thomas and Mack Center. She and Dillion own the NFR record with a 13.46-second run posted in the fifth go-round of last year’s championship. They also won the fourth go-round and left Las Vegas with $50,769.
“There are a lot of rounds to go and a lot of money is still out there,” said Pierce, a two-time NFR qualifier from Stephenville, Texas.
The cowgirl and her team met Friday morning and decided to make a change in horses. Instead of runner her trusty 13-year-old buckskin gelding, Pierce will test out Hammer, a 5-year-old gelding she ran a month ago during the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton, Alberta.
“We’ve decided to run Hammer tonight,” she said of Friday’s second go-round. “I’m extremely blessed to have another horse that is capable of running with the best in the world.”
In fact, Pierce ran Hammer to an arena-record, 14.214-second run to win the third go-round of the CFR.
Now it’s time to see how the young sorrel handles the bright lights of Vegas and the zealous rodeo fans who fill the Thomas and Mack to the rafters each of the 10 go-rounds.
“You can be disappointed in a run, but you really can’t let it bother you,” Pierce said. “We get to compete against the best girls in the world every night, and we have a lot more opportunities to have a great NFR.”
That’s a great attitude, because the peaks of the NFR roller coaster are quite high – round winners earn $18,257 each night. That’s worth chasing.