LAS VEGAS – Matt Bright had a couple of great things happen to him on Saturday.
The first was the arrival to Las Vegas of his fiancé, Devra Harvey, with whom he became engaged just two weeks ago. A few hours later, she was inside the Thomas and Mack Center as Bright collected his first paycheck of the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, posting an 83-point ride to finish in a three-way tie for third place in the third go-round.
“She got here today, so she got to witness my first check this week,” said Bright, a three-time NFR qualifier from Azle, Texas. “This is a throwback to my first finals (in 2010). I won my first check ever in the eliminator pen. It’s always pretty good to win money here, especially on the rankest horses in the world.”
Bright matched moves with Outlawbuckers Rodeo’s American Trip to share the third-place honors with J.R. Vezain and reigning world champion Kaycee Feild; three-time champ Will Lowe won the round with an 88.
“I had that horse in Calgary this year, and I messed him up a bit there,” Bright said. “I thought that was a pretty nice draw for the eliminator pen. There are some horses in this pen that are a little scarier than him. He was up in the air and dropping away from me. It was a great draw for me.”
That’s a big part of the equation in bareback riding. Another major ingredient is for cowboys to ride well.
“Coming into the finals, this is the best I’ve ever ridden,” he said. “Any time you can place in the top three or four in the round against the 15 best guys on planet Earth, it’s awesome. There were a lot of guys having trouble. It feels good that I could step up my game a little bit and make a good ride.”
He also leaned on a longtime friend prior to the round: Bareback riding director Heath Ford, a three-time NFR qualifier.
“He gave me a little pet talk and told me what he thought I could improve on,” Bright said. “I look up to Heath, so I definitely took what he said to heart.
“He was telling me to make sure I explode with me feet and keep driving them to the front end. I was concentrating on that, and I think it worked out pretty good.”