LAS VEGAS – Carlee Pierce knew something was wrong. She just didn’t want to admit that something was her.
Through three go-rounds of the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Pierce has faltered. This is the richest rodeo in the world with a purse of $6.125 million, and nightly winners will earn paychecks worth $18,257.
Not only has Pierce failed to earn money, she’s finished last each of the first three nights of the 10-round competition. She’s used both horses she brought to Las Vegas – Dillion, a 12-year-old buckskin gelding, and Hammer, a 5-year-old sorrel gelding. Nothing has worked yet.
“We started out the first round on Thursday, and Dillion just didn’t respond to what I was trying to do,” said Pierce of Stephenville, Texas. “What I now have realized was that I just wasn’t riding him right. I sent him home after Cheyenne (Wyo.) in July, and I haven’t ridden him much. I let him rest, and I rode my colts.
“Then I just expected to jump on Dillion and go right back to the team we were. I think a lot of it was me. He was working, and I was just working him too much. I was riding him like I was riding my colts; they need more work from me, but Dillion works better when I just leave him alone.”
Instead, she went to Hammer for two nights. The results haven’t been what she wanted. She and Dillion knocked down all three barrels Thursday, then she and Hammer overturned three over the past two nights. She returned to Dillion for the fourth round,
“I was pointing fingers at him when I should’ve been pointing fingers at me,” she said.
So Pierce changed her schedule. She rescheduled appearances and spent time with her horses.
“Starting off like this tears your confidence down a little bit,” she said. “That’s why I went out and rode. It cleared my mind a little bit. I’m feeling a lot better now.”
It helps, too, that she’s received plenty of support from family, friends and even people she doesn’t know.
“It really helps to have my family and my fans,” Pierce said. “They all want to see their favorite athlete win and do good. They still love my horses, and they still love me and support me. It means a lot that they’re faithful like that.”
Probably the greatest showing of support came from Pierce’s 13-year-old daughter, Makala, who sent this text this morning: “I love u! Ur doing good put some head phones in and listen to music. Get everything off ur mind and LOOK at the WALL. U got it u know how I ride stay to handed up in there.”
“I had shut my phone off last night, because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind,” Pierce said. “When I turned my phone on this morning, that was the first thing I saw, and I realized just how blessed I am. I have the most fantastic, supportive husband and awesome kids.
“That’s really what it’s about.”