LAS VEGAS – Before the seventh round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Matt Bright strapped on his bareback riding glove and prepared for the competition.
It may as well been a boxing glove. Wednesday’s round featured the strongest, toughest-to-ride bareback riding horses in the business. Five of the 15 cowboys who nodded their heads failed to mark a score – truth in advertising with the “eliminator” pen of bucking horses.
“A horse like that … it’s just a fistfight,” said Bright, who rode Andrews Rodeos Cool Water for 81.5 points to finish fourth, adding $7,656 in the process. “He was bringing it every jump. He was hitting me in the back of the head.
“We were trading licks out there, and I managed to get him rode.”
Bright is a three-time NFR qualifier from Azle, Texas, who grew up in Lenoir City, Tenn., and attended the University of Tennessee-Martin on a rodeo scholarship. He’s been around the game for several years, and this is the best year he’s had so far. Of course, it helps to have a great horse.
“That’s an absolutely legendary horse,” he said. “Cool water has been around for a long time. That’s one of the top five rankest horses I’ve ever strapped my rigging to. That’s a big boy bucking horse right there.
“When you get on those fire-eating dragons, you can’t have any back up in you, because they’re not going to have any back up in them. That horse was bringing it every jump, and I was just trying to play catch-up with him. I was really happy to hear the whistle.”
The bout could be likened to boxing or mixed martial arts. In fact, Bright’s younger brother, Jake, has competed in MMA, so the Texas cowboy knows a little bit about the comparison.
“The thing is, my brother was a good enough fighter that he could avoid getting hit,” he said. “I didn’t have a choice in the matter today.”
It doesn’t rightly matter either. Bright has earned $19,239 through seven nights of ProRodeo’s grand championship event and pushed his season earnings to nearly $84,000. Now he’d like to add to it.
“My game plan coming in was to try to ride every horse like it’s the last one I will ever get to strap on and just leave it all hanging out in the arena,” Bright said. “It’s been working so far, so we’ll just keep doing that.”