LAS VEGAS – Even in great riding shape, the aches and pains of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo have hit bareback rider Caleb Bennett.
“For the most part, I feel like I’m holding up pretty good,” Bennett said Monday afternoon, just hours after earning his third paycheck in four nights of competition in the City of Lights. “I was a little sore, but I think that has a lot to do with last night and the night before.”
Wedging one’s hand into a rigging that’s strapped tightly to the nastiest bucking beasts in the game will do that.
“I’ve been utilizing the Justin Sportsmedicine team, and that helps an awful lot,” said Bennett, a two-time NFR qualifier from Morgan, Utah. “There are a lot of advantages being down here compared to the regular rodeo season.”
Yes, there are. Through the toughest schedule over the summer, cowboys will get on at least one bucking horse a day, then travel overnight to get to the next rodeo. While competing on the best animals over 10 nights in December can be tough, there are the comforts of home that can’t be found while sleeping in the back of a moving vehicle.
“You can choose to have a full night’s rest, and you can choose to use the spa and a hot tub,” he said. “You can utilize it the right way, and you can benefit the way you get through the finals.”
So far, he’s doing quite well. On Sunday night, Bennett posted an 81-point ride on Bar T Rodeo’s Double Vision to finish in a fifth-place tie in the fourth round. He pocketed $3,906 and pushed his NFR earnings to a little more than $24,000. He also has moved from 15th to ninth in the world standings.
“I didn’t know a lot about that horse,” Bennett said. “I watched a couple guys get on him, even (fellow NFR cowboy) Steven Dent. Some of the guys said he was pretty strong, but Steven said he was just alright. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I should’ve prepared more for the stronger version.
“I didn’t necessarily ride as well as I should have. I had a chance to finish in the top 3, and it was my fault I was lower.”
He’s also ready to compete in Friday’s fifth go-round, which feature the greatest bareback horses in the world. Bennett is matched against Scarlet’s Web of the Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo string, a horse that carried Casey Colletti to the fifth-round victory a year ago.
“Overall, I’m pretty happy and satisfied with how things are going,” Bennett said. “I know I’ve got a really good one, one that they finish first or second in the round on every year.
“This pen of horses features the ones that really get your motor running and get you excited for the right reasons to ride bucking horses.”
The Utah cowboy has plenty of reasons to be excited.