LAS VEGAS – Caleb Bennett has placed four times at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and three came on the backs of Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo horses.
His most recent triumph came Monday night when he rode Scarlet’s Web for 86 points for a fourth-place finish in the fifth go-round. He earned $7,813 with the ride.
“All three of those horses have been really good,” said Bennett, who won the opening round on Wise Guy, then placed sixth the next night on Fancy Free. “I’ve been drawing really good, and I hope to keep it that way.”
In rodeo, cowboys are matched with livestock based on a blind draw. Based on the 100-point scale, half the score goes to the animal for how well it performs, while the other half is attributed to how well the cowboy rides. In bareback riding, that involves spurring from the horse’s neck back to the rigging that is strapped to the animal’s back.
“I’d never been on Scarlet’s Web before,” said Bennett, 25, of Morgan, Utah. “I finally drew her, and guys win money on that horse every time they nod their head. I knew, once again, that I had a chance to win some money.
“I almost got a little too worked up on her. I feel like my start wasn’t as good as I wanted, but I think I finished her well.”
He did. A qualifying ride lasts eight seconds, and cowboys must make the most of every moment they have in the arena.
“The start I’m having to the NFR so far is great,” he said. “Just to place in four rounds so far is amazing. I had some goals coming in, and I feel like those goals are starting to become a reality right now.
“I’ve still got five more rounds to go, so I’m going to try to take it a horse at a time.”
It may be cliché, but it’s the only way to approach this type of competition. At the halfway point of the NFR, Bennett has pocketed $31,851 and has moved up from 15th to ninth in the world standings.
“I think I’m finally getting through the soreness that comes with this,” Bennett said. “The stiffness in my neck and back is pretty much gone, and I think the forearm pain and the elbow stuff will fade through. The Justin Sportsmedicine team has been working with me real hard to try to get ahead of that.”
While he’s been matched with great horses much of his early performance at ProRodeo’s grand finale, Bennett also has been performing quite well. He’s scored a five-ride cumulative total of 413 points and is third in the average race. The average champion will earn a $47,776 bonus at the end of the NFR; should the Utah cowboy stay in third through remaining five rounds, he would add $30,649.
“I think the key is just staying relaxed,” he said. “I think I’ve been having a little bit more fun this year. I’ve just been enjoying what I do because I love what I do. My goal here is to enjoy it and thrive off it.”