LAS VEGAS – How focused is bareback rider Caleb Bennett?
“I go to bed thinking about making a statement with my riding,” said Bennett, now in his second straight qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “I go to bed thinking about great bucking horses and riding great bucking horses. I wake up, and I think about it all day long.
“Thoughts become things, and I just picture myself winning go-rounds and drawing great horses and winning lots of money.”
He’s right, because thoughts are becoming things. On Tuesday night, Bennett matched moves with Three Hills Rodeo’s Peaches N Cream for 84 points to finish as the runner-up in the sixth go-round. He added $14,724 to his NFR earnings, which have reached $46,575.
“Three Hills brought a great horse,” said Bennett, who has placed five of six nights, including the victory in Round 1. “That’s another one I’ve never been on, and I’ve wanted to get on her and have watched her for years. I really thought that was the one to win the round on tonight. She’s very consistent, the same trip every time.”
It’s been a special week for the Utah cowboy, who has moved from 15th to sixth in the world standings and is the No. 1 man in the average race – his six-ride cumulative score of 497 points is just half a point better than another Utah bronc buster, two-time reigning world champion Kaycee Feild.
“Right now I’m just trying to keep a level head,” Bennett said. “I just keep thinking about the good ones and hope that they’re by my name every time and try to ride them the best I can.”
Cowboys are matched with their livestock by a blind draw, and the NFR features 100 of the very best bareback horses in the game. It takes equal parts of quality horse and a quality ride to make for big scores.
“I am humbled,” he said. “This is unreal. I read a deal that Wade (Sundell) said that he was far enough down that he had nothing to lose, so he was just going to make a statement here.”
So he visited with traveling partner J.R. Vezain of Cowley, Wyo., about those thoughts, then put them into his own words.
“I know I’m 15th, and I know I squeaked in there,” Bennett said. “I know a lot of guys aren’t really looking for me to do that good this year. I’m going to be like Wade, and I’m going to try to make a statement.”
He is … to nearly $50,000 in six nights.
Vezain has been wearing a vest specially made by Ty Skiver, who is the step-father of another traveling partner, R.C. Landingham. Skiver made the vest in support of his wife and Landingham’s mother, Wendy Skiver. All the bareback riders will sign the vest, and it will be part of a raffle; tickets are being sold at the Barstow booth at Cowboy Christmas, and money raised will go to help with Wendy Skiver’s medical bills.
“We really want to help them as much as we can, and I think this is a great way to tie it all together,” Bennett said.