Archive for November, 2015

postheadericon Cinch the title sponsor of Timed Event


GUTHRIE, Okla. – Cinch Jeans and Shirts has become an official arena corporate partner of the Lazy E Arena, the official jeans and shirts of the Lazy E and the title sponsor for the Cinch Timed Event Championship, which will feature 20 of the top all-around cowboys in ProRodeo.

“We are proud to be affiliated with an event and facility steeped in western history,” said Megan Scales, the sponsor manager for Cinch. “The core values of the Lazy Arena and its staff and owners, mirror that of Cinch Jeans and Shirts. We both have a passion to perpetuate the Western lifestyle we all love. It was a perfect fit for Cinch and we are happy to be a part.”

TEC-logoSince 1996, the Cinch Clothing brand has been creating quality jeans and shirts for Western men both in and out of the arena. Some of the best athletes from the rodeo, bull riding and equine performance circles wear Cinch jeans and shirts because of the quality fit and the authentic Western look.

Tickets for the 2016 Cinch Timed Event Championship go on sale Tuesday, Dec. 1.

Having taken place every March since 1985, the Cinch Timed Event Championship is the Lazy E’s premier event. It features the top 20 all-around timed-event cowboys in rodeo competing in the five timed-event disciplines: team roping-heading, tie-down roping, team roping-heeling, steer wrestling and steer roping. It is the “Ironman of ProRodeo” because of the challenges the combatants face over the five-round marathon spread out over just three days of competition. Long on to for tickets for the March 4-6 event.

“We are truly honored to have Cinch Jeans and Shirts as a true partner of the Lazy E Arena,” said Todd Barden, the senior director of business development at the Lazy E Arena. “Whether fashion basics or premium styles, the designs and reputation of Cinch Jeans make Cinch Clothing the No. 1 choice for those who live and breathe the Western Way of life. We are proud to wear the Cinch Brand at the Lazy E Arena.”

The Lazy E Arena is host to more than 40 events a year. Lazy E-produced events – such as the Lazy E Red Dirt Roping Series and the Lazy E Red Dirt Reigning – are coupled with premier leased events, like the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo. The combination makes the Lazy E the perfect complex for Western entertainment and competition.

The McKinney family of Midland, Texas, acquired the property in October 2013. The ownership group has long recognized not only the facility but also the importance of the Lazy E’s place in rodeo and Oklahoma lore. The family has committed to maintaining the Lazy E as the world’s premier Western entertainment complex. The arena is undergoing numerous updates and renovations, which will enhance the lure of the Lazy E to the general population.

postheadericon Barnes suffers serious injury, out of NFR


Jake Barnes

Jake Barnes

JoJo LeMond is returning to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, just not in a way anyone would want.

LeMond, who last competed in Las Vegas in 2010, will replace seven-time world champion Jake Barnes, who suffered a traumatic brain injury and a broken ankle during a practice run Friday. According to a post on Barnes’ Facebook page, his horse fell and stepped on his head.

Junior Nugeira

Junior Nogueira

As of Saturday, Barnes was talking and alert but that the head injury will need time and “lots of peaceful rest. It is too dangerous for him to compete with Junior (Nogueira) at the NFR this year.”

The official notice was released by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association on Monday. Barnes is a ProRodeo Hall of Famer who earned all seven gold buckles with longtime partner and friend Clay O’Brien Cooper. This was to be Barnes’ 27th NFR qualification.

Nogueira sits 12th in the world standings with $71,333. The Brazilian – who lives with Barnes and Barnes’ wife, Toni, in Scottsdale, Ariz. – qualified with his partner each of the past two years. He was the Resistol Rookie of the Year in heeling in 2014.

JoJo LeMond

JoJo LeMond

“Headed out to Las Vegas and you’re not physically here with me but you are in my heart,” Nogueira wrote on his Instagram page, which also had a photo of Barnes on the dashboard of Noguiera’s vehicle. “Thank you for everything you have done for me the last couple of years, I will try to do the best I can for us.

“I love you my partner, my professor, my role model and my hero, forever Jake Barnes.”

LeMond finished 16th in the heading world standings with $65,803. Earlier in November, he competed for the second straight year at the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping, where he placed second in the average. He joins 22-time world champion Trevor Brazile as NFR qualifiers who also competed at the NFSR this year.

In addition to his place in the heading standings, LeMond sits third in the all-around race, behind Brazile and the No. 2 cowboy, four-time tie-down roping world champion Tuf Cooper.

The Jake Barnes Relief Fund GoFundMe account (CLICK HERE), which was established by fellow roper Rickey Green, has set a target of $100,000 to help cover Barnes’ medical expenses.

postheadericon Jarrett confident heading to NFR

COMANCHE, Okla. – The 2015 ProRodeo season was a bit more comfortable for Ryan Jarrett than he’d experienced in recent years.

Every aspect of his tie-down roping game came together well, and it paid off in a big way. Jarrett earned nearly $86,000 through the regular season and heads to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo sitting seventh in the world standings. It marks his ninth NFR qualification.

“I really didn’t do anything different this year than I did last year,” said Jarrett, who finished 18th in 2014 and failed to play for the biggest pay in the sport. “I had a different horse in the trailer this year, and that allowed me to win at the right places riding him. He’s not the greatest thing ever, but I won well on him.”

He’s talking about Nate, a 13-year-old chestnut gelding he acquired in March. He also hauled Barney, a 13-year-old sorrel gelding that he had utilized in 2014.

Ryan Jarrett

Ryan Jarrett

“The horse I got this year was a little more seasoned, so it went hand-in-hand,” he said. “A good horse that fits you is your saving grace. When you don’t have the right horse, it’s like a carpenter with a saw that doesn’t cut right.”

Nate and Barney were the perfect tools for Jarrett, who won the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s all-around world title in 2005 – he remains the only person other than Trevor Brazile to have earned the most coveted gold buckle in rodeo since 2002. Now he’s excited to race toward the largest payout in the game during the NFR, which will have a record purse of $8.8 million.

Of course, it helps his confidence that he had secured his NFR bid a bit earlier than he had in previous years, when he had to scramble late to earn a spot among the finalists – only the top 15 contestants in each event advance to the championship event in Las Vegas. A year ago, Jarrett made a brilliant last-minute run that fell just short, when he finished three spots away from that magical top 15.

“I didn’t want to be in that situation again,” said Jarrett, who was raised near Summerville, Ga., on his family’s dairy farm. “At the big rodeos, I wanted to place in the average. It was a goal of mine to get the calves caught and tied down and get an average check, especially at the July rodeos. I wanted to be in a better spot at the end of July than I had been in several years.

“Sometimes it all works out. It clicked, and I was tapped off there for about 45 days.”

Though he didn’t know it, Jarrett had secured his NFR qualification by mid-August. Still, he was considerably more comfortable heading toward the home stretch of the regular season, which concluded the end of September.

“It’s a lot easier on the mind and the heart,” he said. “At the end of August, I felt pretty comfortable. By Sept. 10, you could make some plans and get a game plan together so that when you get back home, you have some things to work toward.”

Of course, it helps to have a solid partner, just like Jarrett had in Nate and Barney.

“I’d say the key to this year’s qualification was horsepower and the fact that I wanted to try to win some good money at those big rodeos,” Jarrett said. “Winning Ponoka (Alberta) and more than $13,000 over the Fourth (of July) and winning a big check out of Cheyenne (Wyo.) just made some things a lot easier. When you’re winning checks over $10,000, it sure goes down smooth.”

In fact, his July victory in Ponoka propelled the Oklahoma cowboy into another big decision for his 2015 season. He opted to stay north of the border a little more and try to make the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

“I pondered on it about two days after I’d won up there,” he said. “From that point on, I was going to stick it out and try to get my other 12 Canadian rodeos in so I could qualify for the Canadian Finals. I had never been in that situation before, and I wanted to take advantage of it and stick it out.

“I went to some rodeos that I’d never been to before. I told my wife, ‘I’m going to need to pick whether to make the (Prairie) Circuit Finals or the Canadian Finals.’ I couldn’t make both and work it all into my schedule.”

So he stayed in Canada a little longer, and it paid off. He qualified for the CFR, then earned $33,000 in Edmonton, Alberta, in just a few days. He also finished as the reserve Canadian champion, just behind winner Shane Hanchey of Sulphur, La.

Every dollar is important, though none of his CFR earnings will count toward his goal of winning the tie-down roping world championship. Still he hopes to utilize that momentum as he makes a 10-day run in the Nevada desert.

“I love the sport and always have and always will,” Jarrett said. “I know a lot of people get tired of the all-night drives, but it comes with the territory. Don’t rodeo if you’re going to complain about it, because you sure are going to get your fair share of miles and all-night drives.

“It’s something I enjoy and I’m going to continue to do as long as I’m physically able to.”

His passion for rodeo is something he shares with Shy-Anne Jarrett, his wife of five years. Like her husband, Shy-Anne has been around the game all her life and continues to compete. In fact, she qualified for and won the first go-round at the RAM Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo.

“She’s done her own thing the last two years,” he said. “I’ve convinced her into entering some bigger rodeos. She went on a little run there and dang sure won some money.

“It sucks not having her there, for sure, but she needs to go rodeo herself and have some success for herself. She doesn’t need to just help me hand and foot. She deserves to have some success under her belt.”

Success seems to come the Jarretts’ way, but they work for it. Ryan Jarrett was the Resistol Rookie of the Year in tie-down roping in 2004, then followed that with his first two NFR qualifications a year later; he qualified for the NFR in both tie-down roping and steer wrestling, then won the tie-down roping average in 2005 to lead him to that coveted gold buckle.

But he doesn’t rest on his past exploits. In fact, he has his own cattle operation in Comanche that he juggles with a thriving rodeo career.

“It becomes a fiasco a lot of times,” Jarrett said. “My father-in-law tells me I’ve got too many irons in the fires, but I like it. I enjoy a fast-paced life. As soon as I got home this fall, I had cattle stacked up in here, buying and feeding and preconditioning. It’s crazy. At one time, I had in this mom-and-pop deal 500 head that we fed every day.”

He manages all this with the help of his in-laws, Billy Bob and Sandy Bowden, and his father, DeJuan, who purchases cattle in Georgia and ships them to Oklahoma. It’s all about keeping his eyes pointed forward and building toward the future.

“This is all about cutting a trail for me when I get done rodeo, something to make a living at that I enjoy,” he said.

Spoken like a true cowboy.

postheadericon Martin ready for his NFR run

SULPHUR, La. – Rodeo is more than a job to Casey Martin; it’s a way of life.

“I’ve been rodeoing since I can remember,” said Martin, a steer wrestler from Sulphur who is heading to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the fifth time in his career when ProRodeo’s championship begins Thursday, Dec. 2, in Las Vegas.

“I love the competition, the drive to do better and beat the animal. It’s about being the fastest on that steer than anybody else. To be the fastest on that steer is the way I live day to day. Every time you nod your head, it’s a new challenge, a new fear and a new setup. That’s how you get the money.”

The Louisiana cowboy earned a little more than $65,000 through the 2015 regular season, finishing the campaign in 14th place. Only the top 15 on the money list in each event advance to the NFR, which features the largest purse in the game.

Casey Martin

Casey Martin

That’s important for the top players in the sport that matches talents of human and animal athletes. Unlike other professional sports, there are no guaranteed contracts for the cowboys and cowgirls. Not only do they cover their own expenses, but they also must pay a fee in order to compete.

“It means a lot to go back to the NFR, because it shows you’re at the top of your game,” he said. “To go to the NFR one time is a pretty big deal, but to go five times in a row is a big accomplishment.”

Yes, it is. Once he arrives in Sin City, Martin knows that’s where he must capitalize. In his four previous trips, he’s finished the year in the top 10 in the final world standings – in his last three NFR qualifications, he has finished among the top four: he was second in 2012, fourth in 2013 and third a year ago.

“Being able to finish like that, competing against the best in the world, is a big accomplishment,” said Martin, who lives in Sulphur with his wife, Shawna, and their six children: Reese, Sydna, Therese, Waylon, Woodrow and Slaydon; they are expecting a seventh child next July. “To compete at the NFR boosts your self-esteem, knowing you can be there and should be there.”

It’s also the way he feeds his family and has diapers for the babies, and he has a chance to cash in big in Vegas. Go-round winners will earn more than $26,000 each of the 10 nights; the contestant with the best 10-round cumulative time or score at the conclusion of the finale will add a check worth $67,269 for winning the NFR average championship.

His first step, though, was earning the qualification. He won just four event titles through the course of the regular season, so most of his earnings came by finishing among the leaders throughout the year.

“I didn’t win near as many as I have the last few years,” said Martin, who earned a degree in agricultural science from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La., where competed on a rodeo scholarship. “I think the key this year was just being consistent. I had a couple of little dry spells, but none was too long. Being consistent week in and week out is pretty important.”

He traveled throughout the year with fellow bulldogger Bray Armes, a three-time NFR qualifier from Pilot Point, Texas. In fact, Martin will ride Armes’ horse, Ote, during this year’s finale while also utilizing Armes as his hazer – in steer wrestling, competitors are allowed a hazer to ride alongside the steer to keep the animal in position for a solid run.

“Your traveling partners are very important,” Martin said. “You need to be able to be with somebody to help take care of things and put up with you and keep you motivated. Bray is someone who’s positive, and that’s important.

“It’s hard enough to travel with somebody when you’re going through cold spells, so you’ve got to have someone who can stay positive. If you can’t have fun and enjoy it and be positive on the road, you’re probably not going to win much.”

He’s won plenty over his 14-year career. It all goes back to a childhood in which he had the opportunities to compete.

“My older brothers and older sisters started rodeoing, so I fell into it that way,” he said. “We grew up around horses and cows. Grandpa kept us with horses all the time. We’re the first generation of our family in rodeoing.

“My brothers got into high school rodeo, and I was fortunate to be younger, so that’s all I knew. I went to my first team roping jackpot when I was 8 years old. I roped a lot, and it all led to the bulldogging.”

Martin comes from a big family. He’s one of nine children born and raised in Sulphur. He married Shawna 11 years ago, and they began building their own family. All six of their children are under the age of 10. When he’s on the road competing and helping make a living, Shawna takes care of everything at home.

“She stays positive and lets me go,” he said. “She supports me 100 percent of what I do and what I love to do. She knew nothing about rodeo when we first started dating.”

She knows about it now. With Casey being one of the elite steer wrestlers in ProRodeo, she realizes his job will keep him away from their southern Louisiana home for weeks, even months, at a time.

Now the whole family will be with him in Las Vegas during the 10-day championship. He hopes to collect a few round wins and introduce his clan to the fans who make their way to the Montana Silversmiths Go-Round Buckle Celebration, which takes place nightly at the South Point.

“Just winning the go-round is pretty amazing,” said Martin, who has two round victories in his four previous trips to the NFR. “The victory lap is really exciting, then you get to go to the South Point and take your family on stage with everybody. It’s an amazing thing to me.”

The NFR is an amazing experience. Being in the field with only the very best competitors from the 2015 season is quite an accomplishment, but now it’s Martin’s time to shine.

“You don’t get to run at that kind of money very often in your life, and there’s a whole lot of money to be won,” he said. “It’s going to help everyone in rodeo to have a chance to win that kind of money.”

Now it’s his turn to make it pay off.

postheadericon Muncy is on a title quest

LAS VEGAS – If the cycle continues, the 2015 ProRodeo season will be golden for Taos Muncy, a two-time world champion saddle bronc rider from Corona, N.M.

He claimed his first gold buckle in 2007 during his inaugural trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Four years later, he added a second world title. Now he’s four years removed from that 2011 championship.

Taos Muncy

Taos Muncy

“My goal every year is to win the world (title),” said Muncy, who is “Riding for the Brand” of Tate Branch Auto Group, which has dealerships in the southeastern New Mexico communities of Carlsbad, Artesia and Hobbs. “I’d like a fighting chance when I get to the finals.”

He has one. He sits fifth in the world standings and is poised to make a run at this year’s NFR, which takes place Dec. 3-12 in Las Vegas. That’s the richest rodeo in the world with a purse of $8.8 million; go-round winners will earn more than $26,000 for each of the 10 nights in Sin City.

Muncy has earned $98,654 this season and trails world standings leader Cody DeMoss by $20,743. That’s means the New Mexico cowboy is about a second-place go-round finish out of leading the world standings. He’s well within range.

This year marks his eighth NFR qualification in the last nine years – the one year he missed ProRodeo’s grand championship was because of an injury. What might be just as impressive as anything is that he’s just 28 years old. Of course, he’s been one of ProRodeo’s elite bronc riders since he was 19.

He won his first world title at age 20, about six months after claiming the college title while competing at Oklahoma Panhandle State University. He became just the third contestant in rodeo history to have earned a collegiate championship and a world championship in the same discipline in the same calendar year, joining all-around great Ty Murray and bull rider Matt Austin.

That shows just how difficult it is. It would be akin to a Heisman Trophy winner being named the Super Bowl MVP in his rookie season; being a regular fixture at the NFR is also as telling to the cowboy’s talent. In addition to riding bucking horses at a top level, a rodeo cowboy must handle the logistics of being on the road and away from home and family for weeks – sometimes months – at a time.

“Time goes too fast, so you’ve got to enjoy your family as much as possible,” said Muncy, who lives on the ranch with his wife, Marissa, and their daughter, Marley, 3, not far from his parents, Blaine and Johnnie. “My family’s pretty tight. That’s the one good thing about rodeoing; I might be gone for 10 days tops, but when I’m home, I’m with them.

“In rodeo, we’re all one big family. It’s a great lifestyle.”

It’s even better for athletes that are winning, and Muncy won his share. Over the course of the 2015 regular season, he earned 12 titles. But in order to make nearly $100,000 in a year, he also placed pretty well along the way.

Still, that income can be misleading. Unlike other professional sports, rodeo athletes have no guaranteed contracts. They pay their own expenses and also must pay a fee in order to compete. They only collect a paycheck if they perform well and finish better than most of the field.

That’s why Muncy’s partnership with the Tate Branch Auto Group is so valuable. He is one of several cowboys with New Mexico ties who are “Riding for the Brand”: tie-down ropers Clif and Clint Cooper; team ropers Jake and Jim Ross Cooper; and steer roper Marty Jones. Muncy joins Jake Cooper of Monument, N.M., as the New Mexico contingent at the NFR this year.

“Tate is a big New Mexico rodeo fan, and that’s really neat,” Muncy said. “It’s an awesome team to be part of.”

So is Team Muncy. Starting Thursday night, he will battle toward a third gold buckle. That’s one of the many reasons he competes in rodeo for a living and why he’s part of the Tate Branch Auto Group “Riding for the Brand” team.

postheadericon Strong year propels Silcox to NFR

SANTAQUIN, Utah – Wesley Silcox has had some pretty good seasons over the course of his 12-year ProRodeo career.

His 2015 campaign ranks right up there with the best of them.

“I gave it all I had this year, and I’m happy to complete some goals,” said Silcox, 30, of Santaquin, who earned $105,778 through the rigors of rodeo’s regular season. “I didn’t win any money in the Xtreme Bulls this year, so that was all off rodeo. It feels pretty good.”

The Xtreme Bulls Tour is part of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and money won at those events also count toward the world standings. Many of the NFR bull riders have utilized Xtreme Bulls money in order to qualify for this year’s championship.

Wesley Silcox

Wesley Silcox

“I rodeoed hard all year and made the Canadian Finals, too,” said Silcox, who has lived much of his life around Payson, Utah. “Unfortunately I didn’t get to compete there because of an injury, but it’s still nice to know I qualified.”

Now he heads to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the seventh time. His best finish was in 2007, when the Utah cowboy won more than $117,000 in Las Vegas and was crowned the world champion. He has earned more than $200,000 in a year twice in his career – nearly $229,000 in ’07 and more than $215,000 in ’10.

To say he’s feeling rejuvenated and energized might be an understatement.

“I felt really good all season,” he said. “I stayed healthy with just a few bumps and bruises until I separated my shoulder in September. I had a pretty positive attitude and traveled with some good guys. I just tried to win everywhere I went.”

It all came together. It helps to be riding well, but having the right traveling partners was also a plus. For almost all of his career, Silcox has traveled from one rodeo to another with Steve Woolsey, a seven-time NFR qualifier from Payson.

“He’s a year behind me, and we’ve been together ever since he graduated high school,” said Silcox, who was joined by Montanan Beau Hill and Canadian Ty Pozzobon. “We just understand each other. We know what it takes to be out there on the road and be away from home. It helps to have a guy that knows what he’s doing and knows what it takes to be a rodeo cowboy.”

It’s not an easy life, but it’s one the competitors love. Being successful is one aspect of it, but the passion must drive a person to be on the rodeo trail and away from home most of the year.

“If you ride bulls and ride them successfully, you love it,” he said. “You get to travel around with your buddies and see different parts of the country. The money’s not too bad either. I think everybody needs to experience it once in their lifetime to see what it’s all about.”

Of course, he continues to be one of the best in the game. Even though he hasn’t qualified for the NFR since 2011, he has been among the top 30 bull riders in the world each of the past three seasons. Still plenty of things have happened since he last rode in Sin City.

“Jerika and I have had two kids since that NFR,” he said, referring to his wife of five years and their children: daughter River, 3, and son Ledgen, 1. “They’ve played a big factor in leaving the house.”

Even that love affair with the game doesn’t take away from the occasional heartache of being away from the ones he loves.

“Fortunately I can FaceTime them whenever I want,” Silcox said. “It’s definitely changed the game, but you’ve got to stay with it and be strong.

“Riding bulls is basically how I make money for my family. If I’m not riding very good or going to rodeos at all, it’s pretty tough to keep the family fed. It’s tough leaving the house, but once I’m out and doing my thing, it makes it a lot easier. Winning definitely helps and keeps everybody happy, especially me.”

There are no guarantees in rodeo. Not only must a cowboy pay a fee in order to compete, he must then beat most of the field in order to get paid. Silcox found himself at the pay window often this season. He won at least a share of the title at eight rodeos, so most of his earnings came from finishing just outside of the top spot.

“I think the success to the year was a combination of confidence and everything else mixed in,” he said. “At the bigger rodeos, I drew some pretty good bulls to ride and ended up winning a good amount of money at those rodeos.

“When you’re feeling good and riding good, you seem to draw good at the same time. When you have the right attitude, it seems like the possibilities are endless and anything can happen.”

He expects to keep that attitude when he arrives in Las Vegas for the biggest purse in the sport, a record $8.8 million. Go-round winners will collect more than $26,000 each of the 10 nights, and the contestant with the best 10-round cumulative time or score at the end of the championship will pocket an additional $67,000 for winning the NFR average.

“The money in rodeo has risen a tremendous amount since I first started,” Silcox said. “This is where rodeo needs to be. People see how much we can win in a year, but nobody sees how much we spend.”

That’s true. Unlike most professional athletes, whose teams cover all expenses, cowboys and cowgirls pay their own way down the rodeo trail – food, fuel, lodging. It adds up quickly.

“I’m sure happy to make it to the NFR this year where the money has changed,” he said. “I was thinking about slowing down after next year, but this money at the NFR might keep me motivated a little more.”

Rodeo is all Silcox has known. His father, Brad, rode bulls, and his older brother, Shawn, rode bulls and bareback horses. Wesley Silcox has played the game since he was a young man growing up in Utah.

“I rodeo a few calves and steers when I was pretty young but didn’t like it much,” he said. “I liked roping a lot better. I was almost 17 when I got on my first bull. I hit the ground pretty hard, but I won some money on the next one I got on. I thought it was a pretty easy way to make money. I didn’t have to haul my horse around; I could just take my gear bag and go rodeo.”

Nearly everything he knows about riding bulls he gained from his father and brother, but he also counts on his mom, Julie, and sisters, Jennifer and Ashlee, for support. Combined with his wife and children, he has a pretty enriched life on and off the rodeo trail.

“Your family is the thing that holds you together,” Silcox said. “Everybody’s very supportive of what I do. They know what it takes for me to get down the road. It definitely helps.”

Now he’ll lean on them – and his past NFR experiences – as he pursues a second world championship gold buckle.

postheadericon NFR a dream come true for Aus

GRANITE FALLS, Minn. – To be a champion in any sport, it takes great sacrifice, determination and talent.

For 25-year-old Tanner Aus, he’s experienced it all the last few years. Now the bareback rider from Granite Falls will showcase his grit to the world at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which takes place Dec. 3-12 in Las Vegas.

“It’s an amazing feeling knowing that I’m going to the NFR, because it’s something I’ve worked for my whole life,” said Aus, who competed in college rodeo at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. “My parents put in the time and money, and it’s been a big group effort to get me to where I am now. It’s the culmination of all the work I’ve made to make my dream come true.”

Tanner Aus

Tanner Aus

The workload is there. No man will attach himself to a bucking horse without putting in the effort. It’s too dangerous to not be physically and mentally prepared. Aus not only put in the hours in the gym and in the practice pen, he also made other sacrifices needed to push him toward the elite athletes in rodeo.

Two years ago, the young cowboy had injured his groin so badly that it was threatening to his livelihood. He opted for an elective surgery to repair the ailment, but it wasn’t without trepidation – there still was uncertainty that he’d be able to ride bucking horses again.

“I had worked and saved up my money for the surgery, then I went to Philadelphia to have it done,” Aus said. “The pain from the surgery was as bad as when I hurt it the first time. It was a long, ugly recovery. When I could, I went back to work until I could ride again.”

With surgery in the fall of 2013, he returned to the arena five months later. He went through the 2014 season feeling better than he had in a long time, but he was still experiencing the pain; his surgeon had told Aus to expect it.

“It took a little while to get back into the swing of it,” he said. “I have a lot of scar tissue. My groin’s sore a lot of the time, but it’s not near what it was.

“They fixed me.”

It showed in 2015. Aus earned $85,660 through the regular season and heads to the finale eighth in the world standings – only the top 15 on the money list advance to the NFR, which offers a record $8.8 million purse. He earned at least a share of the title at nine rodeos through the course of the season, the biggest being his victory at the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days.

“I was nervous the whole time about Cheyenne,” he said. “We were in the first set, and I was leading. By the end of the last set, I was still leading going into the short round. I was nervous. But I got on my short-round horse and monde one of the best feeling rides I’ve ever made.

“When the whistle blew, I couldn’t quit laughing because all I was thinking was, ‘I think I may of just won Cheyenne.’ It’s a dream come true, but it’s harder to explain than that.”

He won nearly $14,000 at that one rodeo, so maybe that’s explanation enough. That was a significant push to his first NFR qualification. Of course, this is the place Aus had always believed he would be since he first began riding bareback horses at age 9. That’s what happens to the son of a ProRodeo cowboy.

John Aus rode bareback horses for years and earned titles all along the way. His biggest victory came in 1988, two years before Tanner was born, when won the year-end championship in the Great Lakes Circuit – one of 12 regions that are part of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the premier sanctioning body in the sport.

Tanner Aus is a two-time champion of the RAM Great Lakes Circuit Finals Rodeo, earning his most recent title in mid-November when he won all three go-rounds and the aggregate championship.

“Those are the last few horses I’ll be on until I nod my head in the Thomas & Mack,” Aus said, referring to the Las Vegas arena that has hosted the NFR since 1985. “People have asked me quite a bit if I’m ready for the NFR, and all I could tell them was, ‘I don’t know if I’m ready, but I’m excited.’

“By the time the bareback riding was over Saturday night at the circuit finals, I knew I was ready. It just couldn’t have been any better. I drew great and rode good, and it was fun.”

It also was the perfect place to prepare for the NFR, which not only features the top 15 cowboys in the world but also the top 100 bareback horses. Aus also realized some things taught to him in 2011 by veteran cowboy D.V. Fennell, a two-time NFR qualifier.

“D.V. told me that you’re going to win a few big licks, but it’s a grind day in and day out,” Aus said. “He told me to try to make $3,000 a week. If you maintain that and get in a couple big licks, it’ll all help. Some weeks you’re going to get skunked, but you’re also going to get your big licks in.”

Besides Fennell and his father, Tanner Aus has learned many valuable lessons along the way – some from his mom, Rae Ann, or his younger sisters, Dani and Braelee, but also from his longtime girlfriend, Lonissa Jones, and some longtime family friends.

“Wayne Herman is a good family friend of ours and one of my mentors,” Aus said of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame cowboy who won the bareback riding world title in 1992. “Between him and my dad, they got me started and taught me how to ride. He said, ‘You can have a bad round and still have a great finals.’

“That’s the way you have to approach rodeo. You can’t get too high or too low.”

Of course, having success early this season made the world of difference in the young cowboy’s mental game.

“After San Antonio in February, I had more money in my bank account than I’d ever had in my life,” said Aus, who won the college title in 2012 while at Missouri Valley. “It was just enough financial security that I could just go rodeo and not have to worry about the little things. I was able to take a step back, take a breath and handle my rodeo career more professionally instead of having $1,000 in the bank and $2,000 in entry fees to pay and wondering how I was going to do it.

“That helped me focus on the nitty gritty of being a good bareback rider. I could just focus on riding every horse like I was supposed to.”

Of course, it helps to have that great support all year long. Both his parents come from a rodeo background, and that has been a major attribute for the Minnesota cowboy. Since his surgery, he also has maintained better conditioning, thanks in large part to his girlfriend, Jones.

“She’s all about exercise, too, and she encourages me to eat better,” he said. “Family is everything to me. I’ve had people tell me that I don’t know how lucky I have it. I’ve got an awesome girlfriend I’ve been dating for four yours. Even my extended family is very tight. I make a point to not take it for granted.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that I would’ve never made it this far without them.”

It’s the main reason why he has a shot at ProRodeo gold this year.

postheadericon Jayne living his rodeo dreams

ROCKWALL, Texas – As a boy growing up in France, Evan Jayne fell in love with rodeo.

He and his father had stopped at a friend’s house, where they watched a recording of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, ProRodeo’s grand championship.

“I saw my first NFR on TV, and I was completely hooked from there,” he said. “All of my energy after that was leaving France and coming to the United States to be a rodeo cowboy.”

It worked, and Jayne has earned his first qualification to the NFR. He parlayed an incredible 2015 season into a No. 4 finish through the regular season, which ended in September. Now he’ll make the rides of his life during the 10-day finale, which takes place Dec. 3-12 in Las Vegas.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Jayne, who lives in Rockwall with his wife, Kristin, and their daughter, Sienna. “It’s everything I’ve been working toward the last 17 years. Ever since I came to the United States, that was my goal and what I’ve trained for.

Evan Jayne

Evan Jayne

“When I saw the yellow bucking chutes on TV, this is what I wanted to do. I feel like I’m in an unreal parallel world. When you’ve wanted something so bad for so long, I can imagine my heart is going to be beating outside of my chest in that first round.”

Jayne became interested in the Western world as a youngster when he would follow his father, Jean Pierre Jayne, a trick rider who performed for a rodeo/Wild West show. He even helped his dad. Once he was bitten by the rodeo bug, he found his way across the Atlantic Ocean as an exchange student. He landed in the tiny community of Magnolia, Texas, just outside Houston.

“I moved in with the Rigby family my junior year,” Jayne said. “Within two months of me being there, I had such a good relationship with my American dad that he said, ‘Why don’t we try to get you to come back next year and get you to graduate high school and go to college.’

“It’s all thanks to him that I’m actually still here.”

The cowboy returned to Texas for his senior year. Because he had exhausted the exchange student program, Jayne enrolled in a private school, where he graduated in 2000.

“It was a little school,” he said. “I was eating lunch with 5-year-olds. I had 10 people in my class I was the weird kid, because I wore boots and jeans, and they were all city kids. I won the high school championship that year in bareback riding.”

He then carried over to Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, where obtained a bachelor’s degree in agriculture. He also chased his gold buckle dreams in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the premier rodeo organization. He’s been a member for 13 years.

Each year, he battled and learned and progressed so that he could eventually make it among the top 15 in the world standings and compete at Las Vegas in December.

“I had to change some things in my riding,” Jayne said. “I wanted to give my rodeo career one more year, but with that, I knew I was going to give myself the tools to succeed. I changed the way I worked out, the way I ate, the way I thought about it.

“I improved the technical aspects of my riding, and it just clicked. It was a little bit rough at first, because I had to adjust some things I was doing. Once I hit San Antonio (in February), it all started being in the right spot.”

As the year progressed, his riding and his self-confidence just continued to improve. By early April, he was among the top five on the bareback riding money list. After a great run over the Fourth of July, he moved to No. 1 and remained atop the world standings for several weeks.

“The big thing this year was consistency,” he said. “It’s always been a problem to utilize your horse. That’s how guys get to the finals, and that’s what worked: Utilizing every horse I had. Even if I wasn’t winning first or second, I was always sneaking in there and catching a check. I didn’t have any huge wins, but I was catching second place a lot. I utilized the horses that I had to the best that I could.”

He also leaned on those closest to him to grow as a professional cowboy. Last December, he and Kristin went to the NFR to cheer on friends Austin Foss and Richmond Champion, and Jayne introduced his bride to the biggest event in the sport.

“When we left, she told me, ‘I know why you want to come here,’ ” he said. “She was pushing me. She said, ‘I’m not holding you back. You quit working three years ago as a school teacher, so just go do it. It’s within your reach. You’re good enough.’

“You don’t have a lot of people that can understand that you have to leave for 200 days a year to be on the road. Rodeo is dangerous on its own, but I think the road is more dangerous. For her to be supportive of me living this lifestyle means the world to me.”

But being on the road means he’s away from Kristin and Sienna, now 3. That makes it tough on anybody, and it’s why he leans on his traveling partner, Clint Cannon, a five-time NFR qualifier from Waller, Texas.

“I’ve had a lot of traveling partners, and they’re just like a wife,” Jayne said. “You’re with them more than you are with your own wife. You’ve got to get a long, and Clint is the guy I will finish my career with. We’re best friends. We tell each other things that nobody else knows.”

It helps, too, that Cannon is a veteran. When Jayne needed a boost, Cannon provided it.

“He’s one of the main reasons I’m at the finals this year,” Jayne said. “He told me that if I stayed healthy and kept going it would come. At one point, he told me, ‘You’re one rodeo away from winning a lot of money.’ The next weekend, I won $22,000.”

He kept adding to it. He finished the regular season with $93,020 in earnings. Now he’ll ride for the biggest purse in the history of rodeo. The NFR will pay out $8.8 million over 10 December nights. Go-round winners will earn more than $26,000.

That will pay a lot of bills, but there’s more to it. In rodeo, dollars also equals championship points. The contestants in each event who finish the year with the most earnings will be crowned world champions.

“I think what drives me is the habit of being competitive and always trying to be the best; that’s just my DNA,” he said. “I’m not going thinking about the gold buckle. If it happens, that’s great. I’m just going to enjoy it every night, have the biggest smile on my face and a warm heart. I’ve always had a fear of being 55 or 60 and thinking that I should’ve kept going.

“That’s one thing I’ll never have to say. That’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.”

He’ll share those emotions with not only his wife and daughter, his American family and a host of family members coming over from France just for this experience. They’ll relish in every moment as Evan Jayne battles for big money in the Nevada desert.

He’s worked awfully hard to be in this position, and he deserves to be there.

postheadericon Larsen relishing in amazing 2015

INGLIS, Manitoba – This has been a year to remember for Tyrel Larsen.

“This is one of the biggest years of my life,” Larsen said. “I got hurt last year, so I went up to Canada to work. I came back, bought a house and planned a wedding while I rodeoed all year, and then found out that we’re having a baby.

“It’s going to be a little hard to top it.”

He’ll have a chance to add to a phenomenal 2015 at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which takes place Dec. 3-12 in Las Vegas. This marks his first qualification to ProRodeo’s grand finale, featuring the largest purse in the game. Go-round winners will collect more than $26,000 per night for 10 glorious days in the Nevada desert.

Tyrel Larsen

Tyrel Larsen

“It’s awesome to finally make it,” Larsen said of the NFR. “It’s almost like I’m not as worried about it anymore. It’s a big relief off your shoulders after being so close for a few years. Anything I get done out there is a big plus.”

Larsen has been on the outside looking in for several years. He joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association six seasons ago, and just missed out on making the NFR in 2013, when he finished 16th – only the top 15 in each event qualify for the year-end finale.

“With all the money that’s out there, it’s very possible for a guy in 15th to jump up there and win a gold buckle,” he said.

In rodeo, the contestant in each event who finishes the campaign with the most earnings is crowned the world champion. Larsen has given himself a chance with a last-ditch effort that paid off. Heading into the final weekend of competition in late September, he sat 16th in the standings and needed a few thousand dollars to move up one spot.

“I think just being in that situation before was really beneficial this year,” he said. “I wasn’t worried about it, just nervous about making it into the top 15. I just needed to focus on what I could do; if it worked, it worked. That helped me stay calm through those last rodeos. Just go ride and not worry about anything else.”

It worked. Now he will join his brother, bareback rider Orin Larsen, as the first two cowboys from the Canadian province of Manitoba to qualify for the NFR. Orin Larsen also is heading to the NFR for the first time after finishing 19th a season ago.

“That’s pretty cool having both of us there,” Tyrel Larsen said. “You don’t always see each other very much traveling so much, but it’s great when we do see each other. We’re always helping each other and trying to keep each other pumped up. We’re both really excited for the finals.”

They should be. It’s the perfect explanation point to years’ worth of hard work and excelling in the sport of their choice. Of course, rodeo always was a way of life for the Larsens, including their brother, Kane. Now 22, he followed in his brothers’ footsteps and is competing in rodeo at Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell.

“We all grew up on a ranch helping my dad at home,” Tyrel Larsen said. “I played baseball in junior high and started riding steers a little bit. Dad said it was either baseball or going to rodeos. Ever since then, we never looked back.”

It’s treated him well. In Manitoba, he learned the lessons of hard work and understanding livestock. He carries that with him today.

“It’s a long winter,” he said. “We’re right at a valley, and you’re working cows in the trees. There are times you can’t go in there with all the snow, and the cows are hiding in the trees.

At Panhandle State, Larsen met his future bride. Chaney Larsen is the daughter of then-rodeo coach Craig Latham, a nine-time NFR qualifier in bronc riding. That’s where Tyrel Larsen truly developed into a consistent competitor.

“My freshman year in college, we had a pile of good bronc riders there,” he said, pointing to a group that includes two-time world champion Taos Muncy, four-time Linderman Award winner Trell Etbauer and the reigning two-time reserve world champ Cort Scheer. “When you went to practice with all them, it was good a good bronc riding.

“You learned to put out the right amount of effort. You had a lot of alumni that were there helping, too, like Craig, Robert (Etbauer) and Danny (Etbauer). All those guys would show us what it meant to try hard.”

Craig Latham and the Etbauer brothers – including middle brother Billy – traveled the rodeo circuit together through the late 1980s and ’90s. Robert Etbauer owns two bronc riding world championships, and Billy Etbauer is a five-time titlist. Combined the four of them have dozens of NFR qualifications.

Larsen fine-turned his craft as he worked closely with some of his rodeo idols.

“Craig’s always been there for me,” Larsen said. “When I first showed up in Goodwell, I wasn’t that great of a bronc rider, and he kept me out of trouble.

“He has helped me so much. He bought me a saddle when I was in a bind, and he always believed in me. Just having him walk Chaney down the aisle was pretty cool.”

Larsen spent much of his 2015 season traveling the rodeo trail with Muncy, Isaac Diaz and Zeke Thurston, and all four have earned the right to be in Las Vegas this December. That doesn’t happen very often, but it’s a sign that there is a lot of talent all riding in one vehicle from one event to the next.

Like Larsen, Thurston is heading to his first NFR. He is 21 years old from Big Valley, Alberta, while Diaz returns to the NFR for the fifth time; this year, the Desdamona, Texas, cowboy sits fourth in the world standings. Muncy, of Corona, N.M., is fifth heading to his eighth NFR.

“I think staying healthy was one of the biggest things for us all this year,” said Larsen, whose parents, Kevin and Wanda, live in Inglis. “Isaac and Taos were way up there in the standings, and Zeke had an unbelievable year. Everybody in the rig won some pretty prestigious rodeos. By having that much confidence in the van this year, it’s pretty hard not to win.”

Of course, having support away from the road is always valuable, whether it’s with the Lathams in Oklahoma or his own family in Manitoba. While his father runs the ranch, his mother runs a barber shop. His sister, Cassie, also is a hair stylist, and she and her husband are part of a family farming operation.

“I went to college, because it was big in the family to get your education,” he said. “When my parents found out you could get your education paid for by rodeoing, they thought it would be a good idea.

“About halfway through my education, my ability started to improve, and I saw this was an opportunity to make a little bit of money rodeoing. If I can make a living riding broncs, that’s what I’m going to do. If I can support my family and pay for stuff through rodeo, then there’s nothing else I’d rather do.”

Tyrel Larsen is chasing his dreams one bronc at a time.

postheadericon Ratliff’s 2015 added up to NFR

LEESVILLE, La. – Winn Ratliff takes a simple approach to competing in rodeo for a living.

“Nickels and dimes add up to a dollar, so any time you can win money at a rodeo, it adds up,” said Ratliff, a bareback rider from Leesville who is making his way to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the third time. “If you can stay healthy and be consistent, you don’t necessarily have to win rodeos to do well.

“If you can place at every rodeo, you have the opportunity to move up in the standings and qualify.”

He should know. The Louisiana cowboy earned $75,754 through the regular season. Sure he won his share of rodeos in 2015 – 11 in all, including big-money events in Nampa, Idaho, and Prescott, Ariz. – but he moved up the money list by finishing among the leaders at most events in which he competed.

Winn Ratliff

Winn Ratliff

That made all the difference when the regular season concluded the end of September. He finished the campaign 15th in the world standings – only the top 15 in each event advance to ProRodeo’s grand finale, which features the largest purse in the game; this year’s $8.8 million is a record.

“That type of money hasn’t changed my mindset,” he said. “My plan going in is to be aggressive and try to win every night. Hopefully we’ll draw the right horse. They’re the best horses in the world out there, and some horses are going to be better than others. Sure the stakes are high, but you can’t look at it that way.

“You can’t change what you’ve done all year. It’s just another rodeo. You just can’t think about the lights and the glitter and the purse money. If you do your best, all the other stuff will fall into place.”

That’s been Ratliff’s mantra. He craves the competition, something that was bred into him by his parents, Jim Dupree and Rebekah. They also passed that along to Winn’s siblings, brothers Ethan, Elli and Luke, and sister Emma.

“I enjoy winning,” Ratliff said. “My parents are very competitive nature, and they instilled that in all of us. They’ve always taught me that if you’re not going to give it your best, then don’t waste your time in doing it at all. To me, that’s trying to win every time you nod your head.

“I’m very thankful for that. Some people don’t understand that, but you’ve got to be competitive.”

He has been. Ratliff also loves baseball and played it all through high school in Oklahoma. When his father, a Department of Defense contractor, moved the family to Louisiana, Winn Ratliff seriously considered a career in baseball. He leaned on his faith to make a decision.

“My mom threw out the idea that McNeese (State University) has a rodeo team,” he said. “I spent a lot of time in prayer to see what doors would open and shut, and He made it clear to me that rodeo was my path.”

Faith and family are a big part of the man and the cowboy. In addition to spending as much time with his parents and siblings, Ratliff makes sure his priority is with his wife, Brittany, and their daughter, Maryclaire, who was born this past May.

“That’s given me a drive and motivation this year,” he said of his daughter’s birth. “When you’re single and you don’t feel like performing, you can kind of get by with it. When you have a family, it’s not about you anymore.

“Not only am I trying to perform at my best, but now I’ve got a wife and a little girl that depend on me. Rodeo pays most of my income for my bills. When I felt sick or tired or homesick, it gave me that incentive to step up and do my job.”

Now he’s got more work to do, and the NFR is the perfect place to showcase his abilities. Go-round winners will earn $26,231 each night for 10 rounds in the Nevada desert. The top cowboys and cowgirls in the world will have a grand opportunity to make life-changing money in just a week and a half.

“Having an opportunity to qualify for the finals and have my whole family there is what it was all about for me,” Ratliff said. “As long as my family is there watching me, it makes my sacrifice of being gone from home worth it to me. They get to enjoy the experience and ride along with me.”

That ride is likely to be a wild one. That’s what 10 days in Las Vegas is supposed to be for all 119 NFR qualifiers, but it’s especially true for roughstock cowboys – bareback riders, saddle bronc riders and bull riders.

Not only will they be trying to ride the best bucking animals in ProRodeo, there will be a few opportunities to try their skills against the nastiest and toughest to ride. It’s part of that challenge that makes the NFR such a special time.

“I got on sheep when I was little, and it didn’t kill me off, so then I tried to ride calves and started going to junior associations,” he said. “I never thought I’d be a bareback rider. I was wanting to be a PBR (Professional Bull Riders) guy, but the Lord has a different plan in my life.”

He wouldn’t change it for the world.

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