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postheadericon Young horses making their mark

WEST MONROE, La. – For every great veteran athlete, there is always a young gun with potential and promise ready to be the next big thing.

There are some outstanding veterans in the mix for Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, with outstanding athletes in Dirty Jacket, Big Tex, Real Deal and River Boat Annie. All have been recognized as the best bucking horses in ProRodeo over the years, and they are a key piece of the puzzle for Carr.

Painted River – which guided Mason  Clements into the money in Guymon, Okla., in 2014 – became the first Pete Carr Pro Rodeo ranch-raised horse to be chosen to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The young mare helped Jake Brown to the Round 6 victory at the 2015 NFR.

Painted River – which guided Mason Clements into the money in Guymon, Okla., in 2014 – became the first Pete Carr Pro Rodeo ranch-raised horse to be chosen to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The young mare helped Jake Brown to the Round 6 victory at the 2015 NFR.

But the next generation of top-tier athletes is growing strong on Carr’s ranch near Athens, Texas. The mixture of talented veterans and youthful exuberance will be a major attraction at the Stampede at the Ike PRCA Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Jan. 22-23, at Ike Hamilton Expo Center.

“We’re pretty excited in our young horses and have liked the way they’ve developed,” said Pete Carr, owner of the Dallas-based stock contracting firm.

That development begins with a mixture of true talents. The Carr crew has bred top-notch mares with proven stallions to create the next generation of bucking horses, and those animals are already being recognized. Painted River, the first ranch-raised colt out of River Boat Annie by Korczak, was selected to buck at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this past December.

Once in Las Vegas, the 7-year-old mare lived up to her lineage – Korczak has bucked at the NFR in both bareback riding and saddle bronc riding, while River Boat Annie is the 2007 Reserve World Champion Bareback Horse that has been selected to perform at the NFR 11 times.

Painted River and Jake Brown matched moves for 85.5 points to allow Brown to win the sixth round of bareback riding. The mare also was marked the rankest horse of the night.

“She jumped out of there and jumped real high the whole time and was good to ride,” said Brown, a first-time NFR qualifier from Hillsboro, Texas. “I had a blast.”

It was the first time Brown had ridden the young horse, but he had seen her a couple of times through the regular season.

“I saw her this year in Stephenville (Texas), and Winn (Ratliff) was a bunch of points on her there,” Brown said, noting that Ratliff was 85 points and finished in a tie for second place. “I also saw Matt Bright be a bunch of points on her in Eagle.”

Bright was 87 points to finish in a tie for second at the Colorado rodeo.

“She’s out of River Boat Annie, so she’s bred up to buck,” Brown said. “She did her job. She jumped high and was electric and had some moves.”

That describes a number of Carr animals that will be featured all across the country during the 2016 ProRodeo season. Top-notch bucking horses and bulls help draw world-class cowboys, so it’s a big win for everyone involved: local organizers, sponsors and fans. It’s a winning combination that keeps cowboys looking out for rodeos that feature the Carr brand.

“Me and Pete have always got along good,” Brown said. “I’ve always done good at his rodeos, so I may as well keep drawing his horses.”

That’s a statement that has been made many times by many men. It’s why Pete Carr Pro Rodeo continues to be one of the very best rodeo producers in the country.

postheadericon West Monroe is a rodeo town

WEST MONROE, La. – For the last four years, West Monroe has been a major focal point of reality television in various capacities.

“Duck Dynasty” was the precursor for other northern Louisiana reality-based programs like “Bayou Billionaire” and the “My Big Redneck Family” franchise. But there’s much more to Ouachita Parish than duck calls, camouflage and Uncle Si.

Pete Carr

Pete Carr

In fact, world-class rodeo action will hit town with the Stampede at the Ike PRCA Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Jan. 22-23, at Ike Hamilton Expo Center. It will be a combination of true athletic competition and family-friendly entertainment that makes the event the perfect January event for folks in this region.

“Every year the West Monroe rodeo is one of the first events of the season, and everybody gets excited for it,” said Pete Carr, owner of Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo, which produces the event. “We focus a lot of energy on making it a successful rodeo for the fans, for the sponsors and for the contestants.”

A big portion of the excitement will come in the Carr bucking stock that will be performing inside the expo center. Carr is a four-time nominee for Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Stock Contractor of the Year. Over the course of the last three seasons, no other stock contractor has had more animals perform at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Winn Ratliff

Winn Ratliff

That’s an attractive feature for the top players in the game, who are a fixture at Carr events across the country; West Monroe is no different. Last year’s winners include bareback rider Heath Ford, a three-time NFR qualifier from Slocum, Texas, and saddle bronc rider Heith DeMoss, a seven-time qualifier from Heflin, La.

Like many elite cowboys, they know they have a solid chance to do well on Pete Carr bucking stock.

“When you go to Pete’s rodeos, you know you’re going to have a shot to win first,” said bareback rider Winn Ratliff, a three-time NFR qualifier from Leesville, La. “You have to do your part and ride good, but if you do your job, you’re going to have the opportunity to win the rodeo.”

Shane Hanchey

Shane Hanchey

The cowboys also know there is an excellent opportunity to be part of a fantastic show.

“Over the last two years, it’s progressively gotten to be a better rodeo,” said Shane Hanchey, the 2013 world champion tie-down roper from Sulphur, La., who won the West Monroe title a year ago. “I was in the last performance there last year, and I was floored by the number of people that came to that rodeo that night.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that is prime rodeo country up there. It was really cool to see everybody there watching us.”

The Stampede at the Ike has become the go-to place for rodeo fans every year.

postheadericon duPerier reels in gold at NFR

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the January 2016 issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA. It is republished on my website with the WPRA’s approval.


Callie duPerier had the simplest of game plans during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo: Leave all three barrels up in all 10 go-rounds.

That’s harder than anyone might imagine, but the 22-year-old cowgirl did it. What is more impressive is that she did it in her first appearance on ProRodeo’s grandest stage in the middle of all the bright lights Las Vegas and the pomp and circumstance that comes with the Wrangler NFR.

It paid off for duPerier, who not only won the average championship with a 10-run cumulative time of 140.41 seconds, but she also placed in six go-rounds. In all, she pocketed $126,923 during the week and a half in Sin City and earned her first Montana Silversmiths world championship gold buckle.

“I wasn’t real focused on placing in the rounds,” said duPerier, who earned nearly $60,000 by finishing among the top six on six nights. “If I won a go-round, that would be awesome. I was making sure we kept the barrels up. That average was really important.”

Callie duPerier

Callie duPerier

Behind the gold buckle, the Wrangler NFR average title is the second-most important championship in ProRodeo. Of course, the payout of $67,269 also played an important role in the overall outcome in the race for the world championship. There are many cowgirls who have been part of the Wrangler NFR’s history that have never claimed the aggregate crown.

“When I got done (in the 10th round) and was running to get on the horse for winning the average, I was just so excited to win the average,” she said. “I didn’t even know I’d won the world, but I was excited about keeping up barrels all 10th nights. When I found out I won the world, it was incredible. Winning both is just amazing.”

Days later, it had yet to sink in. The reality, though, is it won’t finally hit the young cowgirl from Boerne, Texas, until her name is etched on that gold buckle and it’s in her grasp.

He is Rare indeed

Rare Dillion is a 16-year-old gelding out of Rare Class and by Firecracker Fire. His venture to Las Vegas this past December marked the fourth time the talented buckskin has run inside the Thomas & Mack Center for the Wrangler NFR.

Over the last eight years, Dillion has qualified to compete in Sin City with three cowgirls – Annesa Self in 2008, Carlee Pierce in 2011-12 and duPerier this past December. He has guided them to nearly $286,000 in earnings with four go-round wins.

Annesa Self

Annesa Self

His biggest runs, though, came over the course of 10 days to close out the 2015 season with duPerier.

“Dillion is just an amazing horse that is very consistent,” she said. “Going into the NFR, it’s always nerve-wracking because of all the things that are going on. I wasn’t too nervous, mainly because he’s been there before.

“He knew just where the first barrel was and did great each night. He’s definitely one in a million.”

He’s run that pattern 40 times in his lifetime, so he should know exactly where that first barrel is. The key factor was for the cowgirl to stay focused on task while also providing the greatest care possible for her talented mount.

“I just try to keep him happy,” duPerier said. “Being away from home, he sometimes doesn’t eat very good or doesn’t drink water. I make sure to let him out of his stall so he can roll around and play. I’d put my Back on Track cover on him at night, both the blanket and boots. And I’d also put him on the TheraPlate; he loves that.”

Lisa Lockhart

Lisa Lockhart

It all worked. Dillion and duPerier staked claim to the most prestigious titles in rodeo in the same season, and she earned the championship over two-time reserve champion Lisa Lockhart of Oelrichs, S.D., who was $18,787 behind.

When they placed, duPerier and Dillion finished more toward the middle of the pack. She was riding with as little risk as possible as to not hit any of the barrels. Still, she posted three sub-14-second times – she was 13.86 seconds on the fifth night to place fifth in the round, then followed that with back-to-back 13.87s to finish second in Round 7 and tie for fourth in Round 8.

Lockhart and her great horse, An Oakie with Cash, made a run for gold through the first six nights of the 10-day championship. Tipped barrels in Rounds 7 and 8 made it a stretch for Lockhart to win her first world title.

Sarah Rose McDonald, who won at least a share of the title in three go-rounds, finished in a close third place in the year-end standings behind Lockhart. She and Fame Fling N Bling were consistent until a downed barrel in the ninth round dropped them from in the average-title race; they finished sixth in the aggregate.

“It was a really cool barrel race to watch,” duPerier said. “It was really awesome. All the girls were amazing all week.”

The attention, though, returned to Dillion. He was one of just four horses to register 10 clean runs over the course of the rugged championship.

“I watched the replays but never added up the money,” duPerier said. “I just wanted to go out there and do my job. If I know how much money I have to win or how I have to do, I would worry too much about it. I just wanted to focus on what I was doing and let Dillion do his thing.”

Family first

T.J. duPerier has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, but the 27-year-old man has never let it define him. Callie duPerier loves that about her older brother.

“With the disease, it’s like their muscles weaken over time,” she said. “As he got older, his muscles have deteriorated.”

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a genetic disorder; it’s one of nine types of muscular dystrophy. Despite his condition, T.J. duPerier has continued to be an outdoorsman and live life to the fullest.

“We’re very close, and he’s such an inspiration to me,” Callie duPerier said. “No matter what his condition was, it has never stopped him. It’s awesome to watch.

“It puts my life in perspective. Because of him, I know to never give up.”

It’s a sentiment she shares with her entire family, including younger sister Lydia, mom Cheryl and dad Trip. The latter is a prominent Hill Country ranch real estate broker who owns Texas Landmen. In fact, Trip duPerier was with his daughter through every run inside the Thomas & Mack Center, guiding her and Dillion down the alley.

“It means everything to me,” she said. “My dad and I are very close, and Dillion loves my dad. Having him there with me at the most important part of my life is amazing.

“Dillion gave me some trouble in the alley, but since my dad was with me, it kept me calm down there.”

When the runs were over, there was plenty of support in Las Vegas. Besides her immediate family, she also shared the special experience with her fiancé, Kaleb Apffel, who proposed during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo this past March.

“We get married in May,” she said. “We met in college. We just started daring and dated for two and a half years.

“He’s not a cowboy, but he’s a hunter and fisher. We get along really good. He also is a big supporter. I was away from him a lot this year being on the road.”

The rodeo road was the toughest part of duPerier’s 2015 season. Like her veteran horse, she likes to be home. She likes the comforts that come with it, but she also needs to have those connections that have formed her into the world champion she now is.

“Whether you’re winning or losing, I still miss my family,” she said, noting that she won’t travel as extensively in 2016, choosing instead to stay home more with her new husband. “Them not being out there with me the whole time was very hard. I hate being away from my family.”

But those sacrifices were rewarded in gold on the final night of the 2015 season.

A solid foundation

When Annesa Self was a little girl, she loved her buckskin, Hank. Even after he died, she still held a strong fascination with horses of that color.

In the early 2000s, she began looking for another buckskin on which she could run barrels. When she saw there was a young one for sale by a lady in Oklahoma, she drove up from her north Texas home to check him out.

“She whistled at all of her babies, and they all came running over the hill,” Self said. “He was in the lead and was biting and kicking at the others to keep them back.

“I liked his demeanor. He was gritty.”

He also had the right pedigree. Dillion’s grandfather on his sire side was Firewater Flit, with Rare Jet a grand-sire on the bottom. She purchased the then-2-year-old and sent him trainer Karla Roberts, who put the first 30 days on Dillion.

“Then he came to my house to boot camp,” Self said. “I just started doing like I’ve always done them, putting the pattern on them and getting them broke to what I like.”

It worked. As a 5-year-old, he placed at every futurity in which he competed. He began his tenure in ProRodeo in 2006 at the Fort Worth (Texas) Stock Show and Rodeo. He and Self placed there, and with the earnings, the tandem got into RodeoHouston.

“That little turd will definitely let you know if he doesn’t like you,” she said. “He absolutely loves Callie and Trip. They came here and stayed, and it was his first time he was back in his old pen since I sold him in 2011. He rolled and jumped up and bucked and kicked and carried on. He definitely knew where he was.”

The last year hasn’t been the best for Self. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery. She’s cancer free now. She also suffered a broken ankle and lost her step-father in 2015.

“With Callie and Dillion doing what they made this year so much better,” she said. “We texted each other every night. It eases your pain, her doing what she was doing and living her dream. She made me feel like I was out there with her.”

Self made it clear to duPerier that this was her show and that Self enjoyed watching all the action from north Texas.

“Knowing that I put that kind of love and foundation and try into Dillion for him to keep doing his job like he did for Callie is awesome,” Self said. “I know how many girls have that little-girl dream. For me to have produced a horse that satisfied my little-girl dream, Carlee’s little-girl dream and now Callie’s little-girl dream, I just feel like a million bucks.”

She should. Dillion always will be a big part of her life. They had a decade together, and that affection will remain. But Self has seen first-hand just how close Dillion is with the duPerior family.

“I think he has a forever home with Callie, Trip and their family,” Self said. “Their family has been absolutely wonderful, and he deserves to be there with them.”

Yes, he does.

postheadericon The maturity of a champion

The first rodeo in which Dirty Jacket performed was the 2008 Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo. Jerad Schlegel rode the then-4-year-old horse for 87 points to win the title. Since then, Dirty Jacket has become the best bucking horse in ProRodeo, the two-time reigning PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year. (RIC ANDERSEN PHOTO)

The first rodeo in which Dirty Jacket performed was the 2008 Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo. Jerad Schlegel rode the then-4-year-old horse for 87 points to win the title. Since then, Dirty Jacket has become the best bucking horse in ProRodeo, the two-time reigning PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year. (RIC ANDERSEN PHOTO)

In early May 2008, Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket was just 4 years old. He had shown great promise on the company ranch near Athens, Texas, and he had a great bloodline.

But most knew very little about horse when the bay gelding colt arrived in the Oklahoma Panhandle for the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo. They quickly learned. Colorado cowboy Jerad Schlegel spurred the horse for 87 points to win Pioneer Days title.

That was the first of four straight victories in Guymon on the talented, young horse. Jared Smith won the title in 2009, three-time world champ Will Lowe earned a share of the title in 2010 and Matt Bright rode Dirty Jacket to the title in 2011.

You see, the 2008 rodeo in Guymon marked the first time Dirty Jacket had been part of a ProRodeo. Since that weekend, the now-12-year-old bucker has been recognized as one of the greatest beasts in the game – he has finished among the top three bareback horses in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association each of the past four seasons and has been the Bareback Horse of the Year each of the past two seasons.

The May 23, 2008, cover photo of ProRodeo Sports News features Billy Etbauer, who had won a share of the Guymon bronc riding title with Chet Johnson. In the story on the inside, Anne Christensen wrote about Schlegel’s ride on the colt. The photo that accompanies the story shows a somewhat awkward, lean bay frantically bucking and kicking.

Over the years, Dirty Jacket has developed a better-set pattern: Bursting out of the chutes, bucking and kicking across the arena with high leaps and excellent timing. But as a colt, he hadn’t developed those skills, nor the muscle tone that has come his way as one of the top athletes in the sport.

Much has changed since 2008. Schlegel was a rising star and a college student when he won the Guymon crown; now he’s a veteran who still has yet to qualify for the NFR. Dirty Jacket was a young, dangly colt still trying to feel his way across a rodeo arena; now he’s big, stout and dependable, all the things we want to see in our athletes.

Time definitely has served Dirty Jacket well.

postheadericon Pete Carr stock shines at NFR

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was written on behalf of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo for the Wrangler Network and has appeared on the website. You can view that version HERE.


No other stock contractor in the PRCA has taken more animals to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo than Pete Carr over the last three years.

This year’s Carr herd was 22 strong, and they were powerful inside the Thomas & Mack Center during the 10-night championship. In all, cowboys won $173,814 on the backs of Carr bucking horses and bulls. That included three go-round victories.

Steven Peebles

Steven Peebles

Quite possibly the biggest win for any cowboy came in Round 10: bareback rider Steven Peebles of Redmond, Ore., rode Good Time Charlie to share the round title with Tanner Aus and Tim O’Connell. Peebles earned in the final round of the 2015 season propelled the Oregon cowboy to his first world title, thanks in large part to that $20,872 payout.

Peebles finished $13,523 ahead of Kaycee Feild of Payson, Utah, who had earned the previous four gold buckles. That made Peebles’ winning ride on Good Time Charlie quite possibly the biggest ride of his 2015 season.

Saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley of Boerne, Texas, also utilized a strong final-round ride on a Carr horse to secure his first world title. Crawley rode Big Tex for 81.5 points to finish atop the average race, and that $67,269 payout pushed his Wrangler NFR earnings to $157,385. His more than $276,000 in 2015 helped the Texan outlast runner-up Wade Sundell of Coleman, Okla., but just $3,000.

Cody Teel

Cody Teel

There were a couple of other key round wins on Carr animals that made a difference in 2015. In fact, 2012 world champion bull rider Cody Teel won the third round on Carr’s Lineman, a bull that had bucked off Teel during the 10th round in 2014. This marked the second straight year Lineman had guided a cowboy to the Round 3 victory; two-time champ Sage Kimzey won the third round in 2014 aboard the 7-year-old black-and-white paint.

Teel rode eight bulls and clinched his second average title. He finished as the reserve world champion, second only to Kimzey.

Second-generation bucker Painted River helped bareback rider Jake Brown of Hillsboro, Texas, to the sixth-round victory with an 86.5-point marking. Painted River is by the paint stud Korczak, which has bucked at the Wrangler NFR in both bareback riding and saddle bronc riding.

Painted River’s dam is River Boat Annie, the 2007 reserve world champion bareback horse that has been selected to buck at the Wrangler NFR 11 times in her storied career. She has guided cowboys to numerous round titles over the years.

Painted River is the first ranch-raised bucking horse to be selected to buck at the finale, and she proved her breeding and talent in the process. Not only did she help Brown collect his only Wrangler NFR paycheck, she was named the rank horse of the sixth round. Betty Boop, another bareback horse in her first trip to Las Vegas, was the rank horse of Round 1.

That’s what cowboys have come to expect with Carr animals. Not only are they rank, but they are key factors in winning big paydays.

postheadericon The true gifts of Christmas

The first Christmas I can really remember arrived in the cold of 1972.

The youngest of my five-person family, we lived in a little house on the southeast side of St. Joseph, Mo. I was just a few months into my kindergarten year at Skaith Elementary School.

We were new to the community. It was a big city for a bunch of country folks from a tiny town in western Kansas, but we adapted. My brother, the eldest, was 15 and in high school – a high school with a student population that rivaled our hometown, the only community he’d ever really known. My sister was 10 and attended the fifth grade at Skaith; we walked to school together back in the days when kids actually walked to school.

Ted Harbin TwisTed Rodeo

Ted Harbin
TwisTed Rodeo

We lived in that little house and in that part of town for three years, and we were regular members at Deer Park Methodist Church, just across the street from our school. I remember Christmas programs and music and listening to my mom sing in the choir. I also recall bright clothes and tall hairdos and men always wearing patterned suits.

For whatever reason, those three years seem to provide the most memorable Christmases for me. For the Harbins, we always opened our family presents on Christmas Eve. In those three years, Santa always arrived while we were celebrating that evening. Since we didn’t have a chimney, he’d knock on our door and scramble away. It didn’t matter how close I was to the door, I’d never make it in time to see Santa fly away.

When I was a first-grader, the toy world was turned on its ear by the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. I wanted one as bad as any boy could want a toy. It was the grooviest thing ever. I made sure Mom, Dad, Mike, Shelly, Santa and Mrs. Claus all knew exactly what I wanted. That December 1973, I just knew Santa was going to drop that stunt cycle on my front porch.

When he knocked on the door on Dec. 24, I rushed to it. I didn’t worry about seeing Santa then. I looked straight to the porch to see my present. Much to my 6-year-old dismay, a not-so-impressive Evel Knievel, battery-operated street bike sat in the place of the ever-so-versatile stunt cycle. I was distraught. How could Santa be so wrong? I ran to my mom and cried, openly sobbing on her lap.

As the years passed, I learned the truth behind those presents and why Santa had to knock on our door. Even though I was a little boy and that this happened 42 years ago, my reaction continues to bother me. Now I see it through my mother’s eyes, she the Santa of record who truly believed she had gotten me the perfect Evel Knievel gift.

As a dad, I now empathize with my mom. I doubt she was as broken-hearted as I perceive her to have been, but even four decades later, there’s a pit in my stomach over that episode.

The reality is we do the best we can, to provide those gifts to our loved ones that they will enjoy and use. It’s a small reflection of the relationship we have with Jesus Christ, who came upon this earth 2049 years ago as a gift from God. Our gifts to others stand as a symbol. As parents, we get those gifts to provide comfort and joy to our children. It’s like a Christmas carol, isn’t it?

For those of us who are faithful, we learned the true gifts we receive this holiday season don’t cost dollars and dimes; those gifts reach into our hearts and make us better.

That’s what Christ’s birth was all about.

postheadericon Cooper, Muncy cash in at Vegas

LAS VEGAS – The increased money at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo came in handy for a couple of New Mexico cowboys competing in ProRodeo’s grand championship.

Taos Muncy

Taos Muncy

Saddle bronc rider Taos Muncy of Corona and team roping header Jake Cooper of Monument reeled in solid money during the 10-day championship that concluded in mid-December. The record $8.8 million purse made a significant difference in the dollar amounts paid out in Sin City, especially for Muncy and Cooper, two major pieces of the Tate Branch Auto Group “Riding for the Brand” team.

Muncy, a two-time world champion, placed in three go-rounds and finished seventh in the average race, which pays out an end-of-NFR bonus to the top cumulative times and scores over the course of the 10-day finale. In all, he earned $48,654 in competition and won the ninth go-round, which paid him more than $26,200 for that feat.

Each of the contestants also earned a $10,000 bonus for their NFR qualifications, so the Corona cowboy pocketed nearly $60,000 in Las Vegas. It all counted toward the final world standings, so Muncy finished the 2015 ProRodeo campaign with $157,307; that was good enough for seventh in the world standings.

Jake Cooper

Jake Cooper

Cooper, now a two-time NFR qualifier, picked up a big paycheck on the final night of the season when he and partner Russell Cardoza stopped the clock in 4.1 seconds to place second in the 10th round. That earned each cowboy an additional $20,731 – a year ago, go-round winners earned about $19,000, so the 2015 NFR payout was significantly greater.

It was a needed wrap-up to the Cooper-Cardoza NFR. The tandem hadn’t competed together any during the season, earning their qualifications with different partners. Cooper, who finished the year with $122,672, roped most of the season with Tyler McKnight, who finished 17th in the world standings and missed the NFR by two spots.

Cooper and Cardoza placed in two go-rounds – in addition to their 10th-round heroics, they also placed fourth in Round 6.

The better news is that the 2016 season is already under way, and next year’s NFR will be just as lucrative. That’s why the greatest in the world, especially those that are part of the “Riding for the Brand” team, will battle to be part of the championship next December.

postheadericon Durfey happy with 2015 NFR

LAS VEGAS – For every calf he roped, there were countless miles Tyson Durfey traveled through the course of the 2015 ProRodeo season.

Every interstate, every highway, every county road and every dirt road led to one place at the end of the year, the National Finals Rodeo. It’s the sport’s grand championship and features the largest purse, a record $8.8 million.

Durfey is an eight-time NFR qualifier from Savannah, Mo. He knows the road to Las Vegas is filled with narrow shoulders that leave little room for doubt. Once he arrived in Sin City two weeks ago, he made the most of his situations.

Tyson Durfey

Tyson Durfey

“I thought my NFR was outstanding,” said Durfey, now living near Weatherford, Texas. “Other than winning the average and the world, it was as good of an NFR as I could’ve had. I won two rounds, and I made two of the best runs of my life in one NFR. That’s outstanding.

“I haven’t tied very many calves in six (seconds) in my life, and to do it twice in one NFR is amazing.”

He shared go-round titles on the third and final nights, posting a 7.5-second run to split the third-round win with eventual world champion Caleb Smidt of Bellville, Texas. He finished that with a 6.7-run on the final night to share the go-round buckle with four-time champ Tuf Cooper of Decatur, Texas.

Durfey’s final-round run was the fastest of his career. He also was 6.8 seconds to place second in the sixth go-round – 23-time world champion Trevor Brazile posted a 6.6 to win that round.

Along the way, Durfey placed in two other rounds and ended his 10-day run in Las Vegas with $71,982, which pushed his season earnings to $153,983. He finished eighth in the world standings. Still, his biggest victory may have come during the third round on Dec. 5, the same evening his wife, country artist Shea Fisher, performed during the opening.

“We were pretty excited about it,” he said. “It took me 70 rounds to win my first go-round buckle, and I only won two in my first seven NFRs. To get two go-round buckles in one year was outstanding, so I’ve got one for me and one for my wife.

“That’s one we will remember for a long time. I watched that go-round the other night, and it will be a great memory for us.”

So will all 10 rounds. Durfey was part of an incredible display of athleticism in this year’s NFR tie-down roping. In a sport made up of fast times and big scores, there was plenty of action.

“The calf roping was amazing to watch and probably the toughest calf roping that has ever been in the history of the sport,” Durfey said. “It’s very rare that you see 6-second runs, and there were multiple ones. That’s never been done before.”

Ropers posted sub-second runs 12 times, including three by Brazile, who also tied the NFR record with a 6.5-second run in the eighth round.

“Several years ago, there was one go-round where there were three times in succession where they were 6,” Durfey said. “Now they’re doing it every round. To watch the growth of the sport is phenomenal. Guys are getting better, and they’re getting faster.

“I was on top of that a couple of nights.”

There also were some down times. Durfey finished out of the money six nights and suffered three no-times. He just didn’t let himself get down about it.

“I think the most important thing is optimism,” he said. “I’m not a very pessimistic person. I believe my best day is tomorrow, and that’s the same whether you’re on your back or standing upright.

“For me, getting to go to another round at the NFR is pretty awesome. A lot of guys don’t make in one year what I have a chance to make in one night.”

That’s true. Outright go-round winners pocketed more than $26,000 each night. For the four times in which Durfey placed, he averaged nearly $18,000 per round.

“My horse, Nikko, has been phenomenal,” Durfey said. “That horse didn’t make a single mistake out of 10 rounds of the NFR, which I’ve never had before. Most of the time horses get tired and worn out – like the rest of us – and they make mistakes. He scored good and ran hard, and he worked every time.”

Now it’s time for a break from rodeo. The horses will get a few weeks in the pasture, and Durfey may not swing a rope for a bit, but the work never ends for a rodeo cowboy. Even while spending time with family over the next few weeks, he will find time to stay in shape.

“It’s time to get back to the gym and get back to working out,” he said. “My goal every year is to be a world champion. As long as my goal is that, I’m probably going to have to work my butt off.”

That’s what champions do.

postheadericon Proctor earns big money in Vegas

LAS VEGAS – Coleman Proctor looks back at his 10 days during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and he sees many positives for himself and the sport he loves.

It was an amazing competition that featured the largest purse in the game. When the final round concluded Saturday night, Proctor and his heeling partner, Jake Long of Coffeyville, Kan., had finished second in the Wrangler NFR average, placed in four go-rounds with one victory.

Coleman Proctor

Coleman Proctor

They left Las Vegas with more than $110,000 each.

“What a great NFR,” said Proctor, a two-time Wrangler NFR qualifying header from Pryor, Okla. “Those are the best team ropers in the sport, and it seems like they always do put on a show in Las Vegas.”

Proctor and Long were a big part of the show. They roped smart all week long and took advantage of some situations when they arose. Heading into Saturday’s final night of the 2015 season, they were firmly locked into third place in the average as one of just three teams to record a time in all nine previous rounds.

“All we had to do was catch one and make $43,000,” Proctor said of the third-place payout for having one of the top cumulative times of the rodeo. “Things played in our favor and won us a little more.”

The top team, header JoJo LeMond and Junior Nogueira, had a solid lead in the aggregate over Luke Brown and Kollin VonAhn. Had LeMond and Nogueira finished it off, they stood a good chance at winning the world championship. LeMond scored a quick head catch in the 10th round, but he wasn’t able dally – wrapping the end of his rope around his saddle horn.

When the rope trickled away from him, so did the hope of the gold buckle. The next two teams – Brown and VonAhn, then Proctor and Long – moved up a spot. VonAhn utilized the average title to his second heeling world championship. Aaron Tsinigine, who roped with heeler Ryan Motes, won the heading title.

For his part, Proctor moved up nine spots to fifth in the world standings, thanks to his average of earning $11,000 per day while in Las Vegas.

“I’d go to work for that,” he said with a laugh. “That’s a lot more than I used to make working construction. Now I’m going to try not to spend it as fast as I made it.

“A lot of this success is thanks to Riverbend Arena, which allowed Jake and me to be able to practice. We had a lot of long hours, but that crew really took care of us. I hope they’ve enjoyed the experience as much as we have. I’m also thankful to Heather Clayton; she rode my chubby roan horse and got his feet moving. She had him geared up and ready to go.”

It all played out well over the course of ProRodeo’s finale. Every round and ever run offered new challenges. Though they only cashed in during four rounds, Proctor and Long made the most of every opportunity.

“I’ve been there twice, and I thought I was prepared again,” Proctor said. “I now know it takes guts to win a gold buckle. Hats off to Aaron Tsinigine and Kollin VonAhn; I thought the team ropers represented our sport well. They made it one of the best finals I can remember. It was quality roping for 10 straight days.

“What a neat deal to watch Kollin. To win a gold buckle, you have to risk more than I did.”

Sometimes the biggest rewards come to those the biggest risks. Tsinigine and Motes won at least a share of four rounds, including the outright Round 10 victory; that $102,000 added to a fourth-place finish in the average made all the difference to the Arizona header, who outlasted Brown by $2,685 to win gold.

“My family and my sponsors were out there to help me, I had a lot of family and friends that were back home rooting for us,” Proctor said. “We had a busy week with autograph signings and appearances, and I got to meet a lot of awesome people. That made you realize what your job is all about. Our job as professionals is so much more than how we compete.”

For most of his life, he has competed with his good friend in Long. They found other avenues for a few years, but they returned to the elite in rodeo the past two years. Their second straight trip to the Wrangler NFR together is one they’ll remember for some time, even as they go in different directions next season.

Proctor will compete with Buddy Hawkins, a heeler from Columbus, Kan., who qualified for the Wrangler NFR in 2013.

“I like to keep those Kansas heelers,” Proctor said. “We’ve roped together a lot, and Buddy and I go way back – not as far as Jake and I – and I’m excited about the opportunity. I think he has a great attitude and ropes awesome.”

With that, the Oklahoma cowboy will continue to pursue rodeo excellence.

“I’ve learned a lot about what I need to do to be a better header,” he said. “I’m ready to get back to work. I haven’t got to be the best I could be yet. I’ll take a couple days off and get caught up on things around the house, then it’s back to work.”

postheadericon NFR a learning curve for Irwin

LAS VEGAS – No matter the circumstances one faces, there always are lessons to be learned.

Steer wrestler Kyle Irwin didn’t have the National Finals Rodeo he had hoped, but he still finds the blessings that come with competing at ProRodeo’s year-end championship for the second straight year.

On Dec. 7, the Robertsdale, Ala., cowboy took part in the Exceptional Rodeo, an event in which NFR contestants help children with disabilities participate in the sport they love. It was there that Irwin looked around and realized all he has.

Kyle Irwin

Kyle Irwin

“To me, those kids aren’t disabled; those kids are a true blessing from the Lord,” said Irwin, who placed in just three of 10 go-rounds in Las Vegas and earned $33,974. “That deal probably helps me more than it does them. (Saturday) night when things didn’t go well, I was able to get on my horse by myself. I have so much to be thankful for.”

He does. Even through the trials and tribulations that come with the NFR, the Alabama cowboy finished the season with $120,574.

“After finishing second in the round that first night, I was sure thinking it was about to get fun,” he said, noting that he earned $88,000 a year ago. “It was still fun. There are people that try their whole life and not make it, and I was fortunate to be there for the second year in a row. Not doing well is part of the job we do.

“You get through those situations and go on, or you whine and cry and it beats you, and you get a job and feel sorry for yourself the rest of your life. That’s not me. These are the choices I make and the life I live, so you have to take the bad with the good.”

There was a lot of good in the 2015 season. Only the top 15 cowboys in the world standings advance to the NFR. One of those on the outside looking in was traveling partner Tyler Pearson of Louisville, Miss., who finished the regular season 18th and just missed qualifying for the finale for the second time in his career. Pearson provided his horse, Sketch, for Irwin to ride and served as the hazer.

“It’s got to be tough to almost make it and still come here to help me and be around his buddies,” Irwin said. “He’s fixing to have a kid in a week. He should’ve been home with his wife. Instead, she and their son called me every night to wish me luck. The sacrifices he makes that get overlooked are incredible.”

It wasn’t all bad for Pearson. While in town, he competed in the Cinch-Boyd Gaming Shootout that took place during three afternoons this past week. Pearson won the steer wrestling title and $11,600. It was a great opportunity for those cowboys who weren’t competing nightly at the Thomas & Mack Center to run for good money.

“Tyler’s a winner, and that Cinch Shootout is amazing for the sport of rodeo,” Irwin said. “Cinch stuck its neck out for me, and I’ll wear Cinch the rest of my days in rodeo and am grateful to do it. Those guys that just barely missed making the NFR deserve to have an opportunity like that.”

While Pearson collected money at The Orleans, Irwin continued to receive powerful lessons a few miles away at the Thomas & Mack, home of ProRodeo’s premier championship.

“I learned to expect the unexpected,” he said. “I came here ready and the same energy I had last year and ready to bounce back into it. I made some good runs, and I had a variety of things going on. I learned to be ready for anything.”

Just 25 years old, Irwin still has many years of quality education in front of him. Each rodeo he wins and every opportunity he misses provides him with the developmental skills he can use in the future.

“I learned a lot about patience this year,” Irwin said. “I want it so bad, and I get so anxious. I heard (five-time world champion) Luke Branquinho say he was patient the other night when he was 3.5 (seconds). I get so worked up trying to win every single time that I don’t allow myself to be patient, but Luke proved you can be patient and still win.”

It was just another lesson learned.

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