LAS VEGAS – D.V. Fennell is a ProRodeo veteran who plied his trade on the backs of every kind of bareback horse in the business.
On Saturday night during the third go-round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, his experience paid off when the Neosho, Mo., cowboy rode the Beutler & Son Rodeo horse Killer Bee for 81 points to finish sixth. It marked the first paycheck of this year’s championship, but Fennell believes it’s just the start of something good.
“A roll has got to start somewhere, so I think this is the night,” said Fennell, born in Utah and raised in southeast Oklahoma who lived in Stroud, Okla., for several years. “I used an old champ’s routine on that horse. I knew it was a good one, but I knew it’d take a little while for him to get started, so I just waited until he really got to bucking, and then we went at it.”
The third-round NFR bareback horses are called the eliminators, so just riding through the storm is sometimes an accomplishment.
“Shoot, those are the horses that’ll yank the tar out of you, but it’s a cowboy test,” said Fennell, who was part of rodeo teams at Vernon (Texas) College and Southwestern Oklahoma State University. “You’ve just got to grit your teeth and bear down. The best thing you can do is just go at ’em.”
Fennell remains No. 15 in the world standings, and the $2,825 check he earned Saturday night didn’t change his place on the money list. But it did provide a splash of momentum.
“The thing about the finals is that it’s 10 head, 10 days, 10 times to win that money,” Fennell said. “You get a chance to nod your head for $17,000 every night. That’s what you work for all year, to get yourself in that position.
“Now we just need to do it.”