CLAREMORE, Okla. – Jesse James Kirby wants to feel the bright lights of Las Vegas as a first-time saddle bronc rider at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Jacobs Crawley wants to return to ProRodeo’s championship event.
They both made positive moves on Friday during opening night of the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo, posting identical 77-point rides to take the early lead in saddle bronc riding.
“This is a great town to come to, a big rodeo town,” said Kirby, of Dodge City, Kan., who rodeo Rafter H Rodeo’s Stuart Little. “That horse is just solid every time. He’s the one everybody wants to have in their back yard and practice on. Tonight everything felt good, and he’s the same way every trip.”
With half the score coming from the horse, it’s important for bronc riders to have good horses in order to help themselves make a living. In rodeo, contestants not only pay an entry fee in order to compete, but they must finish better than most to earn money. Crawley experienced that first hand a year ago when he won the Will Rogers Stampede.
“I love Claremore,” said Crawley, of College Station, Texas, who rodeo Rafter H’s Festus. “I’m from Texas, so Oklahoma’s not a far drive, and it’s dang sure cowboy country up here. And they sure appreciate bronc riders.
“Anytime you can get around here where some of those old ranchers can come out and watch you at the rodeo, they get excited about rodeo, and we get excited about that.”
Both cowboys are stars in ProRodeo. A year ago, both finished in the top 30 in the final world standings; Kirby was 29, and Crawley was ninth. Both have won the average championships at their respective circuit finales – Crawley in the Texas Circuit in 2010, and Kirby in the Prairie Circuit in 2009.
“It helps when you draw good horses like that one,” Kirby said of Stuart Little. “If I want to win the circuit and make it to the NFR, it’s just trying to place consistently and riding consistently throughout the year.”
It’s also important to win and collect checks. In rodeo, dollars equal points, so the contestants in each event with the most money won at season’s end are crowned champions.
“My year’s started out great,” Crawley said. “Here the past few weeks, we’ve been nickel-and-diming, but nickels and dimes make quarters. So we’re just going to stick at it, and hopefully when the summer comes around here in a couple weeks, we’ll have some good match-ups at big-money rodeos and hopefully make it to Vegas again.”
Money made in Claremore can go a long ways to making it happen for both Crawley and Kirby.
Will Rogers Stampede
Bareback riding leaders
1. Matt Bright, 72 points on Rafter H Rodeo’s Read Head; 2. Jake Self, 71; 3. Tyler Waltz, 64; Johnathan Taylor, 62; no other qualified rides.
Steer wrestling leaders
1. Clay Mindeman, 3.7 seconds; 2. Shane Henderson, 3.9; 3. Sean Mulligan and Crazy Clark, 4.2; 5. Tommy Cook, 4.5; 6. Tooter Silver and Jeff Miller, 4.6.
Saddle bronc riding leaders
1. Jesse James Kirby on Rafter H Rodeo’s Stuart Little and Jacobs Crawley on Rafter H’s Festus, 77 points; 3. Jeremy Melancon, 74; 4. Dalton Davis, 73; 5. Shank Stephens and Sterling Crawley, 72.
Tie-down roping leaders
1. Hunter Herrin, 7.7 seconds; 2. Caddo Lewallen, 8.9; 3. Travis Rogers, 9.3; 4. Jeff Miller and Chris Neal, 9.8; 6. Clay Smith and Justin Weichel, 10.3.
Team roping leaders
1. Destry Graham/Jimmy Thomas, 5.2 seconds; 2. Hunter Munsell/Derrick Jantzen, 5.4; 3. Eric Flurry/Billie Saebens and Trey Harmon/Braden Harmon, 5.5; 5. Ryan VonAhn/Nick Rowland, 5.6; 6. Jesse Stipes/Casey Stipes, 5.7.
Barrel racing leaders
1. Carlee Pierce, 17.36 seconds; 2. Mary Walker, 17.47; 3. Robyn Herring, 17.51; 4. Shada Brazile, 17.53; 5. Karri McKim, 17.62; 6. Kaley Bassm, 17.67; 7. Christy Honsberger, 17.71; 8. Kim Schulze, 17.73; 9. Sherry Cannon, 17.75; 10. Natalie Foutch, 17.76.
Bull riding leaders
1. Jesse Pohlman, 76 points on Rafter H Rodeo’s Alligator Chomp; 2. Buck Moon, 70; 3. Cole Echols, 68; no other qualified rides.
1. J.P. Wickett, 10.5 seconds, $946; 2. Chet Herren, 11.1, $783; 3. Brad Prather, 11.8, $620; 4. Shane Suggs, 12.4, $457; 5. Kim Ziegelgruber and Cody Scheck, 12.7, $228.
1. Rocky Patterson, 10.1 seconds, $946; 2. Shandon Stalls, 10.4, $783; 3. Jess Tierney, 11.3, $620; 4. Walter Priestley, 11.8, $457; 5. Bryce Davis, 11.9, $294; 6. Mike Chase, 12.3, $163.
1. Bryce Davis, 25.2 seconds, $946; 2. Brad Prather, 25.7, $783; 3. Cody Scheck, 27.8, $620; 4. Shane Suggs, 28.0, $457; 5. Shorty Garten, 28.9, $294; 6. J. Tom Fisher, 31.9, $163.