When I first met Tanner Aus, he seemed to be a soft-spoken young man who was learning the ins and outs of the rodeo world with veteran cowboy D.V. Fennell.
“He’s good, Ted,” is what D.V. told me last August as the two camped out in my basement for a couple of days.
Yes, he is, and now he’s the newly crowned bareback riding champion in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, earning the title last week during the College National Finals Rodeo.
I’ve seen Aus a few times since he hung out with me and my girls, and I’ve grown more and more impressed with each interaction. He realizes his status as a rising star in bareback riding means he has plenty of lessons to learn.
Sometimes those lessons aren’t as easy to swallow as one would like either. For instance, Aus put on a bareback-riding clinic on one of the greatest horses in the game, Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket, during the final performance of the 2012 Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo. Problem was, the young cowboy’s spurs were over the top of Dirty Jacket’s neck on the first jump out of the chutes.
By rule, the rider’s spurs must be above the breaks of the shoulders in the neck region or it’s a no-score. Such was Aus’ fate that day. He knew it the moment it happened.
But he continued on with the ride, and it was phenomenal. Everybody in the arena knew it, too. Aus was disappointed, as he should be. But he learned a very valuable lesson that day in May, one, I suspect, he held with him in Casper last week.
I bet, too, he’ll carry that with him the rest of his career.