LAS VEGAS – When you tie your hand to the back of the rankest bucking horses in the business, pain comes with it.
Justin McDaniel understands that as well as anyone who has ever ridden bareback horses. A cowboy’s hand is wedged into a rigging that is strapped tightly to fierce broncs, and every jump and every kick the animal provides in that eight-second ride is felt.
At the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, McDaniel mounted the rankest bucking beasts in the game for 10 straight nights, most of which while experiencing disc issues in his lower back and considerable pain in his riding shoulder. Still, he rode all 10 horses, placed in four go-rounds and finished fifth in the average race with a cumulative score of 801 points.
“I was just starting to feel good and wish I was just getting started,” said McDaniel, who rode C5 Rodeo’s Make Up Face for 78.5 points on Saturday to finish well out of the 10th-round money. “I got the horse I wanted in the last round. He kind of let me down and didn’t buck, but we held up in the average. That average check always helps.”
As the 2008 world champion, McDaniel should know. He’s won the average twice – in 2008 and 2010 – and finished second in the aggregate one other time. The $15,901 bonus pushed his NFR earnings to $38,968. The goal every year is to conclude the season with the world champion’s gold buckle, which goes to the contestants with the most money earned in each event.
The second goal is to have a solid NFR and finish the season on a high note.
“It’s not quite the NFR I wanted, but you can only do what you can do,” said McDaniel, 26, of Porum, Okla. “I’m not complaining at all. I’m thankful for everything I got this week.”