COMANCHE, Okla. – Ryan Jarrett is a cowboy, and rodeo is his business.
Right now, business is good. Jarrett, the 2005 all-around world champion from Comanche, will return to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the eighth qualification of his career. While in Las Vegas for the Dec. 5-14 championship, Jarrett hopes to collect his fair share of the $6.25 million purse.
“Each and every year, I try to rodeo a little smarter,” said Jarrett, originally from Summerville, Ga., now living in southern Oklahoma with his wife, Shy-Anne. “It doesn’t always seem to work that way. My plan when I start the year is to go to rodeos I feel comfortable at and where I dang sure know we’ll rope good calves.
“I came through alright, but I didn’t get the finals made until the last two weeks of the season.”
The rodeo season is cyclical, meaning it wraps around itself. The 2013 regular season lasted from Oct. 1, 2012, to Sept. 30, 2013, but the world championship doesn’t take place until early December. Jarrett kicked off his campaign by winning a share of the title at the rodeo in Allen, Texas, last November. He was still trying to secure every dollar in this September to remain one of the top 15 on the money list to secure his place in the Nevada desert.
“The first couple of years when I was behind the eight ball coming down to the wire, it was a lot more stressful,” he said. “I kind of know what it takes to get there, and it’s a long road. You just have to bear down and get it done.”
That gives Jarrett a distinct advantage. He turned pro in time for the 2004 season, then won the coveted all-around gold buckle a year later by winning more money than any other cowboy competing in multiple events. As a businessman, he understands all the components that go into being a successful cowboy.
In all, he won six event titles in 2013, four of which were in tie-down roping; he added all-around championships in Bennington, Kan., and Great Falls, Mont. – two of a few rodeos in which he also competed in steer wrestling. When Jarrett won the world title eight seasons ago, he qualified for the NFR in both tie-down roping and steer wrestling. Will he ever try to take his bulldogging skills back to Vegas?
“I don’t own a horse, and a lot of the bigger rodeos have back-to-back runs, and that really hurts a bulldogger that doesn’t own a horse and that ropes calves as a priority,” Jarrett said. “You’re never sure how you’re going to fit with the horse and how it’s going to work in consecutive runs.”
Horsepower is vital in rodeo. Cowboys need a lot of help from their equine partners, especially if they hope to compete at an elite level. For years, he leaned on the assistance of Country, which he has ridden at numerous NFRs. This year, though, Country is on injured reserve and will miss the finale; Jarrett will lean on a borrowed horse named Hippie.
“I rode that horse quite a bit two years ago,” Jarrett said. “Hippie’s been around quite a bit. He’s a winner. He’s a top-shelf kind of a horse, and the NFR is kind of his set-up.”
Jarrett has found a pretty good setup along the way, which is why he works his annual schedule the way he does. Take, for instance, the week beginning Monday, Aug. 5, for example: Jarrett began the week in Strathmore, Alberta, where he won the tie-down roping title. He took Tuesday off, then shared the title in Missoula, Mont., on Wednesday.
Thursday featured Jarrett roping in two morning sessions – first in Grace, Idaho, then a few hours later in Logan, Utah; he failed to pocket a check, though. That afternoon, he caught a flight from Salt Lake City to Oklahoma City, and by Thursday evening, he was backing into the roping box in Ponca City, Okla. His busiest day of a busy week resulted in zero dollars earned, but he made up for it Friday, finishing in a tie for second place in Lawton, Okla. He wrapped up that stretch the next day in Lovington, N.M. In all, he earned more than $10,800.
It was a nice addition to his annual earnings, and every penny counted. In rodeo, dollars equal points, and the contestants in each event with the most money won at the conclusion of the NFR will be crowned world champions. Jarrett’s felt that before, and he strives to do so again. In mid-August, Shy-Anne joined him in the rig and helped him put the wraps to a solid 2013 campaign.
“We took a rig up to the Northwest, and she stays up there with me in Oregon and Washington for the last four or five weeks of the season,” he said. “She helps me in those situations in more ways than one, from taking care of the horses to giving me the support I need and helping me with my roping.”
It all comes together in nice package that is the Jarrett family business, and he’s hoping to take care business during those 10 December nights in the Nevada desert. That’s particularly important at the finals, where go-round winners will earn $18,630 each night.
“I take everything pretty serious, especially rodeo,” he said. “I do some things by the seat of my pants, but I know what my goal is every year, and I work and strive to accomplish it.”