LAS VEGAS – A master mechanic needs the right tools to be successful at his job.
So do the world’s greatest bareback riders. Take Caleb Bennett, for example. The Tremonton, Utah, cowboy realized he didn’t have the perfect tools to compete at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. He made a change, and it paid him back very well during Tuesday’s sixth go-round.
“I had to switch riggings,” said Bennett, who rode Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s River Boat Annie for 81 points and a share of third place Tuesday night. “I had to go back to an old rigging; the new one wasn’t sitting right.”
A rigging is everything to a bareback rider. It’s strapped tightly to the horse’s back, and Bennett wedges his riding hand through the hand-hold and locks himself onto his dance partner. Bennett’s new rigging was built just enough different that it affected his riding style.
“For me, if a rigging fits too high off a horse’s back, then I don’t have any pressure on my arm with my riding style,” said Bennett, who earned his first check of the 2014 NFR worth $8,071. “I get laid too far back, and I don’t have any weight on my feet. I can’t have my rigging to low or two high. It’s quite the process. I guess I didn’t check that out enough.”
It’s a good thing he did on River Boat Annie, a 13-year-old red roan mare that was named the 2007 Reserve World Champion Bareback Horse. He had ridden the powerful horse twice before and had scored high. His last bout with the horse was a victory in Lovington, N.M., in 2010 when he rode her for 89 points.
“That ride (Tuesday) felt really good,” he said. “I was pretty excited to have her. When I got off, I thought I was going to be 84 or 85.”
Now just four nights remain in the 2014 season. The Utah cowboy – who won the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo this past spring – is taking a simplified approach for the remainder of the NFR.
“I’m going to go in with a clear mind and not overthink it anymore,” Bennett said. “I’d really like to win at least two of these last four go-rounds and be in the mid- to high 80s and really jump up there in the average. I want to make ups some ground. A lot can happen and a lot can be done.
“Anything can happen here.”
Yes, it can.