LAS VEGAS – It takes a strong faith and belief in oneself to battle through pain and struggles in order to persevere and find victory.
Caleb Bennett has that. Bennett placed in just two go-rounds at the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and earned $27,000 over the 10 nights of the championship. That’s an outstanding week of work, but 11 bareback riders in the field earned more.
“It’s been a rough week, not able to draw the right horses and a bad shoulder,” said Bennett of Tremonton, Utah. “But I couldn’t be more blessed and ask for anything more than to end it the way I did on Dirty Jacket.”
On Saturday night during the 10th round, Bennett rode the Bareback Horse of the Year, Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket, for 86.5 points to win the title. Most of his NFR earnings came in the final night of the season, when he pocketed $19,000. It helps to have the best horse going; in addition to guiding Bennett to the Round 10 title, the 10-year-old bay gelding also helped Richmond Champion to the fifth-round crown.
“That’s a phenomenal horse and definitely one of the wants you want to have in this round,” he said, noting that the fifth- and 10th-round horses are considered the greatest animals from the season. “It feels awesome to just get another go-round buckle under my belt.”
Now competing at the NFR for the third straight year, the Utah cowboy has won one round each December. He won the first round in 2013, then waited until the final round this year. He already has adjusted the goals he had before the finale began.
“Yeah, I don’t know if I’ll ever say again that I want to finish stronger than I started,” Bennett said with a laugh. “Maybe I should say I want to finish as strong as I start.”
The reality is his season is finished. He closes the book on 2014 with $111,299, good enough for 12th in the world standings.
“That $27,000 is a great chunk of change for 10 days, so I’m not going to complain a bit,” he said. “I’m a little disappointed with the way things turned out, but this is still great, and it gives me an extra $30,000 to go home and put toward things to get ready for next year.”
The main focus will be on healing. Bennett’s left shoulder has caused him considerable pain, which is even more difficult in bareback riding, where he is locked onto the horse through the ride.
“I’m going to get my shoulder healed up and get to feeling better and be in even better shape,” Bennett said. “I’ve already set in my mind that I’m coming for them next year, and I want to be a top three or four contender at this deal next year and not just top 10 or 15.
“This week was actually a true test for me. But I kept thinking positively and kept replaying my good rides from this year. It might take me until the 10th round to win the go-round buckle, but I did it.”
That positivity went a long ways through a rough NFR. It will help next year, too.