COMANCHE, Okla. – The 2015 ProRodeo season was a bit more comfortable for Ryan Jarrett than he’d experienced in recent years.
Every aspect of his tie-down roping game came together well, and it paid off in a big way. Jarrett earned nearly $86,000 through the regular season and heads to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo sitting seventh in the world standings. It marks his ninth NFR qualification.
“I really didn’t do anything different this year than I did last year,” said Jarrett, who finished 18th in 2014 and failed to play for the biggest pay in the sport. “I had a different horse in the trailer this year, and that allowed me to win at the right places riding him. He’s not the greatest thing ever, but I won well on him.”
He’s talking about Nate, a 13-year-old chestnut gelding he acquired in March. He also hauled Barney, a 13-year-old sorrel gelding that he had utilized in 2014.
“The horse I got this year was a little more seasoned, so it went hand-in-hand,” he said. “A good horse that fits you is your saving grace. When you don’t have the right horse, it’s like a carpenter with a saw that doesn’t cut right.”
Nate and Barney were the perfect tools for Jarrett, who won the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s all-around world title in 2005 – he remains the only person other than Trevor Brazile to have earned the most coveted gold buckle in rodeo since 2002. Now he’s excited to race toward the largest payout in the game during the NFR, which will have a record purse of $8.8 million.
Of course, it helps his confidence that he had secured his NFR bid a bit earlier than he had in previous years, when he had to scramble late to earn a spot among the finalists – only the top 15 contestants in each event advance to the championship event in Las Vegas. A year ago, Jarrett made a brilliant last-minute run that fell just short, when he finished three spots away from that magical top 15.
“I didn’t want to be in that situation again,” said Jarrett, who was raised near Summerville, Ga., on his family’s dairy farm. “At the big rodeos, I wanted to place in the average. It was a goal of mine to get the calves caught and tied down and get an average check, especially at the July rodeos. I wanted to be in a better spot at the end of July than I had been in several years.
“Sometimes it all works out. It clicked, and I was tapped off there for about 45 days.”
Though he didn’t know it, Jarrett had secured his NFR qualification by mid-August. Still, he was considerably more comfortable heading toward the home stretch of the regular season, which concluded the end of September.
“It’s a lot easier on the mind and the heart,” he said. “At the end of August, I felt pretty comfortable. By Sept. 10, you could make some plans and get a game plan together so that when you get back home, you have some things to work toward.”
Of course, it helps to have a solid partner, just like Jarrett had in Nate and Barney.
“I’d say the key to this year’s qualification was horsepower and the fact that I wanted to try to win some good money at those big rodeos,” Jarrett said. “Winning Ponoka (Alberta) and more than $13,000 over the Fourth (of July) and winning a big check out of Cheyenne (Wyo.) just made some things a lot easier. When you’re winning checks over $10,000, it sure goes down smooth.”
In fact, his July victory in Ponoka propelled the Oklahoma cowboy into another big decision for his 2015 season. He opted to stay north of the border a little more and try to make the Canadian Finals Rodeo.
“I pondered on it about two days after I’d won up there,” he said. “From that point on, I was going to stick it out and try to get my other 12 Canadian rodeos in so I could qualify for the Canadian Finals. I had never been in that situation before, and I wanted to take advantage of it and stick it out.
“I went to some rodeos that I’d never been to before. I told my wife, ‘I’m going to need to pick whether to make the (Prairie) Circuit Finals or the Canadian Finals.’ I couldn’t make both and work it all into my schedule.”
So he stayed in Canada a little longer, and it paid off. He qualified for the CFR, then earned $33,000 in Edmonton, Alberta, in just a few days. He also finished as the reserve Canadian champion, just behind winner Shane Hanchey of Sulphur, La.
Every dollar is important, though none of his CFR earnings will count toward his goal of winning the tie-down roping world championship. Still he hopes to utilize that momentum as he makes a 10-day run in the Nevada desert.
“I love the sport and always have and always will,” Jarrett said. “I know a lot of people get tired of the all-night drives, but it comes with the territory. Don’t rodeo if you’re going to complain about it, because you sure are going to get your fair share of miles and all-night drives.
“It’s something I enjoy and I’m going to continue to do as long as I’m physically able to.”
His passion for rodeo is something he shares with Shy-Anne Jarrett, his wife of five years. Like her husband, Shy-Anne has been around the game all her life and continues to compete. In fact, she qualified for and won the first go-round at the RAM Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo.
“She’s done her own thing the last two years,” he said. “I’ve convinced her into entering some bigger rodeos. She went on a little run there and dang sure won some money.
“It sucks not having her there, for sure, but she needs to go rodeo herself and have some success for herself. She doesn’t need to just help me hand and foot. She deserves to have some success under her belt.”
Success seems to come the Jarretts’ way, but they work for it. Ryan Jarrett was the Resistol Rookie of the Year in tie-down roping in 2004, then followed that with his first two NFR qualifications a year later; he qualified for the NFR in both tie-down roping and steer wrestling, then won the tie-down roping average in 2005 to lead him to that coveted gold buckle.
But he doesn’t rest on his past exploits. In fact, he has his own cattle operation in Comanche that he juggles with a thriving rodeo career.
“It becomes a fiasco a lot of times,” Jarrett said. “My father-in-law tells me I’ve got too many irons in the fires, but I like it. I enjoy a fast-paced life. As soon as I got home this fall, I had cattle stacked up in here, buying and feeding and preconditioning. It’s crazy. At one time, I had in this mom-and-pop deal 500 head that we fed every day.”
He manages all this with the help of his in-laws, Billy Bob and Sandy Bowden, and his father, DeJuan, who purchases cattle in Georgia and ships them to Oklahoma. It’s all about keeping his eyes pointed forward and building toward the future.
“This is all about cutting a trail for me when I get done rodeo, something to make a living at that I enjoy,” he said.
Spoken like a true cowboy.