LAS VEGAS – For the first time in ProRodeo history, the French flag flew proudly at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“I’ve got to say that the ride was a pretty good highlight, but bringing my flag into the arena was insane,” said Evan Jayne, a Frenchman who moved to the United States 17 years ago to compete in rodeo. “With the Brazilians cheering at me the whole time, I had to calm myself down and save some energy for my horse.”
Jayne’s excitement happened during the NFR’s grand entry, in which most of the contestants ride into the Thomas & Mack Center behind their respective flags. Jayne, the lone cowboy from Europe who competes in bareback riding, was allowed the opportunity to carry the French flag. It hasn’t been without debate.
“I was told that if I stay in the top five (in the world standings), I have the option of carrying the flag in,” said Jayne, who posted an 83-point ride on J Bar J Rodeo’s Bar Bandit to finish second in the NFR’s opening go-round. “That put a lot of stress on me tonight, because I just really wanted to focus on my riding.”
Because bareback riding is the first event each night, bareback riders typically focus on their rides instead of the grand entry. Jayne was told that the only way the French flag would fly is if he were the one to carry it, although that’s always the case; oftentimes another cowboy will carry a flag for a bareback rider so the flag is represented.
“I hope the arena director will realize that this is not fair to not offer me my flag in this arena,” he said. “Everybody is offered their flag no matter what, and just because of a technical thing – because I’m a bareback rider – they’re going to try to keep me away from bringing the flag.
“I would hope they would let me think about what I have to do to compete instead of running down the arena and rushing to get ready to ride.”
Through the mad rush that was Jayne’s opening round, he still put together a high-caliber ride at his first NFR.
“That first jump, I was like, ‘Oh,’ ” he said. “My legs felt like Jell-O that first jump. After that, they got going, and that horse helped me out. I was in control, and what I could tell the most was that I was clicking my spurs at the top of my riggin’. That was just an awesome feeling.
“It felt like everything clicked. I didn’t get the go-round win, but I got the next best thing.”
He also collected $20,731 and moved up from fourth to second in the standings with $123,751.
Jayne was born and raised in Marseille, France, and moved to the United States to follow his rodeo dreams. He graduated from high school in Texas in 2000 and won the Texas State High School Rodeo Association’s bareback riding title that year. He attended Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, on a rodeo scholarship, and has been competing professionally ever since.
“I knew I had my chances, and I was happy about that draw,” Jayne said. “I just thought about the steps I had to take and respecting what I’ve been doing all year.”