LAS VEGAS – The smile on Orin Larsen’s face might not go away for a while.
On Thursday night during the opening go-round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the bareback rider from Inglis, Manitoba, spurred Growney Brothers Rodeo’s Wild N Blue for 81 points to finish in a four-way tie for third place. It was with $9,413.
“It’s absolutely epic,” said Larsen, 24, who won college championships at both the College of Southern Idaho and Oklahoma Panhandle State University. “It’s the coolest thing in the world. You dedicate your whole life to this; to get to this point and to make a check in the first round is beyond belief.”
Larsen joins his saddle bronc-riding brother, Tyrel, as the first two Manitoba cowboys to have qualified for the NFR. With his top finish, Orin Larsen becomes the first from that province to catch money at the NFR. More importantly, his first-round earnings pushed him from 10th to seventh in the world standings; he now has earned more than $101,000 in 2015.
“I had doubts about my glove and had to do some kind of reconstructive work on my riggin’ and my glove before I came here,” he said. “I wasn’t too sure if it was going to stay in, so I felt like I could have rode better, but we’ve got nine more rounds to do it. I’m excited.”
He should be. Of the 15 bareback riders in the field, he was one of just six who earned a check Thursday. It happened on a horse he’d never ridden.
“I’ve seen it a bunch, and I’ve always wanted to get on that horse,” he said. “It was a fun horse; it was kind of nerve racking: A rookie going at his first NFR. I’ve got to be oblivious to the world and the bright lights in Vegas and bring the fight to the horse instead of the other way around.
“Vegas is one of, if not the best, rodeos in the world.”
Yes, it is, and he has an opportunity at life-changing money. With go-round winners pocketing more than $26,000 a night, the payouts can grow incredibly over the course of the 10-day championship. In rodeo, dollars equal championship points, so the contestants in each event with the most earnings at the conclusion of the NFR will be crowned world champions.
Of course, collecting a paycheck on his first ride on the first night of his first NFR definitely sparked a fire in Larsen’s confidence.
“It’s through the roof,” Larsen said. “It’s pretty spectacular, not knowing what to expect at your first NFR. Once it settles in and you make your first check, it’s quite something.
“To dedicate your whole life to make it to this point, it’s definitely a special feeling. It’s kind of like every little kid with a baseball bat dreams of hitting at the World Series; I’m just like that but in a bareback riggin’.”