LAS VEGAS – Sunday night was supposed to be an easy night for the bareback riders at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
After having to tie themselves to the hardest-to-ride horses in the game during Saturday’s Round 3, the cowboys were looking forward to the fourth-round “hoppers,” the easiest-to-ride bucking equines in Las Vegas for the finale.
“He did not suit that pen,” said Evan Jayne, who rode Mo Betta Rodeo’s Darth for 81 points to finish in a tie for fifth place in the fourth round and pocketed $5,500. “That horse should have been in a semi-eliminator pen, not the fun pen.
“This was supposed to be the time for exposure, for showing off. Man, I had a fight. That was the toughest horse I’ve had so far out here, and that was supposed to be the easiest pen of horses.”
Instead, Darth made Jayne work for an eight-second ride. Nonetheless, it marked the second time the cowboy from Marseille, France, has placed in a go-round – he finished second on Thursday’s opening night; he has now earned $26,231.
“I’m known for getting by riding some of the rankest horses,” said Jayne, the first European-born qualifier in NFR history. “The rank pen is usually where I shine, but, man, tonight I wanted a hopper. I was ready for a break.”
He won’t get one for a few days. Monday’s pen of bucking horses are the most electric in the game, with highest scores of the season being posted on the group of animals that appear in the fifth and 10th go-rounds. It’s a good time for the cowboy to become comfortable with the high-paced action that is Las Vegas.
“My nerves are finally coming down for me,” said Jayne, whose season earnings are $129,251. “This is just another rodeo for me now, really. Tonight I was just loose behind the bucking chutes.”
Jayne first fell in love with rodeo as a child growing up in France by watching videos of the NFR. Even as a youngster, he knew he wanted to be a ProRodeo cowboy. He moved to southeast Texas during his junior year in high school through the foreign exchange student program. He has lived in the United States ever since pursuing his dreams, attending Sam Houston State University on a rodeo scholarship.
While in Texas, he took advantage of the sport’s popularity in the Lone Star State. He made numerous appearances at the Mesquite (Texas) Championship Rodeo, which was televised regionally at the time.
“Mesquite was how I paid the bills when I was in college,” he said. “I drove up there every weekend. I was entered in bareback and bronc riding, and I remember driving back every time thinking, ‘Man, I should just move up near Mesquite once I’m done in school.
“I live in Rockwall now, just 15 miles from the Mesquite Arena, and I go there once a year. Still, Mesquite is my home, and I ride better in that arena than I ride in any other arena.”
He hopes that changes to the Thomas & Mack Center. He sits fifth in the world standings, so that gold buckle is well within reach. That’s just part of his rodeo dreams.