LAS VEGAS – On Rusty Slim’s first jump out of the chute Tuesday night, Evan Jayne’s spur strap broke.
That may not be much of a big deal to many cowboys, but it is to a bareback rider who makes a living matching the bucking action of a horse with spur strokes in perfect rhythm. It seemed to work for Jayne, who rode the Four Star Rodeo horse for 82.5 points to finish in a tie for third place.
“I rode with a spur in my calf for the whole ride,” said Jayne, a first-timer to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo from Marseille, France. “That’s my only regret from tonight: I wasn’t able to enjoy this horse.
“Right at the end, I got tapped off, but I was spurring him with my boot.”
The ProRodeo officials didn’t care, and Jayne was rewarded with $13,327. That moved his NFR earnings to nearly $40,000 over six days. He has placed in three rounds.
“What’s hard about the finals is it’s such a roller coaster,” he said. “You’re riding against some of the best beasts, the best 15 guys in the world. As someone who is very competitive, I always have a hard time not cashing a check or placing in a round.
“That’s a whole new challenge of the finals: To wipe everything off your mind and say, ‘This is a new rodeo tonight, this is a new round, and we all start from scratch.’ I’m starting to figure that out and leave it behind so that each day I can nod my head for $26,000 that night.”
That’s part of the equation at ProRodeo’s grand finale, which features the largest purse in the game at $8.8 million. Go-round winners earn more than $26,000 for each night, and he has already pocketed a $20,731 payday for placing second on opening night.
This is a big opportunity for the cowboy that has been playing the game he loves for most of his life. He moved to the United States 17 years ago to pursue his rodeo dreams and earned the Texas High School Rodeo Association bareback riding championship in 2000. He then carried his dreams to Sam Houston State University, where he competed on a rodeo scholarship.
Now he sits third in the world standings with $142,578 in season earnings.
“It’s getting easier for me,” said Jayne, who lives in Rockwall, Texas. “I’m scary relaxed behind the chutes. It can be good; it can be bad. I could get used to this. I could come back for 60 more performances if I could – if my body and my wife allow me. It’s addictive.
“It’s not just nodding your head and competing. It’s entering that locker room at 4:30 (p.m.) and having some of the single best bareback riders around you, it’s walking down the hallway and having multiple world champion bronc riders and bull riders around you. It’s an awesome feeling. I wish they had more TV shows that could show this stuff to these guys going down the road, because that would definitely light a fire under them.”
It’s lit a fire in Jayne, and he hopes to take it all the way to the bank.