LAS VEGAS – Orin Larsen might be the perfect player in the second half of any game he plays.
The Canadian cowboy failed to place in the opening half of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, but he hasn’t missed a shot yet over the last four nights of the 10-round championship. That’s a good thing, too.
On Friday night, Larsen rode Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s MGM Dirty Jacket for 86.5 points to finish third in the ninth round. That was worth $15,654.
“That’s an awesome-feeling horse,” said Larsen of Inglis, Manitoba. “He felt better than I expected him to be. I just wish I was fully healthy.”
Larsen has been far from healthy at this year’s NFR. He suffered separated ribs on opening night and has battled the painful experience every step of the way. It just took him five rounds to understand what it takes to ride through the pain and how to win.
It helped that the MGM Dirty Jacket was a rider-friendly horse. It was the second time in his career that Larsen had ridden the 12-year-old bay gelding, which was selected as the 2014-15 Bareback Horse of the Year; the last time was an 88-point ride in which Larsen shared the title in Allen, Texas.
“There were two other horses that would have been ideal for me, so I’m pretty blessed to have the nicer part of the pen,” he said.
The pain is intense, but Larsen has ridden through it with a powerful mental toughness. Just breathing can be tough for anyone who has had any rib injury; to ride bucking horses and be successful is an amazing feat.
“You just have to block it out the best you can, but it’s easier said than done,” Larsen said. “I just hang out in the room and relax and not waste too much energy walking around Cowboy Christmas or something dumb like that.
“It’s a mind deal for me. I try to go at it as a warrior and put your mark on it.”
His mark stands at $72,192, the amount of money he has earned through nine nights in Las Vegas – all but $10,000 came in the last four nights. He has one more round in the 2012 season, then he’ll take some time off and let his wounds heal.
“I’m going to nod tomorrow like that round belongs to me,” he said. “I’m going to enter Denver (a January rodeo), but I’m going to enter for the last weekend so that I’ve got some time to heal up.
“I’m going to sit on the couch for a while, and I can’t wait for that.”
That time comes Sunday. For now, though, he hopes to endure the pain on one more bucking horse so he can earn a little more cash in Las Vegas.