LAS VEGAS – Tim O’Connell had to strap himself to two horses Sunday night during the fourth round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
After his first horse, Andrew Rodeo’s Fire Water, failed to perform well, he was given the option for a re-ride. The alternate was Harry Vold Rodeo’s Excalibur, and it paid off for the Zwingle, Iowa, cowboy. He matched moves with the black horse for 84.5 points, worth $6,769.
“I remember hitting the ground (after the first ride), and immediately was starting to nod my head that I would take the re-ride,” O’Connell said. “I didn’t care what it was, just load it.”
The hope for any roughstock cowboy is to just have to get on one animal. That doesn’t always happen, as was the case Sunday. Fire Water had a bad day, so O’Connell got a better opportunity.
“It is just like any other place, and you’ve just got to go,” he said. “You have to reset yourself, and you’ve got to clean your mind. You can’t be mad about what happened; you just have to make sure you are ready to go.
“My deal was that I put in a lot of hard work this offseason to be ready to get on as many as I needed to when I got here. If I have to have a re-ride every night, my body was ready to do so.
He has earned $69,654 in four nights of riding bucking horses. He has moved his season total to $271,569 and leads the world standings by more than $100,000. He is well on his way to defending his Montana Silversmiths gold buckle.
It’s more than riding well; in bareback riding, half the score comes from the animal. That’s why the re-ride was so valuable, and Excalibur came through.
“I rode that horse earlier this year,” O’Connell said. “I had success on her, and she was just as bucky as I remember her being. It was a pretty big fight. It was a lot of work for that little horse. I knew I had to be on my game and fast to the top and fast to the bottom, and I had to have a downward rigging drop.
“A lot of people don’t see that, but it will reflect in the videos; you can see the strain I had to go through to get back to the bottom (of the spur stroke).”
While he knew Excalibur was going to be good, he knew he had to match the horse. After North Dakotan Ty Breuer posted a 90.5-point ride to kick off the round, O’Connell decided to stick to his game plan of riding his horse and not trying to beat Breuer.
“(Saturday) night, I was 91.5 points, but (Sunday) I didn’t have an opportunity to be 91.5,” he said. “I had an opportunity to do what I could on the back of that horse. That 84.5 is a great score on that horse, so I’ll take it.
“I knew that I was physically fit, and I knew I was mentally trained to go through a 10-day battle and a 10-day war. I feel like I did the very best I could with the two opportunities I had.”
He’s done that for four nights, and there’s no reason to expect anything different for the final six rounds of the ProRodeo season.