LAS VEGAS – Richmond Champion has been on more horses than any other bareback rider competing at the 2018 National Finals Rodeo.
He’s actually OK with it. He was awarded a re-ride after his first time out of the chutes in Round 1, then had that happen again. This time, Kesler Championship Rodeo’s Imperial Beach stumbled in the ride, so Champion was given the option of another horse. It was another Kesler horse, one that the Texas cowboy knows well.
“I didn’t even hear the score on the first one before I took the re-ride,” said Champion, a four-time NFR qualifier from The Woodlands, Texas. “If they are giving a re-ride here, you take it. But then it was Street Dance. Just the novelty of getting on Street Dance was worth taking the re-ride.”
So was the score. By taking the re-rides, the original score was erased, so it can be a bit of a risk. Champion and Street Dance athletes matched moves on the Thomas & Mack Center dirt for 87.5 points to finish in a three-way tie for second place. That was worth $15,795. Counting the re-rides, it was also the eighth horse he’s ridden through the six rounds.
“That horse has been here four times as many as I’ve been here,” he said. “That’s the fourth time I’ve been on her. I was up there in Canada the last two years, so I’ve had her.”
Through six rounds of ProRodeo’s grand finale, Champion has placed in three rounds. He finished in at least a tie for second place for the second night in a row. He has pushed his NFR earnings to $53,295 and his annual pay to $173,114, worth fifth place in the world standings.
He is also tied for fifth in the average race, having scored 501.5 cumulative points on six rides. He trails the leader, Steven Dent, by nine points.
Champion, who clinched the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association bareback riding title a little more than a month ago, utilized another Canadian horse to some American money. He is now within shooting distance of the world standings leader, two-time world champion Tim O’Connell.
“One of the nice things about the re-ride in Round 1 is that it put me a day ahead of everybody else on soreness,” Champion said. “That wears off after the third or fourth round, so I feel good. I’m excited. Bring them on. It just started for me.”
This 10-day championship is similar but way different than the regular season. During the heavy part of the summer, cowboys are on the road for weeks – even months – at a time. The rest they get may be in a van as they travel from one rodeo to another.
But these December nights force the cowboys to find a routine. Now in Vegas for the fourth time, he has found it.
“I wake up in the morning, go sit in the sauna, work out some soreness, seat and get it heated up,” Champion said. “Then I rehydrate, eat, sign some autographs and take it easy. I just try to get ready for the rodeo every night.
“Family time is limited. That comes after the rodeo each night, then I cash out about midnight. You just need to get yourself ready to ride.”
It’s working so far.