LAS VEGAS – The pedigree for Frontier Rodeo’s Full Baggage stands by itself.
The big bay gelding is a two-time Bareback Horse of the Year and has appeared at the National Finals Rodeo for more than a decade. He’s one of the rankest horses in the sport today.
On Thursday night’s eighth round, known as the “eliminator” pen for bareback riders, Full Baggage was half the equation for Mason Clements in their 88.5-point ride. With that, Clements finished second in the round, adding $20,731 to his Cinch jeans.
“That was a rematch for me,” said Clements of Springville, Utah. “He got me in Dodge City (Kan.). He’s one of those you just don’t have fun on, but I was bound and determined to have some fun on him.
“I felt like I made a pretty good recovery right off the bat, but having to recover is what probably cost me the round win. My start wasn’t as strong, but my finish is what got me an 88.5.”
The difference in payout is $5,500, so that’s why he is even discussing it. But any score that high is still great, especially in the eliminator pen. Those style of horses can make bareback riders look bad. Three men failed to earn a qualified ride. But these are the top 15 men in the game, and they have proven over the course of the regular season why they are part of this field.
Still, to the lay person, bareback riding looks painful.
“It really looks like we’re breaking our necks every time,” said Clements, now a two-time qualifier to the NFR who has earned $70,782 through eight nights of ProRodeo’s grand finale. “It looks like it is ripping our arms off. When you see an animal and they are bucking like crazy, to the average eye, all they see is chaos. They don’t understand a good ride from a bad ride.”
The key is having a more controlled spur stroke from the front of the horse’s shoulders back to the riggin’. When done in rhythm with the horse’s bucking motion, it can be poetry – it just doesn’t look that way.
“If we are beating our horses, meaning we have our spurs back over their neck on each jump when they hit the ground, then it feels like when you win anything,” he said. “If we have our chin tucked when we set our feet and we are looking down that horse’s mane when he is full extension and hitting the ground, then doing it again each jump, we are having fun.
“It’s like hitting a home run.”
Clements has pushed his season earnings to $170,318 and has two more nights to add big cash.
“I’m looking forward to winning,” Clements said. “I need two go-round wins. It makes me excited. That is what I look forward to and is what keeps me in the game. I want to keep having fun. I want to win.”
Winning is fun, and Clements is having a blast in Las Vegas.