LAS VEGAS – As the eighth bareback rider to compete Wednesday night, Tanner Aus posted a magical score of 88 points.
He was in the cat birdseat as the seventh-round leader. He started thinking about a round-winning celebratory dinner. Then the last two guys rode, and things changed. First, Clayton Biglow scored 91.5 points to push Aus to second, then Orin Larsen was 90.
Prime rib quickly turned to a ribeye sandwich. Still, Aus’ ride on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s South Point Gambler was worth another $15,654.
“I watched video of Kaycee (Feild’s) ride on that horse in the first half of the week and found a couple other videos,” he said. “He’s pretty hard to ride. From the video, it looked like he was going to have a couple pretty big swoops that might knock your feet out. He didn’t do that for me. I can’t wait to watch it. It was a good round of bucking horses again.
“It has been so much fun to watch, so much fun to be part of. Everything happens so fast that you don’t always get to watch as close as you’d like, but we always go back and watch the replays.”
Great rides and big scores have been the common theme in bareback riding at the NFR, and Aus has done well. He’s earned just shy of $60,000 in seven nights and has pushed his season earnings to more than $140,000.
“I feel great,” said Aus of Granite Falls, Minnesota. “I think it has to do with the process leading up to the finals. I put in a lot of time in the gym. My focus was on being strong and being healthy, feeling good and doing the right thing. I hope it carries me through right through the 10th round.
“We are still having fun. This week just goes so fast. I can’t believe we’re seven down, three to go. It just flies by.”
Part of the joy is spending these magical 10 days with his family, including his wife, Lonissa, and their 18-month-old daughter, Bristol, who is experiencing the Nevada desert for the first time.
“It has been so much fun having her here,” he said. “I get done riding, and no matter how it goes, I go upstairs (at the Thomas & Mack Center) and meet the family. She will find me from across the room and make a bee line for me, come and give me a big hug.
“It’s hard to beat the rush of the NFR, but if anything is going to top it, it is that right there. I am pretty thankful.”