ARLINGTON, Texas – Most of the time, roller coasters are more fun when the highs are matched with the lows.
That’s not the case with reigning bareback riding world champion Clayton Biglow. Twelve months ago, he was riding the highest of highs at the National Finals Rodeo, which culminated in his first Montana Silversmiths gold buckle and a rodeo-best $243,891 in earnings over 10 days of ProRodeo’s premier event.
“I like it way better when the roller coaster is going up,” Biglow said with a smile Sunday after riding Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Night Star for 86.5 points to finish in a tie for third place in the fifth round, worth $13,327. It was just his second paycheck so far at Globe Life Field in Arlington.
He bucked off Sankey’s Prairie Rose in the second round, then was manhandled Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s Mr. Harry on Saturday night, scoring just 68 points.
“You’ve just got to brush it off your shoulder and forget about it,” he said. “That ride tonight feels good. I got a lot of confidence off that, and I’m ready for more.”
After two rank rounds of bucking horses, the cowboys were offered the opportunity to show off a bit. The “hoppers,” as they’re called, are the easiest-to-ride horses at the NFR. The degree of difficulty isn’t quite as extreme as the “eliminator pen,” which is featured in Rounds 3 and 8.
That’s where Night Star comes in.
“I really didn’t know a whole lot about him, but it’s a Pickett horse,” Biglow said. “Whenever you draw a Pickett horse, you’ve got to be happy.”
Just a few days shy of his 25th birthday, the Clements, California, cowboy is still a young gun, but this year’s field of NFR bareback riders features five first-timers. It’s a bright spot in the most rugged events in rodeo.
“Those guys are wicked, and they’ve got one heck of a future in front of them,” he said. “I’m gad to be part of them, and I’m glad to be riding against them.”
One of the keys to Biglow’s success at the 2019 NFR was establishing an earnings record and shattering the record for the best 10-ride cumulative score with 886.5 points. With a no-score and a low score on the board, he won’t be able to repeat as the average champion, but he knows there are still opportunities to cash in.
“It’s a pressure that you don’t want off, but the pressure is off,” Biglow said. “Now, we are just going for go-rounds, and there is no holding back. Like I did (Sunday), it is, ‘Just have fun and make the best spur ride you can.’
“It’s going to be a spurring contest for me. I’m going for every point I can get. I’ve had hell the last three rounds. I had some equipment malfunctions for the last three rounds, and I switched back to my old rigging. It feels way better. I’ve got some confidence in my hand and in my equipment.”
It showed Sunday night.