ARLINGTON, Texas – It wasn’t pretty, but it worked out for Mason Clements during the second coming of the “Eliminator Pen” of bareback horses at this year’s National Finals Rodeo.
Clements managed to get by Mental Illness of the Sankey Pro Rodeo and Phenom Genetics string for 77 points to tie for sixth place for the second straight night, this time for Thursday’s eighth go-round. The nastiest horses in the game are done, and many of the cowboys are breathing a sigh of relief to not have to face them again.
That’s not necessarily the Utah cowboy.
“It’s a relief and it isn’t, because I want redemption, and I want it now,” said Clements, who added another $2,115 to push his NFR earnings to $36,654. “You go all year long to come here to have a shot at those horses for the right amount of money and the right stage. I just hope I have them again at a big rodeo in the season or back at the NFR again next year.”
It was a tough night for most of the bareback riders. Six cowboys failed to get a score, and two others were jerked around like rag dolls. The seven that managed to make better rides all collected NFR cash.
“Everything damn sure bucked,” Clements said. “Jess Pope had a pretty nice horse compared to how the rest of the field went, but he still had to do his job. Everything was on fire. I’m pretty sure my horse ate half the plywood in the alley before we got her in the chute.
“They were a bunch of fire-breathing dragons in the field. I haven’t seen that many guys miss markouts or get bucked down in a long time out of the 15 of us. This is crazy. Anything can happen at the finals.”
He arrived at Globe Life Field early Thursday to work on his rigging. He hoped it would help him perform better. The rank horses were tough enough, but trying to do it with a worn out, yet important, piece of equipment made things a big tougher. He will finish the final two nights with a new rigging.
“When they’re new, they’re a little tight,” said Clements, a three-time NFR qualifier from Spanish Fork, Utah. “When it’s dried and cured, it’s really solid like a piece of wood. I’ve stretched it out some, and I’ll stretch it out again before I ride in the ninth round.
“I’ll just pull it down tight, then you go in and squeeze your hand and nod your head.”
Getting past the eliminators is still an accomplishment, and he takes great pride in still being healthy and in good shape for the final two horses of a rough 2020 season.
“It’s a big mental game when it comes to the best, buckingest horses in the world,” he said. “The third and eighth rounds were those horses. You’ve got to do it if you want to crown a world champion. At least when it’s here, we have time to rest and recover, and a lot of times, we don’t get that.”
He likened his ride on Mental Illness to being part of a Fourth of July celebration, only different.
“She felt like a fireworks mortar, but you don’t put it in the tube; you just set it on the ground and don’t give it any guidance,” Clements said. “She wasn’t out of control, but she sure made me work for it with her moves, going back and forth and turning back to the left.”