MIAMI, Texas – There is more than one reason for a ProRodeo cowboy to be consistent in his performances from one rodeo to another.
Riding well and doing so on a daily basis not only helps with self-confidence, but it also helps keep the cowboy’s mind in the right place. Take saddle bronc Wyatt Casper, now a two-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier who finished the 2021 season with $84,948. He sits ninth in the world standings heading into ProRodeo’s championship event, set for Dec. 2-11 in Las Vegas.
“Being consistent helps your mind, and it’s also good for the judges that are seeing you,” said Casper, 25, of Miami, Texas. “If they see you ride consistently time after time, maybe they will mark you for that. Consistency is the key in bronc riding. You have to do as good as you can on every horse you get on.”
Casper entered the 2020 NFR with a boatload of confidence. He was the No. 1 man in the world, and the field was chasing him. At the one-time home of the NFR in Arlington, Texas, he put on a show, placing in seven of 10 rounds; that included to round wins. He earned nearly $176,000 in a week and a half in north Texas, finishing the campaign with $321,000, but he finished as the runner-up to the champ, Utahan Ryder Wright.
“I learned last year that it doesn’t matter if you fall off three horses the week before the NFR in a practice pen, you can still have a good week,” he said with a laugh.
Life is pretty good for Casper. He’s proven to be one of the elite bronc riders in ProRodeo. He had some key wins on the season, from the Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo to the crown in Montgomery, Alabama, to the title in Burwell, Nebraska.
But one doesn’t pocket nearly $85,000 in a year without having success elsewhere. Cowboys make their livings on the road, traveling from town to town like a circus. When he wasn’t winning rodeos, he was picking up nice paychecks along the way. He didn’t win the title in Ellensburg, Washington, but he won the short round and placed second, collecting $5,000 in the process.
Those are the kinds of finishes that keep the rodeo rigs rolling down the road.
“Winning checks is the main part,” said Casper, who credits his sponsors – Priefert, Superior Livestock, Resistol, Cinch, TD Angus, MVP Exceed 6 Way, The KingStar Co. and Western Hauler – for helping him find success in rodeo. “If you go a week without a check these days, it seems like you go down in the standings.
“If you keep cashing checks every week, you will prevail. It’s like chopping wood; you have to keep at it.”
Other than big checks in Calgary, Alberta, and Salinas, California, Casper didn’t see a payday of more than $8,000 the rest of the season. He pocketed $11,000 north of the border and $8,916 at the California Rodeo Salinas, which also served as the ProRodeo Tour Finale over the final weekend of the regular season.
“I didn’t feel like I was drawing horses as well as I did last year, but I also don’t feel like I wasted a lot of opportunities,” he said. “A lot of stuff didn’t go as well this year, but we kept our head down and kept going.”
Sometimes a workmanlike approach is the best, especially for a man who toils in the rugged terrain of the Texas Panhandle when he wasn’t on the rodeo trail. He’s a rancher, and he lives on his place near Miami with his wife, Lesley, and their two children, Cooper, 3, and Cheyenne, who will turn 2 during the NFR.
Some of it’s age, and some of it’s the constant training that comes every day, but maturity as a man and a bronc rider has been a calling card for Casper.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot in the last year, some of it good and some of it not so good,” he said. “As long as you keep improving, you’re going to wind up on top in the end.”
The toughest part of being a rodeo cowboy is the days, weeks and, sometimes, months on the road away from those he loves the most. It’s difficult, especially for a young man with a young family, but he puts clothes in the closet and food in the pantry by riding bucking horses.
“It didn’t feel like I got home as much as I wanted,” Casper said. “I was lucky to get home three to four times from the end of June to October. That was kind of rough, and it was a little rough on the home life. Lesley came and rodeoed with me for a little bit over the summer, so that was nice.”
Casper may have already qualified for the NFR a year ago, but this will be a new experience for him. It will be his first time riding bucking horses inside the storied Thomas & Mack Center, the championship’s home since 1985. It’s renowned for having the yellow Priefert fencing and bucking chutes packed into the space of a hockey rink. He knows he’ll get chills upon arriving.
“I’m really looking forward to walking into the Thomas & Mack the first time,” he said. “I always told myself that I wasn’t going to the Thomas & Mack until I made it, and I’m glad that day is finally coming.”