LAS VEGAS – It took a 19-year-old bucking horse to get things lined out for three-time bareback riding world champion Tim O’Connell.
“Thank God for that old man, because I needed him to get this thing rolling,” said O’Connell of Zwingle, Iowa, now living in Marshall, Missouri. “It was starting to get very frustrating. I’ve been on four horses, and they took all four horses and put them straight into the re-ride pens for the next rounds. The frustration has been an understatement.”
There are 20 horses set for each of the first five nights of the National Finals Rodeo, and only 15 buck each night. The five remaining are the re-ride opportunities, then they will rotate into the mix the second time that pen of horses is out. The bottom five horses from the first time each pen of horses is out are put into the re-ride pen for their second trips.
O’Connell has drawn horses that fit into the latter category. That’s likely not the case with Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Good Time Charlie, a horse that is bucking at the NFR for the 14th time. O’Connell rode the hard-bucking, sorrel gelding for 87.5 points to place fifth in Monday’s fifth go-round. It was just the second time he has placed so far at the NFR.
“I knew Good Time Charlie,” said O’Connell, who won Montana Silversmiths gold buckles in 2016-18. “He is automatic, and he is great at what he does, even at 19 years old. He goes out there and jumps hard, kicks hard and he hit me in the face at some point. He just gives you his whole heart and whole body every time.
“He allows you to really show off and give it back to him. The more times you give it to him, the harder he gives it back. To have him in my corner tonight … I was very excited. For the first time at this NFR, I was pretty excited to come over here.”
Good Time Charlie has been highly decorated in his career. He’s been selected as one of the best bareback horses at the NFR, and this past season, he bucked four times, and cowboys were at least 88 points three of those rides.
“We owe a lot to that bucking horse,” O’Connell said. “I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been won on his back. He’s done so much for bareback riders.”
O’Connell earned just $6,967, but each dollar is vital. He has earned just shy of $24,000 through five rounds; that’s not a typical NFR for the cowboy, but he also realizes he hasn’t had much opportunity to show off his skills.
“This ain’t over,” he said. “They might think this is one man’s race or another man’s race, but I am right here, and I am hungry. I’m not happy with how things are going. I’m going to ride better from here on out. There are five more rounds left. There is a lot of money up for grabs, and I am coming for every dollar.
“This was, by far, my best ride. Because I’ve drawn on the bottom end of the pen, I’ve been trying to do way too much. I’ve been making dumb mistakes. I’ve been over-antsy. I’ve caused mistakes that I shouldn’t make. (Monday) night I relaxed; I had some fun. I went off the feeling of the horse, and it resulted in my best ride.”