LAS VEGAS – It may have taken three rounds, by Wyatt Casper has found his comfort zone in Sin City.
He’s put together four solid rides in a row, placing in three of them and just missing out on payday on Night 6. He rode Big Bend’s Broken Camp for 89 points to win Wednesday’s seventh round of the National Finals Rodeo to collect just shy of $27,000.
“I talked to my traveling partner, Jake Clark, about him,” Casper said, noting that Clark lined out the rein measurement that fit the horse. “He said (the bronc) was going to feel awesome, and he wasn’t lying. I thought he was a little stronger than what Jake put on. Every jump coming around there, he was just getting stronger. I just lifted on my rein a little harder, and it worked out good.”
It’s bronc riding at the most basic level, but Casper and others who have qualified for ProRodeo’s grand finale have perfected it. Lifting on the bronc rein helps the cowboy make a better spur stroke, starting over the breaks of the horse’s shoulders and back to the cantle of the saddle while in rhythm with the horse.
“It all goes hand to hand,” he said. “I think bronc riding is a real basic sport. It might not look that way, but the mental side of it is. I just try to get a good start on every horse I can: Two jumps, spur out and never miss a lick. I feel like that helped me out a bunch.”
It goes with his training, first at the Deke Latham Memorial Bronc Riding School in Goodwell, Oklahoma, as a youngster, then while attending Clarendon (Texas) College while under the training of rodeo coach Bret Franks, a three-time NFR qualifier.
“They all drilled that into my head,” said Casper, who was living in the Oklahoma Panhandle town of Balko as a youngster but has since moved to Miami, Texas. “When I was in high school, I’d go over to Goodwell and practice with (the Oklahoma Panhandle State University rodeo team). I was over there a bunch.”
Robert Etbauer, a two-time world champion, is the coach at Panhandle State. Even though Casper didn’t attend college there, he learned a great deal at those practices.
“I think Robert says if you fall off, it’s probably because you weren’t lifting hard enough,” Casper said. “Maybe that’s what I wasn’t doing earlier in the week. Finally, thank goodness, I got it figured out.”
He has pocketed $62,688 in seven nights in the Nevada desert and pushed his season earnings to $147,635. He sits seventh in the world standings, but there are three nights remaining in the ProRodeo season, and he has his eyes on the prize.
“It’s been good,” he said. “I’m just trying to get as much money out of here as I can, get a little nest egg to go back to Texas with.”