Cinch bulldogger chasing every dollar in final weeks of regular season
With the final month of ProRodeo’s regular season under way, Cinch steer wrestler Bridger Anderson is hoping to take advantage of the few opportunities before him.
There are some big-money events over the next few weeks, and he plans to hit the biggest of them. They will be his best chance to return to the National Finals Rodeo when it commences in December.
“I feel like I’m doing my job fairly well,” said Anderson, 24, of Carrington, North Dakota. “There have been a few times when I dang sure needed to capitalize a little more, but we have confidence in our abilities, and we’re ready to finish this thing out.”
As of Aug. 29, he was 23rd in the bulldogging world standings, $8,700 out of the qualifying mark to make the NFR, which takes place Dec. 1-10 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Only the top 15 on the money list when the regular season comes to a close Sept. 30 will advance to ProRodeo’s grand championship, so he has some work to do.
Here’s the rub: Timed-event contestants can only compete at 75 rodeos in a given year, and he’s been to more than 65 of them. With only little time remaining on his 2022 campaign, Anderson is going to hedge his bets on rodeos he knows will offer huge paydays. It will be a scramble to the finish line, but that’s typically the case in steer wrestling, which is regularly the most competitive when it comes to figuring out NFR qualifiers annually.
“It’s insane how good the competition is in bulldogging,” said Anderson, the 2019 intercollegiate champion while competing at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. “The caliber of guys and the caliber of horses that are going right now is incredible. Anybody from first to 50th has the ability to make the NFR.
“It’s crazy the amount of talent that’s out on the road right now.”
He should know. He’s one of the elite bulldoggers in the game. He qualified for the 2020 NFR, when the sport’s premier event was moved to Arlington, Texas, because of COVID restrictions, and he’s eager to match his skills in Las Vegas, home of the NFR since 1985.
Anderson also knows more about the best bulldoggers and their horses this year. His primary mount, Whiskers, has been sidelined since June, so Anderson has been jumping on other horses in order to ply his trade this season.
“I’ve had to have ridden half the horses in the PRCA,” he said with a laugh. “Thankfully, I have a lot of good friends.”
He started the campaign on Whiskers, rodeoing with Riley Westhaver and Joe Nelson. They split apart a few weeks ago, and Anderson has been traveling with Kyler Dick, Tucker Allen and Justin Shaffer while riding Shaffer’s horse, Gray.
“I feel like Gray and I are meshing really well,” Anderson said.
That’s good. His biggest score so far this year came about a month ago when he won the California Rodeo Salinas and pocketed $11,558. It was a big boost to his pocketbook and his spot in the standings, and it provided the spark he needed to make a significant run at ProRodeo’s finale.
“Salinas was huge,” he said. “It was right before the cutoff for making it into San Juan Capistrano (California), and it gave me a little momentum. It gave me a boost to my season to try to have a shot to make the NFR.
“I think the season was going good, but I hadn’t won a whole lot. I was bouncing around on horses after mine got hurt, so we were trying to figure that out. Winning Salinas was a turning point, and I dang sure caught some momentum. I couldn’t have done it without Jesse Brown for letting me ride his horse and for Quinn Campbell on the hazing side of it.”
Anderson comes from a rodeoing family. His parents, Glenn and Robin, were ropers, as is his younger sister, Cedar, who followed him to college in Alva, Oklahoma. Youngest sister Dawsyn is focused on her academics at the University of Montana.
Bridger Anderson was a quality athlete in high school, a state champion wrestler and a football player, until the end of his junior year. He opted out of other sports to focus on bulldogging as a senior. That’s when his parents offered him a Christmas present he’ll never forget: Training with five-time world champion Luke Branquinho.
That served as a game-changer, and Anderson advanced to the then-dubbed Jr. NFR in 2017 – that was the last time he competed in Las Vegas, and it wasn’t inside the Thomas & Mack. He won the title at that event and watched an NFR performance, and he had plenty of motivation to be one of the best to have ever played the rough-and-tumble game of steer wrestling.
“It’s pretty important to have a good mental game,” he said. “Having momentum and having confidence is huge for that. At this point, you’re just trying to stay focused to compete to the best of your ability to finish out the season.”
His advantage comes on Shaffer’s Gray. When it was time for the cowboys to head to the Northwest to finish out the 2022 regular season, Anderson loaded the other three into his new Korral Supply Signature Quarters trailer and made sure the gray horse was with them.
“The first time I rode Gray was in Prescott (Arizona around the Fourth of July),” Anderson said. “I won money on him the first four or five times I rode him, so I knew I’d have a chance with him. I’m just really fortunate that Justin and Tucker let me in their rig.
“For the next month, I’ll go to the best rodeos I can find and make use of the last of my rodeo count.”
If the old adage “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” rings true, Bridger Anderson is hoping his will actually paves the way to Las Vegas in December.