DUNCAN, Okla. – Cowboys that make a living on the rodeo trail know the end of the rainbow resides in Las Vegas.
It’s home of the National Finals Rodeo, which offers a $14 million payout. It’s where world champions will be crowned, but the road to the Nevada desert is long, winding and filled with challenges. Only the top 15 contestants in the world standings at the conclusion of the regular season advance.
It’s where Jacob Edler expected he’d be in December. The 2020 world champion steer wrestler finished his 2022 campaign off the mark and, instead, found his way back home to Alva, Oklahoma, in mid-July and focused his attention to one thing: winning the Prairie Circuit championship.
“One of my goals this year was to win the Prairie Circuit,” said Edler, 28, originally from State Center, Iowa. “That’s one thing in my career I’ve never done.
“I decided things weren’t really falling into place being out on the big trail, and I have a young horse; I knew I needed some incredible things to happen to make the NFR this year. I decided to pack it up, go home and tour my young horse around to get his confidence up and get my confidence up and get everything set up for the 2023 rodeo season.”
He hopes to close out his regional title at the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13-Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan. Edler has earned just shy of $18,000 in the regional made up of rodeos and contestants primarily in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska and owns a lead of $5,200 over the field.
“Going into Duncan, I’m going to show up, do my job and put my head down, and we’ll see how it all falls into place,” he said. “I would like to leave with a circuit title and an average title when it’s all said and done.”
He’s been close before. In that magical 2020 season, Edler utilized momentum he gained at the circuit finale to have great success at the NFR. He first won the average championship in Duncan, then did the same thing at the NFR, culminating in his first Montana Silversmiths gold buckle.
“I wanted to go back to the NFR this year, but God’s timing isn’t our timing,” he said, noting that by returning to the Plains states early, it allowed more time for him to spend with his wife, Moriah, and their 1-year-old daughter, Taylee.
“It was really good for me to come back home. I was able to work on our place, work on our home and spend quality time with my wife and daughter. It’s been nice to reset and get life a little bit in order and feel like we’ve got a game plan.”
Part of that intention has a lot to do with Mud Duck, the bulldogging horse he owns with good friend Tyler Shau. In fact, most of Edler’s circuit earnings were won on the 9-year-old black gelding, and the time spent traveling in the circuit helped the two band together even more.
“Tyler bought him off the track in Claremore (Oklahoma) five years ago, and I was with him the day he bought the horse,” Edler said of Shau, who owns Diamond S Performances Horses with his wife, Jackie. “He and his wife spent time with him. They tried to run barrels on him first, and he didn’t really like barrel racing. They tried roping on him. They started hazing on him, and then they swapped him over to bulldogging.
“Along with Mud Duck, I have a hazing horse named Jerry. He used to be my wife’s barrel horse, and those two have a very close bond. They’ve just made a great team this past month and gave me a lot of success.”
Edler will need all the assistance he can get. The top five men in the circuit standings have all been to the NFR, with Edler’s traveling partner and former college coach, Stockton Graves, in second place. Graves owns multiple circuit titles in his storied career.
“Having Stockton on my tail motivates me,” Edler said. “We’re both extremely competitive people. We travel together and push each other to be better, but at the end of the day, we do want to beat each other.”
The good news for the Iowa-born cowboy is that he’s got a great partner in Mud Duck.
“Everything from this season worked out the way I needed it to,” he said. “If I wouldn’t have come home and gotten that horse to some rodeos and seasoned him, I wouldn’t have the confidence in him going into 2023 and feel like we’re ready to handle everything I’m going to throw at him.”
It’s that type of swagger that may give when he arrives in Duncan.