LAS VEGAS – Bareback rider Orin Larsen isn’t known to get off to a good start at the National Finals Rodeo.
He opted to change that discussion with an 86-point ride on Harper & Morgan Rodeo Co.’s Sippin’ Firewater to finish fourth in Thursday’s first go-round of ProRodeo’s grand finale. It was the first time since his inaugural trip to the NFR in 2015 that he’s placed in the first go-round.
“Placing in the first round hasn’t happened for me in eight years,” said Larsen, 31, of Ingles, Manitoba, now living in Gering, Nebraska. “That is the very last time I made money in the first two or three rounds.
“You just try to put that away and still start out with a bang. There are some things I can fix (from tonight), but it is a marathon out here and not a spring. I’m excited to fix what needs fixed and move on.”
He may feel a bit broken, but his bank account isn’t. He earned $12,125, which is almost $3,000 more than he earned for placing higher in 2015. That’s how much the money has changed in rodeo, especially at the NFR, which boasts of a $1.4 million purse with go-round winners earning nearly $29,000 a day for 10 December nights.
The key for a veteran like Larsen is remaining healthy through the rugged 10 nights of this championship. Riding bucking horses isn’t for the timid. He’s had his share of aches and pains over his career, and this year was no different.
“I am pretty healthy relatively speaking,” said Larsen, who won intercollegiate national titles while competing at both the College of Southern Idaho and Oklahoma Panhandle State University. “We’ve all got bumps and bruises, and I’m not 23 years old any more. I feel stuff a little bit more as the years go by, but I feel really good. I’m healthy, and I’m ready to rock and roll this year.”
With his earnings, he moved up one spot to 11th in the world standings, but he knows there are nine nights remaining on this season, and he wants to cash in as much as he possibly can.
“You can only do so much of what you can do,” he said. “From there, you just let the chips fall where they may. The only thing I’m focusing on is a good spur out and going on from there.”
Opening night got the bugs out, but bareback riders will get their first test during Friday’s second round when they face the semi-eliminator pen of bucking horses. He is matched with former Frontier Rodeo’s Full Baggage, a former Bareback Horse of the Year.
“That horse has won me a lot of money and made me look really stupid,” Larsen said with a laugh. I was really tickled to know I had him. If there’s one horse I had to pick out of (Tuesday’s) round, it would be that one.”
It’s a good shot to continue his winning ways in Las Vegas.