LAS VEGAS – He looks a bit battered, but if asked, Garrett Smith doesn’t seem to mind.
“I’ve had some bumps and bruises (since the third round),” said Smith, of Rexburg, Idaho, competing at his fourth National Finals Rodeo. “I feel pretty good. We are sore, but when we ride bulls for a living, we’re going to be sore. I had a few stitches, but it’s not a big deal.”
Ah, the life of a bull rider.
After sharing the third-round win, Smith returned to the pay window after an 84-point ride on New Frontier Rodeo’s Mad Money for a fifth-place finish during Round 6 on Tuesday. It was worth $7,462 and pushed his Las Vegas earnings to $43,344.
It was an eventful night for him. His first bull, Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Punchline, didn’t cooperate. The bull was having trouble in the chute, and Smith was unable to get on and try his hand at the athletic bovine. The judges provided Smith with a re-ride opportunity and a chance at Mad Money, and he took it.
“That first bull wasn’t very happy at all in the chute,” he said of Punchline. “Once he got mad, he didn’t stop at all.”
It was Mad Money to the rescue. Oklahoman Trey Kimzey rode him for 86 points to also place fifth in the opening round of the NFR.
“I didn’t know much about that re-ride bull,” Smith said. “They said he went left, and I really liked that. I was pretty happy about it.”
Sometimes unfamiliarity with a bull can pay dividends. Bull riders train on using muscle memory and reaction to make an eight-second ride. If an animal has a tendency to do something and a cowboy prepares for it, things may be washed away in one jump.
“A lot of not knowing it is great, because they are animals,” he said. “They have their own brains. There are a lot of times they are not going to do what they are supposed to do. It’s kind of like little kids: They are not going to do what they’re supposed to do. You take them jump for jump and go at them.”
It’s been a rough stretch for Smith to kickstart. He’s ridden three bulls but placed twice. He is seventh in the aggregate race, so he stands a chance to collect a bonus when the NFR ends Saturday night. How does he handle the disappointment when things don’t go his way?
“Usually by the time we get back to the hotel, I’m over it,” said Smith, who has enlisted his father, Lynn, to help get him around Las Vegas. “We’ll talk about it a little bit, but once we get back to the room, it’s over with and done. You’ve got to be moving on. If you only remember the last thing you did wrong, it’s going to stick in your brain; it’s going to be in your subconscious.
“Figure out what you did right, what you did wrong, forget about it and move on.”
He’s got four more nights in the 2022 season to collect his bright spots and more money.
“This is the healthiest I’ve ever been at this point of making the National Finals,” Smith said. “I’m so excited. I’ve always made it this far, but some things have been broken. This year has been really good.”