LOVINGTON, N.M. – Winning in rodeo is like an art; oftentimes it takes talent, but it definitely helps to draw well.
The top cowboys in the world of roughstock have done so at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, which will have a special Xtreme Bulls Tour competition that features the top 40 bull riders in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The Lea County Xtreme Bulls begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, and the rodeo takes place at the same time Wednesday-Saturday, all at Jake McClure Arena in Lovington.
In rodeo, contestants are matched with their animal counterparts by a blind computer draw, and roughstock cowboys have the opportunity to test their talents, and their mettle, with some of the sport’s greatest animal athletes from Carr Pro Rodeo.
“It’s a great rodeo,” said Cody Teel of Kountze, Texas, the top-ranked bull rider in the world standings. “Last year was my first year there, and I like that rodeo. Now that they’re having the bull riding there, too, it’s a shot to win a bunch more money.”
Teel will try his hand on Carr’s Private Eyes on Friday night. He’ll also be trying to wrangle the inaugural Lea County Xtreme Bulls title.
“It means a lot to have a bull like that, especially at a rodeo like Lovington,” he said. “That’s a bull I can win on if I ride him. He’s really good.
“It topped off a good week where I have a lot of good bulls drawn.”
His traveling partner has drawn pretty well, too. Trey Benton III of Rock Island, Texas, is matched Friday with Carr’s Time Out, a bull that was selected to buck at last year’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“I’ve seen that quite a bit, and I know my buddy, Chandler Bownds, won Lovington on that bull last year,” said Benton, the No. 3 bull rider who leads the Rookie of the Year standings. “He’ll come out, hop and skip a little bit. He’s supposed to be really good.”
That makes a big difference, and Howdy Cloud knows it as well as anyone. Cloud, a three-time NFR qualifier from Kountze, has drawn Carr’s Motown for Tuesday’s Xtreme Bulls. It’s refreshing for him to see that kind of bull after having to sit out a good portion of this season because of injury.
“That’s really good for me,” he said. “I just really started back over the Fourth (of July). I’ve got a bull they told me was really good.
“In the Xtremes, just getting one rode and making it back to the short round is a good thing, and the deal is that if you get two rode, you get to make some serious money.”
It’s not just bull riding that offers a big payday. The Lea County Fair and Rodeo is part of the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour, a series of 23 lucrative rodeos. The top bareback riders in the game will be featured on some of the greatest bucking horses, like NFR qualifiers Casey Colletti and Heath Ford, who will ride Carr’s Grass Dancer; three-time world champion Will Lowe and Carr’s Big Lights; and reigning world champion Kaycee Feild and Carr’s Real Deal, the 2005 Bareback Horse of the Year.
Saddle bronc riding will feature some outstanding match-ups with Carr animals, too: NFR qualifier Jesse Bail will try NFR bucking horse Empty Pockets; NFR qualifier Chet Johnson will test Couch Jumper; NFR qualifier Isaac Diaz vs. Cowboy Cowtown; and world champion Jesse Kruse and 2010 Lovington winner Louie Brunson match up with Air Miles.
“Any time you get to a rodeo like that and draw well, then it’s an awesome feeling,” said Troy Crowser, the 2010 Rookie of the Year, who has drawn Cool Runnings, a horse that has been a standout at virtually every rodeo it has worked. “These rodeos pay two to three times better than any other rodeo you go to.
Crowser finished 19th in the world standings in 2011. He’s 24th heading into this week’s competition, so he’s got some work to do if he hopes to finish the regular season in the top 15 in order to qualify for the NFR.
“I’m sitting right on the bubble like I ended up last year,” said Crowser, of Whitewood, S.D. “I’ve got some high hopes I can get over that hump.”