EAGLE, Colo. – Richmond Champion knows what it’s like to be on the perfect joyride.
“The only bad thing is when you get the whistle, you don’t want to stop,” said Champion, a 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from The Woodlands, Texas.
He’s talking about matching moves with Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket. On Wednesday night, the tandem met again during the first performance of the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo; they danced across the Johnette Phillips Arena dirt for 90 points to take the early lead in bareback riding.
It marked the third matchup in less than a year for Champion and Dirty Jacket, the 2014 Bareback Horse of the Year; Champion won the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days Rodeo last July after a 91-point ride on Dirty Jacket, then won the fifth go-round at the 2014 NFR on the 11-year-old bay gelding.
“It’s been a heck of a year so far,” said Champion, who is ranked 42nd in the world standings and needs a big push through the remaining weeks of the 2015 season if he’s going to return to Las Vegas for ProRodeo’s finale. “I was so excited. It was the first one I’ve drawn this year that I’ve jumped out of the van and went for a run.
“he horses buck up here in Eagle. The cool weather and the mountains make it awesome.”
It marked the fourth time this season that Dirty Jacket has been at least 90 points: He matched moves with Jessy Davis for 93 points at the San Angelo Cinch Shootout in February. Dirty Jacket posted 90 points in Weatherford, Texas in June, and two weeks later posted a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association best 92-point ride in Pecos, Texas.
“He looked awesome and felt outstanding,” Champion said of the horse. “He’s definitely one of a kind. I felt good. Regardless if that score holds up to win, it always feels good to be 90 and make a good ride.”
Through the struggles that have been Champion’s season, he continues to battle through the roller coaster that is ProRodeo. He said traveling with four-time world champion Kaycee Feild, NFR-qualifier Davis and Mason Clements has helped a ton, but there’s a lot more to bareback riding. On a 100-point scale, half the points are awarded to the cowboy, with the other coming from the horse.
Getting the right horse at the right time makes a big difference. The Texas cowboy hasn’t had as many opportunities this season as he did in 2014.
“Things have progressively been getting better now regarding my riding,” Champion said. “I’ve got a new riggin’ and a new pad, and I’m going out of my way to set myself up for success. My drawing good horses is picking up, too.
“Of course, having Dirty Jacket will help turn your whole world around. There’s literally not another horse like him.”