LAS VEGAS – The foursome of Billy Etbauer, Robert Etbauer, Dan Etbauer and Craig Latham was a fearsome group of amazing bronc riders in their day.
They also are incredible educators, too.
Clay Elliott is a testament to that. He sought out Oklahoma Panhandle State University primarily for its legacy in bronc riding. In his four years in the tiny town of Goodwell, Okla., the Canadian cowboy took in every lesson he could. It’s paying off in increments at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
During the seventh round on Wednesday night, Elliott spurred Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s Pretty Boy for 81 points to finish fifth, pocketing $6,769. It marked the third straight night the Nanton, Alberta, cowboy cashed in at the NFR, ProRodeo’s grand finale
“I focus on something I know I can do,” said Elliott, who grew up in Vernon, British Columbia. “I try to keep a really clear head. If there’s one thing I focus on, it’s my mark-out. It’s a free jump for me, and I get it and always get it.”
That is the basic beginning to every ride. Cowboys must have the heel of their boots over the front of the horse’s shoulders; failures to do so results in a no-score. Even bigger is that a solid mark-out is the precursor to a good ride, and it goes back to his training in the Oklahoma Panhandle, a rugged sliver of land in the extreme northwest portion of the state.
“It’s kind of old school, but it goes back to how I was taught and how the Etbauers and Craig Latham were taught,” he said. “You have your two-jump mark-out, and that sets up your whole ride. In the past two years, the mark-out rule has been altered a little. I’m repping the Etbauers and Craig Latham iin how strong I can make my mark-out.
“It is based on what I learned from those guys at Panhandle State.”
Combined, the Etbauer brothers and Latham had dozens of NFR qualifications and were best known as some of the rankest traveling partners in the history of the sport. Robert Etbauer is a two-time world champion, and younger brother Billy Etbauer is a five-time titlist.
They are just four of the reasons why he decided to move to the Oklahoma for his education.
“Going to Panhandle State, I had a clear understanding of what it takes to be a good bronc rider,” said Elliott, who has earned nearly $33,000 over seven nights in Las Vegas, pushing his year-end earnings to $112,260. “Obviously I’m still learning, but what they taught me is what I need to do, and I’m still working at it.”
He is one of eight Canadians competing in Sin City, but he’s representing much more.
“I have a cheering crowd from Canada and Oklahoma, and to keep riding the way the Etbauers and Craig taught me is pretty darn cool. It’s great to be the guy that Panhandle State is proud of.”
There are many reasons for him to have that pride, especially if he continues to win through the final three nights of the 2016 season.