LAS VEGAS – Tanner Aus knew bareback riding at this year’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo was going to be steller.
“The competition here is incredible,” said Aus, who earned a share of the second-round victory Friday night after an 87.5-point ride on Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Scarlet Fever. “Everyone showed up to ride. Everyone is in shape. Everyone’s ready.”
That includes Aus, a three-time NFR qualifier from Granite Falls, Minn. He shared the victory with Richmond Champion of The Woodlands, Texas, and the two cowboys each earned $23,481. Aus remains No. 2 in the world standings with $170,138, but he still trails the leader, Tim O’Connell, by more than $68,000.
It helps, though, to have a great horse. In bareback riding, half the score comes from the animal, and the other half by how well the cowboy rides.
“She had just a monster trip today,” Aus said of Scarlet Fever. “I watched that horse before. R.C. Landingham won a round on that horse here last year, so I was pretty happy to have that one. I had a little slow start last night, so it was good to get a good one under my belt.”
While he was disappointed in not earning a check in the opening round, Aus didn’t let it bother him.
“There’s just way too much up for grabs here, so you’ve got to get refocused, and that’s what I did,” he said. “You have to focus on your fundamentals, and you have to finish strong, be in the position you are supposed to be in when you are supposed to be there. You can’t get crazy.
“You can get too excited and override a horse and set yourself up for failure. You really have to stick to your game plan, and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Every night is vital in Las Vegas. The NFR features an $8 million purse, the biggest in the game. There are eight more nights in the 2017 season for the Minnesota cowboy to cash in. He and his wife, Lonissa, are expecting their first child next spring.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about my wife and the baby we’re expecting,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it very much. But I try to block it out.
“The NFR is just blocking out distractions. There are a lot of distractions in this city. Trying to relax during the day has actually been the toughest thing since I’ve gotten here.”
He’s happy with the money he’s earned so far, but he knows he has a lot of ground to make up if he has any hopes of catching O’Connell.
“You definitely know the mark that’s been set and what you’re shooting for,” Aus said. “Sometimes that’s kind of a daunting task, but I think you just have to stay focused. You can only ride a horse as good as you can and what you are prepared to ride for.
“The goal is to stay focused.”