ARLINGTON, Texas – The history behind Richmond Champion and the bucking horse Killer Bee was not all that great.
Things needed to change if his hopes of winning a world championship were going to happen. They did during Saturday’s third go-round of the National Finals Rodeo at Globe Life Field, with the two powerful athletes matching moves together 87.5 points to finish in third place.
“I tried to treat her like she’s any other horse,” he said of the Beutler & Son Rodeo bronc that was named the 2019 Bareback Horse of the Year and is well established as one of the hardest-to-ride horses in the sport. “Between her drop, my rigging falling between my legs, you never know when it’s going to stop.
“Of course, then she hits you in the back because she’s kicking over vertical. That’s just a fist fight every single time, and I’ve been on her three times now. It’s a battle not just until the whistle blows but until you’re off on the pickup man.”
The third round in bareback riding features the “Eliminator Pen,” which sometimes can prove to be near impossible to make eight seconds on. If the cowboys do make a qualified ride, the tougher horses make the rides less picturesque.
That’s happened before with Champion and Killer Bee.
“My main goal was to get a good picture on her, because I didn’t get that last year,” he said with a laugh. “I’m tickled. To place on her gives me all the confidence in the world.”
The difference in rides came with the adjustments that came during the eight seconds. Because of her bucking ability, Killer Bee has a way of controlling the ride. A year ago, she limited Champion’s hip movement, and won the battle.
“Today my feet were coming back to the rigging, and she rolled my hips back again,” he said. “I was able to fight back and get my hips back under me. I’d say my last two spur strokes were the best ones I made the whole ride.
“In the middle of the ride, I wasn’t able to get control with my feet, so I was all on my arm, and that’s not at all what I want. I saw all the roof I want to see.”
With his ride, Champion pocketed $15,654 and pushed his NFR earnings to $51,885. He sits third in the world standings with $115,034.
“I feel really good,” said Champion, who won the opening round. “My first horse was underneath you and gave you a lot of time to make a good ride … the kind you can wind a round on like you want. The horse (Friday), I had to go more back to the basics and play this marathon.
“The way this week is going, I’m happy with everything. The first four rounds is about getting the soreness out, then come Round 5, you feel really good and are ready to go on all cylinders.”
He’s making the moves necessary.