Lovington special to past champs

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Tanner Aus, a five-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier, is the defending bareback riding champion of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo. He is expected to return to try to win the title for a second time.

LOVINGTON, N.M. – There is something about this community.

This is the desert, and the terrain is only for the most rugged to handle, but it’s also inviting for just about anyone. That’s because of the people and the work ethic that packages everything together. It’s why there is a major exposition in this town of nearly 12,000 and why hundreds of ProRodeo’s biggest stars make their way to southeastern New Mexico every summer.

“This has always been a good rodeo to me,” team roping heeler Ryan Motes said of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4-Saturday, Aug. 7, at Jake McClure Arena; that also includes Lea County Xtreme Bulls, which is Tuesday, Aug. 3.

Motes, a five-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Weatherford, Texas, won the title the last time the rodeo took place in 2019. Roping with Coleman Proctor of Pryor, Oklahoma, the cowboys knocked down two steers in a cumulative time of 9.5 seconds and walked away with nearly $6,000 in earnings.

“This was an important rodeo,” Motes said, noting that he and Proctor made money at other rodeos that week, which helped catapult them to NFR bids together. “We had a pretty slow week the week before, so that was pretty big in the scheme of things.”

Cody Cabral, a steer wrestler from Hilo, Hawaii, was making a run at the 2019 NFR when he won the title in Lovington. The money boosted him in the bulldogging standings, but he fell just short of his goal in the end.

Saddle bronc rider Bradley Harter of LoRanger, Louisiana, utilized his first-place paycheck of nearly $5,000 to return to the NFR for the 11th time in his career. Alas, an injury during the championship event ended his run at the elusive gold buckle. He retired in 2020.

Tanner Aus posted the highest-marked ride of the rodeo week, riding Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Good Time Charlie for 90 points to win the bareback riding title. Good Time Charlie is now 19 years old, but the powerful sorrel gelding has been selected to buck at the NFR 13 times in his storied career.

“That horse is just timeless,” said Aus, a five-time NFR qualifier from Granite Falls, Minnesota. “For that horse to be that good for that long is just incredible.

“This is a great rodeo with a lot of money up for grabs, so it’s a good place to have him.”

Other winners from 2019 were bull rider Trey Kimzey, barrel racer Cindy Smith, steer roper Billy Good and tie-down roper Shad Mayfield, who went on to his first NFR qualification that year and earned his first world championship a year later.

“Lovington is one of those rodeos that you want to win,” Aus said. “It’s a tour rodeo, there’s always good stock and the payout is always good.”

That’s why so many of ProRodeo’s best find their way to Lovington each year.


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