LAS VEGAS – Garrett Shadbolt knew he wanted to start his first National Finals Rodeo with a bang.
Instead, his first-round ride was more of a thud. Refocused and re-energized, Shadbolt turned things around in a big way Friday night, riding Calgary Stampede’s Yippee Kibitz for 88 points to finish as the runner-up in the second round.
“Yesterday didn’t go the way I wanted it to,” said Shadbolt, 25, of Merriman, Nebraska. “I don’t know if it was first-round jitters or what, but I was being really aggressive and was coming with everything I had. That horse threw a dirty move at me, and I spurred over her neck for two jumps.
“Today I figured I needed to be a little more cut and dried, a little more precise and a little less wild gap and slap. The horse I got on today was a little stronger, and it worked out for me.”
It also helped that his mind was a bit more organized when he nodded his head for his second-round ride.
“Believe it or not, it’s a little easy for the NFR to get in your head when you’re on the back of the chutes,” he said with a smile, acknowledging that the atmosphere inside the Thomas & Mack has a special reverberation among those playing at ProRodeo’s grand championship. “There’s a lot of activity going on, and you’re trying to get on a bucking horse, and you’re like, ‘Holy smokes, are we ever going to ride?’
“I’m really happy to make a good ride, and I feel like I’ve got my game plan figured out and my head on straight. I’m really looking forward to the next eight rounds.”
That makes for the final eight nights of the ProRodeo season and his last eight chances to cash in as much as possible. By finishing second on Friday, he collected $21,336 and has pushed his season earnings to $127,349; he has moved up two spots to eighth in the world standings.
Saturday’s third round will feature the most difficult to ride horses in bareback riding, dubbed the “eliminator pen.” That doesn’t matter to the cowboy from the Nebraska Sandhills, though.
“They’re all buckers here, and you can bet anything I’m getting on is going to buck its hardest because I’m about the lightest guy who’s going to get strapped on them,” Shadbolt said. “I’m not worried about it. I’m just going to show up here and put the iron to whatever I get on.”
He’s talking about the spur stroke. Each cowboy is scored based on how well they spur from the horse’s neck back to the rigging in rhythm with the horse’s bucking motion. When each night is over, he’ll return to the house he’s rented for the two weeks he’s in the Nevada desert and spend it with his wife, Katie, nearly 2-year-old son and 10-day-old baby girl.
“I get to spend a lot of time with the, and that tickles me, because I’m not working every day like I would when I’m at home,” he said. “I just have to focus on riding one really good bucking horse a day, and the rest of the time I get to spend with my family.”