LAS VEGAS – Stock contractor Cullen Pickett is popular among a lot of cowboys, but he’s a big name on the men who ride bareback horses.
Pickett Pro Rodeo has 11 bareback broncs at this year’s National Finals Rodeo, and Tanner Aus was matched with one in Topped Off during Friday’s second round. The two matched moves for 85.5 points, good enough to tie for second-place finish in the go-round.
“There’s not one of those horses you don’t want,” said Aus, 32, of Granite Falls, Minnesota. “Cullen raises some incredible horses. He’s got just phenomenal genetics, and he keeps turning up winners.
“It was a little bit tougher night of horses. The one I had ended up being the high-marked horse of the performance, which is great for me; I can always take more points form the horse. It felt good. I came into this finals healthy. Everything’s been fine, but I’ve just been waiting for it to click. I got a little money on night No. 2, and everything makes sense a little bit.”
Yes, he did. By tying for second, he pocketed $20,053.
“The money here is incredible,” said Aus, who attended Iowa Central Community College before transferring to Missouri Valley College, where he won the 2012 intercollegiate national title. “The chance that we get to ride at it is indescribable. It is something I never thought I’d have a chance to do, yet here we are. It is amazing.”
Every dollar is important. Not only does it cover expenses and pay bills, but dollars equal championship points. Aus moved up two spots to seventh in the world standings, and he’d like to keep climbing. Oftentimes, cowboys hope to at least break even through the course of the regular season, then what they make in Las Vegas is what helps them make a profit.
“That’s especially true this year, especially in a year like this one,” he said. “It feels so expensive, and everything’s a little more expensive. You rodeo your tail off, and you try to stay in the top 15 spots. I was lucky this year that everything worked out in my favor. I’m really thankful for that. It is expensive out there in a season, but we do it because we love it.
“This is just a bonus.”
Of course, riding a horse like Topped Off is another bonus. The Minnesota cowboy was just excited for the opportunity.
“You always won the one that’s just a tick ranker than the rest of them,” Aus said of the random draw that pits cowboys vs. their equine partners. “If you’re able to draw that one and get by them, then usually it gets you a paycheck. Tonight, it worked out.”