LAS VEGAS – Everything about Tanner Aus’ ride on Calgary Stampede’s Annual News looked good until it didn’t.
It didn’t feel good for Aus, and it only got worse. Annual News was part of Thursday’s eliminator pen of bareback horses. It was a fistfight from the time the horse left the chute until the big bay knocked Aus to the canvas just after the buzzer.
“It was rough,” said Aus, who was bucked off but hung in his rigging until the powerful horse dragged the cowboy off with his hind foot. “It was just a tough ride, but I was happy to get by him. I watched the replay, and I thought it looked pretty good, and I clicked my heels at the end.
“That’s how my had was in there. I was hung up into my hand until she stomped on me and pulled me out.”
Aus hit the ground hard, and he was left with a long bruise down his right thigh from where Annual News attacked him. He limped out of the arena with an 85-point ride, worth $7,462, pushing his NFR earnings to $65,029. He is seventh in the world standings with $192,161.
He returned to action for Friday’s ninth round and plans to compete on the final night of the 2022 season Saturday.
“It wasn’t too bad,” said Aus of Granite Falls, Minnesota. “The (Justin) Sportsmedicine team got me fixed up when I got here (Friday). I knew that I just had to put it out of my mind. I’m probably not riding at 100 percent, but there’s way too much that goes into making this rodeo and the pride of being here.
“I wouldn’t feel good about it if I didn’t try.”
He hustled all season just to be in the mix for this year’s NFR. Only the top 15 cowboys on the money list as of Sept. 30 get to play on rodeo’s biggest stage and for their share of a $1.4 million purse. Each night, go-round winners earn nearly $29,000. It pays nearly $23,000 for second place, and Aus has finished in at least a share as runner-up twice. He’d love to pack home another big paycheck before he returns to Minnesota.
“You think about the guys that have ridden in this arena banged up, and you don’t want to let an opportunity slip away,” he said. “You want to have 10 rounds up, 10 rounds down. If you need to take a break after that, you have time. We’re going to try to get through (Saturday) night and finish strong.”
When his leg hurts and doubt creeps into his mind, it all changes once he arrives at the Thomas & Mack. Right there amongst all the bareback riders in the locker room is J.R. Vezain, a six-time NFR bareback rider who no longer is able to play the game he’s loved. Vezain was paralyzed in 2018 when a bucking horse fell over backward onto him and cause a spinal injury.
Hearing Vezain talk is all Aus needs to be motivated for another day.
“J.R. is one of a kind,” Aus said. “He is a spark plug through and through. He always has something good to say. He is a good Christian, a spiritual guy. We love having him down there, and he really appreciates being down there, too. It is really good to have him.”