LAS VEGAS – In the grand scheme of the National Finals Rodeo, a sixth-place finish is better than most of the 15 in the field, but it’s small in comparison to round winners’ share of nearly $31,000.
For bareback rider Dean Thompson, his 83.5-point ride on Cervi Championship Rodeo’s On Your Own was just what he needed, and that $4,963 will come in handy.
“It’s a new rodeo every night,” said Thompson, 21, a first-time NFR qualifier from Altamont, Utah. “I learned that before tonight, but I do think that after the first round and the second round and the third round – especially the third round – I realized that it’s a new round every night. That’s the best part of it.”
While he scored points in the opening two rounds, he placed down the list with a pair of 77s. He wasn’t able to muster a score in Round 3, which was his first attempt at riding in the eliminator pen at the NFR. By bouncing back Monday, and he finally exhaled a little bit. He also received a boost from veteran NFR tie-down roper Cory Solomon.
“He said, ‘This is the craziest game I’ve ever watched happen; I’ve seen guys go five rounds in a row not winning a dollar and come back and win the last five rounds,’ ” Thompson said. “That hit me so hard to realize that literally every single night is a new opportunity.”
He also received a jumpstart from the Golden Circle of Champions event that took place earlier this week; it raises awareness about pediatric cancer.
“When you see something like that, you realize this is just a game,” he said. “This isn’t like a young person fighting for their life. This is a game with a lot of money, but it doesn’t compare.”
Bareback riding is the most physically demanding event in rodeo, but there are no equal lines to children who are trying to be healed by medicines that make them sick. Families also suffer, so Thompson is happy to offer his platform to help draw more eyes to those who need support.
When he nodded his head Monday night, he had that on his mind while finding out a little more about On Your Own.
“I realized he was not a guarantee in this pen of horses,” Thompson said, noting that the fourth and ninth-round bareback horses are supposed to be the easiest ones in Vegas to ride. “He’s got a wild factor to him, and those that have a wild factor make it tough; they can be great and you can be 90 points, or they can be too wild and just fall around and you can be 80, or even 77 again.
“He jumped out there, and I counted that changed leads eight times in eight seconds. He was just a fun little horse. His changing leads was really a big confidence boost. I feel great, and I feel ready.”
That’s key. Confidence drives consistency, and that’s how winners are developed.
“It’s crazy how fast our brains tries to tell us we forgot how to play this game,” Thompson said. “I’ve been doing this all year long, but to come in here and sin some money, it’s a great stress reliever. I feel ready for the next one.”