Casper returns to NFR payday

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LAS VEGAS – When the best broncs in the world are featured at the National Finals Rodeo, everyone expects big moments and even bigger scores.

Saddle bronc rider Wyatt Casper was in the mix, riding Calgary Stampede’s Xena Warrior for 87.5 points to finish in a tie for fourth place in Tuesday’s fifth round. That was worth $10,401 and provided the kind of boost he needed.

“Honestly, I was surprised for that score to even get a check,” said Casper of Miami, Texas. “These TV pens that we put together are always pretty jam up. It was a lot of fun.”

Reigning world champion Zeke Thurston won the round with a 91-point ride; there also were rides of 89.5 and 88.5 to better Casper. Still, it’s a solid score for a cowboy who is hoping to keep scratching toward the pay window.

“It’s always nice whenever you can draw a Calgary horse in any round,” he said. “I know quite a bit about Xena. I got on him in Arlington (Texas) and won a round on him, so I’ve had a little bit of good history with him. I was pretty excited.”

His previous ride on the Canadian horse came in the ninth round of the 2020 NFR, when the event took place at Globe Life Field because of COVID restrictions. They were 88 points three years ago, so the tandem remains consistent in how well they perform together.

So far, he’s placed just one other time, finishing sixth in Sunday’s third round.

“This week’s been good, but it’s been tough,” Casper said. “I’ve been having to learn a little patience. I’ve been trying to make something happen, and it doesn’t always work out. You just try not to let it go to your head and just keep doing your job.”

His job is riding bucking horses, and he’s pretty good at it. The 2016 intercollegiate champion while at Clarendon (Texas) College has qualified for four straight NFRs.

“My mental game is pretty good,” he said. “I lack it sometimes; I was getting pretty irritated the first four rounds, and I’ve just had to keep reminding myself that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I just need to be patient, and one will run under me that’s going to buck and give me a chance.

“I feel like I’m riding good. In fact. I feel like I’m riding better this year than I probably have at the last two finals. I’m still happy. I feel like I’m still in a good place. It just hasn’t happened, and some stuff you can’t make happen, especially in bronc riding.

“There’s been two horses that I’ve had to bear down on, the second round and the fourth round. I felt really good on the other two. It’s just finding rhythm and drawing the right horses. That’s a big part of it.”


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