LAS VEGAS – It’s not often that a cowboy can say they got on three elite bucking horses in one day.
Tanner Aus can. His first came Wednesday morning during the sixth round of the National Finals Rodeo. His initial mount didn’t have a good day, so he was offered a re-ride so he had a chance to win money at the world’s richest rodeo. He did that and more, riding Flying U Rodeo’s Little Red Hawk, becoming the last cowboy to spur the legendary horse before she was retired. He shared the go-round win with an 87-point ride, matching the score with Idahoan Jacob Lees.
His third was Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Uncapped, which helped him to a fourth-place finish in the seventh round during the nightcap. He was 86.5 points, worth $12,877. All told, he collected more than $40,000. That’s a significant day’s work.
“I had some awesome draws; you can’t say very often that you get on three NFR horses in a day,” said Aus of Granite Falls, Minnesota. “What a blessing, but at the end of the day, that’s what we need to keep making this life work. I’m just thankful to have success and stand out here.”
He’s placed in three rounds and has earned more than $60,000 during a week in the Nevada desert. He has pushed his season earnings to $180,661 and is 11th in the world standings. Having a chance to test his skills on the powerful Pickett horse was just a bonus.
“That horse is awesome,” he said. “It’s been a few years since I got on him, but he’s big in stature, so your rigging fits on him just perfect. He’s just muscle, but he’s also long and lanky at the same time. He’s flashy. You don’t have to do very much to look impressive.
“He’s not easy. He’s a strong horse but good to have, especially when you look at this pen of bucking horses. These guys are so good that it’s hard to differentiate between the scores.”
Because of his round win in the morning, he was able to celebrate with his family during the Montana Silversmiths Go-Round Buckle Presentation at the South Point.
“There’s nothing better than having them out here with me,” Aus said. “The support and focus they bring me while I’m here … I can’t imagine trying to do this with them.”
The NFR features only the best contestants from the regular season. Only the top 15 on the money list in each event advance to ProRodeo’s grand finale, so the competition inside the Thomas & Mack Center is loaded in talent.
“It was all stacked here with really impressive rides,” he said. “You can’t tell me these guys aren’t prepared or belong here, because it’s just so tough here.
He has three more nights to cash in on this business trip to Sin City. The first step is Thursday’s eliminator pen, the hardest-to-ride group of horses at the NFR. He’ll be matched with Rosser Rodeo’s South Point Kate, a mare that has had just a handful of qualified rides the last two years. No matter the horse he has, Aus expects to take care of business.
“The game plan doesn’t change,” Aus said. “You want to look down the pipe (the horse’s mane and neck), set your feet and give it all you can.”
It’s working in Las Vegas.