LAS VEGAS – When things are askew in his personal life, Orin Larsen leans on his family and close friends.
When things are wrong in rodeo, he does the same thing. Whether it’s conversations with his mom and dad or a phone call to one of his siblings, they help him maintain a strong attitude and a belief in himself.
He’s needed them a lot the last several days at the National Finals Rodeo. Lady Luck separated herself from Larsen early, and she stayed gone for awhile. He entered this year’s championship sixth in the world standings with a shot at the coveted gold buckle, then he struggled. He missed the pay window for eight straight rounds.
“It’s been tough, but I’ve got a really good family and a really good support team to get me on the straight and narrow,” said Larsen, a nine-time NFR qualifier from Ingles, Manitoba. “They’ve helped me keep my head in the right spot this week. It’s definitely been a challenge for that, so they’ve helped me quite a bit.”
They finally found a bit of satisfaction for all that love. Larsen rode Muddy Creek Pro Rodeo’s Hot Mocha for 85 points to finish in a tie for fifth place in Friday’s ninth round. It was worth $6,438 and a big sigh of relief.
“Keenan Hayes placed on that horse earlier in the week,” he said. “I think everyone in the locker room was pretty happy that I drew one of the better ones. I felt really good. The horse came right out there, jumped in the air and gave me a chance to make sure I got my stuff together again.
“We’ll just move forward from here.”
Larsen first qualified for the championship in 2015 and hasn’t missed one since. He’s had great NFRs, but this one falls under a different category. He’s one of the elite bareback riders in the sport. Most ProRodeo cowboys dream of making the NFR just once; he’s done it nine times in a row.
“It’s definitely a year to remember, and I’m looking at it as a view of what I want to do,” said Larsen, who now lives in Hydro, Oklahoma. “It’s not the finals I wanted, but I’ll remember it, because next year is going to be a hell of a lot better.”
He will close out his 2023 season on Pickett Pro Rodeo’s New Scarlett, a horse that, like all the others Saturday night, is part of the TV pen of broncs. The 15 horses in the draw are recognized as the very best the sport has to offer. High scores happen often. Rocker Steiner and Clayton Biglow shared the fifth-round victory with matching 89.5-point rides the last time this group was bucked.
With one ride on his schedule to chase the big bucks Sin City has to offer, Larsen is going to let it all hang out.
“I’ve got to throw caution to the wind,” he said. “If I hit the dirt because I’m 90, then I can walk away pretty damn proud. We’re going to nod for 90 points and knock it out of them. If I limp away, I’ve got a few weeks to heal up, so I’ll be fine by then.”
Ninety or nothing, Larsen plans to end his NFR going out in style.