Thompson closes NFR with cash

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LAS VEGAS The National Finals Rodeo is unlike any other, and Dean Thompson now understands that more than ever before.

“Round No. 10 at the NFR is crazy,” said Thompson, 21, a first-time bareback rider on ProRodeo’s biggest stage from Altamont, Utah. “My body feels great. I feel like I’m riding bucking horses as good as I ever have before, but, man, I’ve never been through an emotional tester like that in my life.

“That’s 10 days of just getting your ass kicked.”

The pressure that’s packed inside the Thomas & Mack Center is immense and intense. This is where world champions are crowned with go-rounds paying out $100,000 per round for 10 December nights. Bareback riders test their mettle on the 100 best broncs in the business, and only the elite from the regular season play on this level.

When it’s combined, there’s steam rising in the Nevada desert.

He found closure, though with an 89-point ride on Summit Pro Rodeo’s Game Trail to finish second in Saturday’s 10th go-round, worth $24,268. It was the biggest one-day payday of his young career. He had placed just one other night, finishing sixth in Monday’s fourth go-round.

“I feel so blessed that the horse went out there and had an amazing day,” Thompson said. “I knew that at the end of the day, it’s still rodeo, and you need to go out and do the best possible spur ride you can on the horse.

“Game Trail had an awesome day, and that made it really fun.”

Thompson entered the finale eighth in the world standings. Failing to add dollars to his spot on the money list for eight of those can take a toll on a cowboy’s mental game. He earned just $39,221 and finished his rookie season with $170,672 for 13th.

When frustration was setting in, he began dissecting his rides. He found a few things.

“Fundamentally, everything looks good, but just because everything fundamentally is almost great, it doesn’t mean it’s appealing to the judges,” Thompson said. “What I saw riding through Round 9 was just the tiniest bit of hesitancy; hesitating to pull my feet and, maybe, hesitating in believing in what my bareback riding ability is.”

Through every ride, every jump, every spur lick, he learned something about himself and his life in rodeo.

“I have two lessons from all this,” he said. “I heard this quote, and it’s been coming back to me this week; ‘Success is moving from failure without loss of enthusiasm.’ I feel like if you don’t go out with that attitude and give 200 percent effort and do everything you’re capable of, then you have no chance. No. 2 is to never stop improving. I obviously understand that we’re all going to have baubles, but what I’m most proud about was that every single day, I showed up here with confidence.”

He’s ready to return

“I’ll take this, and I’ll run from here right into next year’s NFR, because this is my No. 1 priority,” Thompson said. “I’m young, I’m agile, I’m free and I’m hungry to be back.”


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