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LAS VEGAS â€“ How focused is bareback rider Caleb Bennett?
â€śI go to bed thinking about making a statement with my riding,â€ť said Bennett, now in his second straight qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. â€śI go to bed thinking about great bucking horses and riding great bucking horses. I wake up, and I think about it all day long.
â€śThoughts become things, and I just picture myself winning go-rounds and drawing great horses and winning lots of money.â€ť
Heâ€™s right, because thoughts are becoming things. On Tuesday night, Bennett matched moves with Three Hills Rodeoâ€™s Peaches N Cream for 84 points to finish as the runner-up in the sixth go-round. He added $14,724 to his NFR earnings, which have reached $46,575.
â€śThree Hills brought a great horse,â€ť said Bennett, who has placed five of six nights, including the victory in Round 1. â€śThatâ€™s another one Iâ€™ve never been on, and Iâ€™ve wanted to get on her and have watched her for years. I really thought that was the one to win the round on tonight. Sheâ€™s very consistent, the same trip every time.â€ť
Itâ€™s been a special week for the Utah cowboy, who has moved from 15th to sixth in the world standings and is the No. 1 man in the average race â€“ his six-ride cumulative score of 497 points is just half a point better than another Utah bronc buster, two-time reigning world champion Kaycee Feild.
â€śRight now Iâ€™m just trying to keep a level head,â€ť Bennett said. â€śI just keep thinking about the good ones and hope that theyâ€™re by my name every time and try to ride them the best I can.â€ť
Cowboys are matched with their livestock by a blind draw, and the NFR features 100 of the very best bareback horses in the game. It takes equal parts of quality horse and a quality ride to make for big scores.
â€śI am humbled,â€ť he said. â€śThis is unreal. I read a deal that Wade (Sundell) said that he was far enough down that he had nothing to lose, so he was just going to make a statement here.â€ť
So he visited with traveling partner J.R. Vezain of Cowley, Wyo., about those thoughts, then put them into his own words.
â€śI know Iâ€™m 15th, and I know I squeaked in there,â€ť Bennett said. â€śI know a lot of guys arenâ€™t really looking for me to do that good this year. Iâ€™m going to be like Wade, and Iâ€™m going to try to make a statement.â€ť
He is â€¦ to nearly $50,000 in six nights.
Vezain has been wearing a vest specially made by Ty Skiver, who is the step-father of another traveling partner, R.C. Landingham. Skiver made the vest in support of his wife and Landinghamâ€™s mother, Wendy Skiver. All the bareback riders will sign the vest, and it will be part of a raffle; tickets are being sold at the Barstow booth at Cowboy Christmas, and money raised will go to help with Wendy Skiverâ€™s medical bills.
â€śWe really want to help them as much as we can, and I think this is a great way to tie it all together,â€ť Bennett said.