Wrangler National Finals Rodeo: Bareback & Saddlebronc

Wes Stevenson rides Quittin Time. © Matt Cohen 2010

Bareback bronc riding the the wildest rodeo event, and usually produces the
best pictures. Unfortunately at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the smoke
from the opening ceremonies fireworks show was still thick in the air when the
bareback guys rode. But that's what contrast/black point adjustments are for...

Ryan Gray came into the finals with a big lead and riding better than anyone.
But when he jumped off of Golden Dream after his second go-round ride, the
horse managed to kick him on the way down, hard enough to lacerate Gray's
liver and end his season. With Gray in intensive care, the race for the gold
buckle opened up for his close friend and world #2 Steven Dent.

Dent started off strong, making the money in the first four go-rounds, including
a win in the third, but faded fast, finishing out of the money in the last six
go-rounds and dropping to fourth overall.

© Matt Cohen 2010

© Matt Cohen 2010

While Dent was falling out of contention, three-time world champion Bobby Mote
took advantage with wins in two go-rounds and second place in two more to add
a fourth gold buckle in 10 years.

© Matt Cohen 2010

© Matt Cohen 2010

At 36, D.V. Fennell was the oldest of the finalists in a discipline that favors the
young. He entered the finals in 15th place and ended up in 15th, pocketing less
than $5,000 over 10 days in Vegas.

© Matt Cohen 2010

© Matt Cohen 2010

Perfectly-named cowboy Dusty LaValley also had a rough finals, dropping from
fifth to tenth.
© Matt Cohen 2010

Wes Stevenson is a great guy to shoot because he makes the best faces... © Matt Cohen 2010

...and sometimes he makes them when you can't even see his face. © Matt Cohen 2010

Despite having a couple of nice rides, including a fourth place in the third
go-round, Matt Bright couldn't improve his standing in Vegas, falling one spot
from 13th to 14th.
© Matt Cohen 2010

© Matt Cohen 2010

Joe Gunderson did improve by almost $40,000 in Vegas, including his first-ever
go-round win on the first night.
© Matt Cohen 2010

Steven Peebles © Matt Cohen 2010

The highlight for me was watching two of my favorite bareback riders, Will Lowe
and Clint Cannon. These guys are regulars at the Red Bluff Round-Up and had
an amazing battle over the three-day event back in 2009. Neither did all that
well in Vegas this year, but they will both be back many more times.

My picture of Lowe from 2009 is the one on the Red-Bluff poster below.

Picture © Matt Cohen 2009 / Design © R.J. Lachance 2010

Will Lowe © Matt Cohen 2010

Will Lowe © Matt Cohen 2010

Clint Cannon © Matt Cohen 2010

Clint Cannon © Matt Cohen 2010

Saddle bronc is the more refined version of bareback, with riders holding
onto a rope and using stirrups. But refined doesn't mean easy. The saddle
bronc horses are usually bigger and more powerful, and the riders need to
master the timing to use the rein to stay on. Sam Spreadborough couldn't
hold it together on Painted Brush, and paid the price.
© Matt Cohen 2010

Taos Muncy laying out almost like a bareback rider. © Matt Cohen 2010

Jesse Wright was on the bubble in 16th place, but with Rod Hay's broken leg
not healing in time, Wright qualified for the finals and made the most of his
chance, jumping all the way from 16th place to fifth, and ending the year with
an impressive $149,834.21 in earnings. Here he displays a good "mark out", or
application of the spurs on the horse's first jump.
© Matt Cohen 2010

Jesse's brother Cody Wright came into the finals in third place, and waged a
back-and-forth battle with Wade Sundell that wasn't decided until the final
night when Wright's second place won him the finals average and the world title.

© Matt Cohen 2010

© Matt Cohen 2010

For his part, Sundell battled and stayed in it until the end. And he has an
awesome beard which should really count for something.

© Matt Cohen 2010

© Matt Cohen 2010

Speaking of excellent facial hair, I present Cody DeMoss: © Matt Cohen 2010

DeMoss finished third on the year and had a couple of spectacular rides in Vegas.

© Matt Cohen 2010

Cody's brother Heith finished in sixth:

© Matt Cohen 2010

Defending champion Jesse Kruse could not repeat his finals success of 2009,
falling from sixth to 10th, disappointing because he rides with such style.

© Matt Cohen 2010

Scott Miller balances mid-buck: © Matt Cohen 2010

J.J. Elshere stretches out of the chute: © Matt Cohen 2010

Bradley Harter came to Vegas heading up the standings, but fell all the way to eighth. © Matt Cohen 2010

© Matt Cohen 2010

And a couple of random buck offs to wrap it up: Cort Scheer © Matt Cohen 2010

Sam Spreadborough © Matt Cohen 2010

Also from the 2010 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo: Bull Riding Barrel Racing Steer Wrestling / Tie-Down Roping