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What a relaxing week this has been. I flew back to Coeur D’Alene after St. Paul to meet up with Alexis and Steele. Katherine Merck has been a great family friend since her reign as Miss Rodeo America in 2016. Alexis and Steele have been enjoying the Merck’s for a week now and I had the chance to experience the hospitality first hand for 3 days. Tim and Beth (Katherines parents) are some of the most kind, welcoming people that I have ever had the pleasure to spend time with. Tim got us tee times at 3 great golf courses up here and we had a blast. My game is slowly but surely returning to form after my shoulder surgery. (Golf is my getaway from rodeo when I am on the road. It lets me unwind and get outside instead of being cramped up in the RV.) We also got to go on a lake cruise in Tim’s Stancraft boat and got to enjoy the beauty of Hayden Lake. What a way to relax after a stressful, prosperous 4th of July run!

Saturday morning- I am in the airport to fly to Salt Lake City to then rent a car and make the 3 hour drive to Vernal. Vernal adds a ton of money this year because the rank bulls of D&H Cattle bucked everyone off there last year. In 2023 the total prize money for the bull riding will be close to $35,000, making it a huge payout for the bull riders. Vernal is the only rodeo I entered this week to give my body a few days to recover, so I can be fresh for this competition and the Calgary Stampede next week (I am up the 10-12). The first performance the bulls won again, leaving the door wide open for a huge payday, or so I thought. Friday night the guys came to ride. Braden Richardson chalked a 93.5 followed by several other huge scores (88.5 was fifth after Friday night), changing the complexion of Vernal totally. I have 35F Cool Whip drawn he is a big, strong, white bull from the D&H string. He’s been around for a while and is a big time bucker that nobody gets by (professional record of 54-1). He is a bull of the year contender every year. If I can ride him, I will have a chance to win Vernal. My main focus going into the ride is staying up on my legs and keeping my weight forward. If I can do that he should ride really good. The only thing is when he bucks he moves forward hard with every jump (making it hard to stay forward and centered) to compound his difficulty when he kicks his feet go straight out behind him instead of up over his head. This makes it where he doesn’t help you get back up on your knees every jump. With all of this being said, one of my strong suits is being able to keep weight on my knees. I really like the matchup and I am looking forward to this test on this amazing animal athlete.

Vernal- I had an early flight out of Spokane and got to Salt Lake City a little after noon. I was a little tired but I got to take a small siesta before the 3 hour drive to Vernal. I got to the rodeo grounds at about 6:30, grabbed a few things from the RV for my next trip and headed behind the chutes. I like having plenty of time to prepare before my rides (you have to have time to not only get ready but to catch up and shoot the bull with your buddies too, right?). I felt good during my ride prep and when Cool

Whip ran in and I put my rope on I was feeling very confident in my chances (boy was I mistaken). I knew that he was going to try to run me back so my only focus was staying forward. He had a huge jump forward and kicked outwards like I mentioned earlier, and that was all it took for him to get the victory. I went from a good, powerful position with weight on my legs, to leaned back off my rope with no control in 1 jump. I tried to run my knees into him to buy myself a second chance, but to no avail. He threw me about 10’ in the air and my hopes of riding one of the best bulls in the world were shattered (like 53 others before me). Even though the competition didn’t go well I am still healthy and feeling good mentally. Im flying out early to get back to Alexis and Steele so we can drive up to Calgary. My confidence is still high and I am ready to be back at the Stampede for the first time since I won it in 2019.

My time with my family and friends (that have became family) has been good for my soul. The road can be hard and can devour you if you run till your cup is empty. The only thing that fills me up at this point in my career is family time. In my younger years (without a wife and kiddo) winning money and riding bulls is all that I cared about. If I was winning I was content. Now the focus has totally evolved. When watching Kaycee Fields documentary he talked about how his life has to be in balance for him to compete well, and now moving into fatherhood I understand (to some extent) what he is talking about. If my cup is full the competitions seem easy, everything flowing well and winning is natural. Yes I know bull riding is hard, but to me it takes all of the negative emotions out of competition(fear, doubt, negative pressure). If my life is in balance these detractors have no place in my heart or my mind. This allows me to focus solely on the task at hand.

Takeaways & thoughts - Do things that make your heart and soul fulfilled. It is worth it every time. I’m not talking about the things you do that you enjoy for a small period of time. I’m talking about the things that truly “fill your cup”. For me it is God, Alexis, and Steele, when I am around them I notice a smile on my face more often. The weight of the world is too much for one person to bear, but with them “filling my cup” the burdens of the world seem to vanish. I was given a daily devotional before the summer run kicked off by some great people. It has been a great daily reminder to keep me close to God, and every time I read the message of the day it “fills my cup.” There are a million ways that people can find a sense of contentment. Stay vigilant in that quest, friends. Keep on your way to Become Legendary.


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