Stephenville, Texas’ Cole Davison has been close—so, so close—to a trip to Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. In 2014, he finished 17 when he roped with Nathan McWhorter, winning $54,220 that year, with titles at rodeos like San Juan Capistrano, California’s Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo.
Four years later, Davison, a dad to 11-month-old Leddy and 8-year-old Milli with WPRA barrel racer wife Whitney, has the hammer down with Canada’s NFR header Kolton Schmidt. Davison currently sits 13th in the PRCA world standings with seven rodeos and two weeks left to go in the sport's regular season, having $62,476.81 won.
“I’m pretty excited,” Davison said. “I think it’s going to be good. I think I’m in good shape on rodeo count compared to everyone else. Quinn has seven and I bet Buddy has quite a few. I planned to have this many at the end. I planned on not having to go to them, but that’s how it works out. I get to be home and rest for a few days then go hard those last two weekends.”
The goal most headers and heelers are shooting this year is $65,000—the number rodeos’ brightest minds think it will take to get the WNFR this time around. Davison’s $62,476.81 is $2,924.35 ahead of Jake Minor in 14th and $3,807.72 ahead of Buddy Hawkins in 15th.
While Davison is on the brink of a trip to Vegas, Schmidt is on the outside looking in, making these next two weeks even more critical for the duo. The Barrhead, Alberta header has $55,571.91 won, some $6,103.78 out of the 15 spot, currently held by Amarillo, Texas’ Lane Ivy.
“I’ve always done good these last two weeks,” Davison said. “I’ve won Stephenville and Pasadena twice. I think I’ve placed good at Texarkana and Amarillo. Omaha, I was there once and missed the crap out of him, so we’ll forget that one.”
Davison credits the team’s horses for putting them in this spot. While Schmidt has ridden his AQHA/PRCA Head Horse of the Year Badger for most of the campaign, Davison has been on a young heel horse he bought from Rhen Richard that he calls Apollo.
“I bought him as a 6 year old, and last year I rode him all year and this year, all year too. We had good horses and were always on the same game plan. We’re both aggressive and both figured out how to back off just enough to make it work. We’re both good at trying too hard. We focused on letting the year run its course, and we knew we were fast enough from the start so no reason to force ourselves to be faster. Maybe I’m just getting older and smarter. I told Kolton several times throughout the year that we can just keep being stupid and not try and reinvent the wheel.”
Davison heads to Springhill, Louisiana and Texarkana, Arkansas Thursday, Amarillo, Texas Friday, Pasadena, Texas Sunday, Omaha next Friday, Kansas City next Friday night and finishes with his hometown rodeo in Stephenville next Saturday.
Stephenville has been a blessing and a curse to Davison in the past. He won it in 2016 with Ty Blasingame. But in 2014, the year he needed that money as the last rodeo of the season with Nathan McWhorter, the drawing gods worked against him.
"I had to win $1,500, and our steer was so bad there was no chance of us winning anything. Guys were coming up to me giving me their condolences before we even roped. I was still younger then—just out of college and in my first year truly rodeoing–so I don't think it hit me how close I got and how hard it was to even get this close. I was like well, I don’t really feel any different, because I knew I got to go home and start right over next week. It was hard to care too much. I let it change me—because I didn’t think I was good enough because I got that close and failed. But then the two years after that, I fought with getting horses, changing things, trying to get better. Right before last year, me and Jeremy Buhler had gotten close, and he told me to focus on what I’m doing and get good on what it is I do well. Last year I got a lot of good spins and my horse got solid. So now I’m back to doing what got me that close the last time. I just try to execute that, and not make it too complicated."