This was not the week Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler were expecting to have in Las Vegas at the 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
They’ve been on fire all year at every level of the game, including Richard’s record 10 futurity wins across the American Rope Horse Futurity Association and the Royal Crown events. The rodeos had been good to them, too. They got a bucket-list win at California Rodeo Salinas, and they were staying consistent in every setup.
So when they’d only caught two steers going into Round 8 and had $27,254.95 a man won, they had nothing to lose and everything to gain by going at the steer that Chad Masters and Joseph Harrison had won Round 6 on.
“They were 4.0 on him,” said Richard, who was back on 17-year-old Hustler Lena for Round 9. “The steer was just honest. He left sharp and was straight, and I knew I could take the start at him. He was a little bit stronger on the end of it, and my plan was to be stronger on his head and try to get him opened up for Jeremy.”
Everything went as planned for Richard, but for Buhler, not so much.
“I was kind of panicking,” Buhler, who rode 18-year-old Knight Robbers Son, laughed. “My rope hung up on my horse somewhere leaving. Right about the time Rhen hung it on him, I noticed and I started to panic. I was a little bit panicked. When I picked my rope up, Rhen had him on the end of it, he did a good job putting him on the end of it so I just jacked it down there.”
It took some real gumption for Richard to keep it together in a week that saw real challenges in his horsepower and his roping.
“I couldn’t get going,” Richard said. “I was behind the run all week and I knew it. I knew what I was after—I just couldn’t get it. Last night, finally, I got a good start. Same deal tonight. When you hit the barrier here, it’s easier. I’m not saying it’s simple. You give yourself a chance. When you’re behind the ball from the start, it’s a terrible feeling.”
He got off his veteran mount Midnight after Round 5 to try to change up his scoring, but that didn’t work, either.
“I think I got on my sorrel in the sixth round,” Richard said. “I just couldn’t get a start. That [brown] horse was a little sore; he’s getting old. And I just, even when I felt like I got a decent enough start, I didn’t feel like he was carrying me through there. And so, yeah, I got on the other horse thinking I could get him going, and I did get him going, and I got good starts, but then he was too free. I got back on the old horse, and we went and practiced. I don’t know if it was just me getting to go throw some loops and catching some steers, but the last two nights have felt good. Nothing about it was realistic, but mentally, just going and turning a few steers felt good.”
The 2016 PRCA World Champion and NFR Average Champion Buhler never lost faith, though.
“I really believe in Rhen,” Buhler said. “It’s not like him to miss. Let alone two. He really doesn’t miss a lot of steers. Nothing new was going through my head. Every night was a new night. I knew that I better keep the hammer cocked and worry about myself being ready because I knew it was going to be a matter of time. I was expecting a good spin every night.”
For Richard, this week has been bittersweet.
“It was really good for me, mentally,” Richard said. “I think everybody, at some point in their career, is going to go through a spell like this. It sucks that it happened here on the biggest stage. But you get to see what you’re made of right here. If you can bounce back from this … man. I feel like our run and our team is one of the best, and I look forward to getting started next year.”
|TEAM||ROUND 9||NOTES||PLACE||EARNINGS PER MAN|
|Riley Minor and Brady Minor||5|
|Lightning Aguilera and Jonathan Torres||4.3||5||$7,461.60|
|Cody Snow and Wesley Thorp||4.6||6||$4,663.50|
|Chad Masters and Joseph Harrison||3.9||2 3||$20,053.05|
|JR Dees and Levi Lord||4.9|
|Tyler Wade and Trey Yates||0||Header missed|
|Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler||3.8||1||$28,913.70|
|Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves||8.5||Leg|
|Tanner Tomlinson and Patrick Smith||4.2||4||$12,125.10|
|Coleman Proctor and Logan Medlin||0||Heeler missed|
|Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins||4.7|
|Clay Smith and Jake Long||0||Heeler tipped a horn|
|Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill||3.9||2 3||$20,053.05|
|Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira||4.9|
|Jake Orman and Brye Crites||8.9||Leg|