Utah’s Rhen Richard and Canada’s Jeremy Buhler have closed in on qualifying for the 2021 edition of the Wrangler NFR after adding a total of $13,177 each to their earnings from the Pendleton (Oregon) Round-Up, held Sept. 15–18, 2021.
Richard moved from 15th to ninth in the heading standings with $71,035.10 in season earnings and Buhler moved from 16th to 10th with $66,298.42.
“I try not to look at it like the deal is sealed yet, but it dang sure feels good to have a good chance going into the last week,” said 2017 World Champion Heeler Buhler.
Richard and Buhler dominated the grassy arena to win the average from second callback with a time of 17.1 seconds on three head, worth $7,916 a man.
“I just had it in my mind to make sure that I got out at the barrier, and I went all the way to him and made sure that I caught him,” said Richard, a three-time Wrangler NFR qualifier. “It worked out in our favor. The high-call team didn’t draw very good. I just wanted to try to be winning it after we went and, if we won second, I was happy with second. For us to win it was just a bonus. I feel like we’re roping good and, as long as they don’t draw us something that will take us out, I feel confident in our run.”
Richard and Buhler split fifth with Clay Ullery and Matt Zancanella in the first round with a 5.8-second run, worth $2,180 a man; placed sixth in the second round with a 5.3-second run, worth $1,836; and placed third in the final round with a 6.0-second run, worth $1,245 a man.
“Rhen got three really good starts,” said Buhler. “He handled every steer the same. As a heeler, you’re supposed to catch all three of those. The draw was in my favor and my partner did a good job.”
Richard made a personal game plan to ensure he hit the start just right on the downhill lane.
“I wanted to be close enough to the barrier and make sure that wasn’t pulling at the barrier,” Richard added. “I wanted to have some steam when I hit the barrier. I wanted to make sure that I put my horse in a spot where he didn’t have to speed up or do something stupid on the grass, position-wise.”
After seeing multiple wrecks in the Pendleton Round-Up arena, including Kellan Johnson, Spencer Mitchell and Riley Minor’s wrecks in 2021, Richard knows that providing correct footing for head and heel horses, such as ice nails, and setting up a horse to handle the steers with hopes of not slipping is crucial.
“You want to make sure that your horse is square and they’re not opening up their front end,” Richard said. “You want their hips and shoulders to stay pretty lined up if you can to where when you put it on the saddle horn, they can have all four feet under them and feel that weight, and not make a big move right there.”
Richard’s 9-year-old gelding, Deets, excelled in that department.
“He is real square in the hole and has a lot of body control,” Richard said. “He’s real broke and he let me do whatever I wanted to do. The one round, I kind of started with the steer and he let me throttle. The next round, I seen the steer out there a little more and that horse was great down the lane.”
Buhler heeled on a 17-year-old gelding, Hause, which is a horse that he borrowed from Bucky Campbell to place at the High Desert Stampede in Redmond, Oregon, earlier in the season.
“I told Bucky, ‘Shoot, if you ever want to sell him, I’d like to buy him,’ and he kind of laughed and said, ‘My dad will never sell him,’” Buhler said. “But he said I could take and ride him whenever. I took him and rode him a little bit and then they called me and said, ‘If you want to buy him, you’re more than welcome to.’ So, I ended up buying him. I picked him up on the way to Reno and have had him since. I can’t say enough on how thankful I am for that horse and that they chose to sell him to me.”
To make things sweeter, Richard and Buhler finished their week off competing at the New Mexico State Fair & Rodeo in Albuquerque, on Sunday, Sept. 19, where they split third-place with Hayes Smith and Justin Davis to add another $2,656 to each of their earnings.
“There was one for everybody and they were kind of older steers. I just played ours like he was going to be good,” Richard said. “He took off and tried and I missed the barrier a little bit. I literally threw my whole rope and just tried to duck back with that wall. The steer checked off and Jeremy’s horse kind of shot by the corner. He took another swing and heeled him. It was one of those runs where, I guess you’re rolling on confidence, and it worked out.”
Richard and Buhler will finish out the season at California Rodeo Salinas, held Sept. 23–26, with hopes of staying inside of the Top 15 in the PRCA World Standings.
“It was a great time to have a good week,”Buhler concluded. “I feel good going into it. Rhen is roping good; I feel like I’m roping good; our horses are working good. Hopefully we can keep it rolling and finish strong.”