Buckle Up with Rich Skelton
Why Rich Skelton wears his 1997 gold buckle.

Rich Skelton has more gold buckles than any other heeler in history at eight, but he still wears the first one he won with Speed Williams in 1997.

Credit: Dudley Barker

“The first time, ’97, I’d been close, and I finally got my goals accomplished,” Skelton said. “It was such a relief. We’d been so close so many times, we couldn’t comprehend that we’d pulled it off.”

Skelton shares the rest of his gold buckles with his family. His dad Keith, wife Rhonda and 10-year-old daughter Rainey all sport one, and the rest are locked in a safe in his house. Rainey wears the buckle from the year she was born.

Skelton rode four-time AQHA/PRCA Heel Horse of the Year, Roany, at the Finals in 1997, and finished the season with $112,243.

The 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo marks the 20th time Skelton has qualified for the Finals. He’ll return to the WNFR this year seventh in the world standings with header Nick Sartain.

“We have fun, we’ve both won championships, so there’s not a lot of pressure on us,” Skelton said. “All we want to do is try to make a living, doing as good as we can, and have some fun at it. Nowadays, if you don’t have fun at it when you’ve done it as long as I have, why keep doing it?”

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