A Look Back at a Long Year

I didnt have a very good year in 2008 whatsoever. (Jake and Clay placed in two rounds at the Finals for a $20,012 week per man.) The goal for Clay (OBrien Cooper) and I was to go just hard enough to get the Finals made as quickly as we could. It basically took the whole year to get that done. Thats why I usually set my sights higher, on the world championship. That way, if you fall short youve still had a good year. In 2008, with the goal of only wanting to make the Finalsto hurry up and get the Finals madethere wasnt enough margin for success in that. Id have been content to have the Finals made the end of July, then gone less and stayed home more. But that didnt happen.

I brought Barney back at Reno. I rode him at the BFI and the Reno Rodeo, then retired him. The wheels kind of fell off my wagon when I lost him. I had high expectations, but then he didn’t come back at all. He was just done. You try to ride the last ounce out of a horse you’ve had that much success on. When he didn’t come back like I’d hoped, I was a little bit under-mounted. (This photo was taken in Barney’s retirement pasture at the Gillum Ranch in Oakdale, Calif.)

Barney came along a few years ago at a point in my career when I really needed that shot in the arm. He put me back on the map, basically. My career was kind of sputtering before I got him. In all these years, there were so many ups and downs. That great horse makes all the difference in the world. You know it’s the horse when you go from struggling to the top of the pack. Barney revived my career and got me back on track. He had a big knee, but he had a huge heart. (Since retiring, Jake’s Barney shares a pasture at the Gillum Ranch with Clay’s great Ike.)

I struggled all year long in 2008. I had lots of chances. We made a lot of short rounds, but just didn’t finish. We had a chance to almost make the Finals at Cheyenne in July, and drew a runner for our last one. We were 12 on him and didn’t win anything. If we’d placed there at all it would have made a huge difference.

The pressure starts mounting as time goes on. The further you get into the season, the more you start running out of chances. On top of that, the rodeos were extremely tough all last summer and fall. You had to be 4 to get a check. I don’t care who you are, you aren’t going to dominate when you have to take chances like that all the time, especially if you don’t draw that great.

Peppy Doc’s been my main horse the last couple years. He’s been good, but you need at least two good ones to get through a year. He’s an outstanding horse, but he can’t do it on his own. So I’ve had to scramble around and just try to get by.

Looking back, 2008 was an unusual year for me. The pressure was tremendous down the backstretch. We didn’t need to win a ton, but we had to win to make the Finals. It felt like we were just clawing. We were on the bubble going into that very last rodeo of the regular season in Dallas. We were under the gun. As it turned out, we didn’t really need to win. But we didn’t know that going in. Fortunately, we went out and made a couple good runs and got it done. Throughout my career there have been years that no matter what I did I drew good, got up good, and winning was easy. Other years are a struggle. Bottom line, I think we set our goal too low last year. We achieved our goal, but the lesson learned is there wasn’t enough margin in that goal.

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