Brookman Rodeo’s Watermark wasn’t particularly eager to start Monday morning’s ride at the College National Finals Rodeo.
“She was kind of naughty there in the chute,” Missouri Valley College’s Jesse Pope said. “Wanted to squat and stuff.”
Pope, on the other hand, employed his tried and true method to get himself ready for the ride: slapping himself in the face.
“In bareback riding, it’s a fight,” he explained. “If you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly bear and take the fight to him. You’ve just got to get good and pissed off and go at him. It’s just a big old fistfight, I guess.”
It seems to be working. The freshman leads the bareback bronc riding average after two days with 153.5 points on two head. Monday’s ride produced a score of 75, tied for the second-best ride in the second go-round thus far. Sunday was even better for Pope, as he tied Montana State’s Jesse Nelson for the highest score of the first round with a 78.5
“It was another colt,” Pope said. “I had no idea what he was coming into it. Just went out there and he circled around to the left and was just really, really good. Just a really great one to get on for the first round, so I was blessed to be able to get on him.”
Pope needed to do a little research on Watermark as well.
“I made a bunch of phone calls to some people I’ve got up here that live up in Wyoming, and they found out kind of what she was for me,” he said. “But I had no idea.”
Once they got out of the chute, Pope was able to post a second solid score.
“Took me a minute to get my hand in my rigging,” he said. “But we got everything set right and went out there and just made the best of it.”
After giving himself a loud slap in the face, of course.
“People, they like to laugh at me for it,” he said. “But, you know, everyone’s got their little flick, and that’s mine. That’s what it takes for me to be able to ride to the best of my ability.”
Montana Western’s Tristan Hansen sits just behind Pope in the average with 153 points, as he led Monday’s second section with a ride of 75. The three-time CNFR qualifier feels like there are more points out there for him, though.
“It was a good feeling (starting the rodeo with a 78) and I knew I could be a lot of points on this horse, too,” he said after his Monday morning ride. “I stumbled a foot and just couldn’t do what I wanted to do.”
Hansen, last year’s reserve champion, rode Brookman Rodeo’s Hard Twist, a horse he crossed paths with two years ago at the Wolf Point Wild Horse Stampede.
“He was kind of a hard horse to ride there,” Hansen said. “I mean, it’s been two years. I kind of have a little more experience … riding those caliber of horses now. The horse is no day off. That horse, when I got on him last time, he was a fight from start to finish, and same today.
“That horse, I started him strong but then I kind of lost my chin to him and he started getting real heavy at the end of the ride. I wasn’t able to finish the ride like I wanted to, but I still was able to get 75 points and keep myself up in the average. So, hopefully, it stays up there and hopefully I can stay up at the top for this second go and kind of carry myself to keep myself pretty good for the third round.”
After hitting the dirt twice in the rodeo’s first 22 hours, Hansen will relax — and rest — until he rides again Friday.
“I’m not a big fan of waking up,” he said. “I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a rodeo where you have to show up at 7, 8 o’clock (in the morning) to get ready to get on your horse. It’s kind of different, but I guess it shows who wants to be here and shows who doesn’t really want to be here, I guess.”