to drive,” Reeves said. “I passenger a lot more than I drive. I
rodeo with six other guys in my truck and trailer. Sometimes we
are all together at the same time traveling.”
On a trip back from California this year, there were eleven
competitors all traveling together. Lots of competitors take their
entire families down the road with them. This is no longer the
case for Reeves.
“Being gone is hard,” Reeves said with the kind of sadness in his
voice only reserved for the most sobering moments of life. “My
wife loved to rodeo and she liked to win, but she did not like to
be gone. We have kids now and she works at home. The kind of
miles and hours we put in just traveling is hard on a competitor
and hard on their family.”
Taking the time to travel to Calgary proved to be the best move
for Reeves’ career and family. Not only did he win the rodeo, he
also got to spend seven days with his family.
“One thing people don’t understand is that you have to have an
understanding family to do this job and travel this road,” Reeves
added. “You also need a good group of people to rodeo with. They
are the people who keep you hyped up because there will be days
that you are not. The road to Vegas is a group effort for sure.”
The health factor of all athletes involved is possibly the most
difficult part of the entire endeavor. Horses were never meant
to fly down the Interstate in a tin can, and most knees are not
equipped to stop a moving steer going more than twenty miles
“I think keeping everything healthy is about the hardest thing in
the world,” Reeves said. “My good horse got hurt in Calgary. He
basically just twisted his ankle really bad, so he will be fine. But
now we are riding a young horse, she is younger than you would
think could rodeo at this level.”
Fixing problems on the fly is an added level of difficulty to this
road. Taking the time to go home and work on something with a
horse or the athlete is not possible with the packed schedule of
“You have to practice while you run those horses for money and
find places to work them for even just a minute sometimes,”
Reeves said. “Keeping them sharp is hard when you are trying to
fix stuff right there in the middle of it all.”
If it weren’t for the horses, Reeves said he would have hung his
hat up a long time ago. He enjoys watching horses come into
their own and become elite athletes. The six-year-old mare
Reeves is using in place of his usual mount is proving how fun
good horses really are to compete on.
Like any honest athlete, winning is also what keeps this cowboy
out on the road, chasing world titles.
“Winning is like a drug, it is the highest high you can get,”
Reeves said. “Winning is fun no matter what it is you are doing.
I think that is why people hang on and stay out here.”
Developing a short memory and mindset to attempt perfection
on every run is key to being mentally tough on the rodeo road
to the NFR. It is the minute differences setting the top 15 apart
at the end of the day.
“It is frustrating, and it will wear on you mentally,” Reeves
explained. “You have to grow up enough to know that you are
not going to be perfect every time out but to still shoot for it.”
After winning more than half a million dollars in just two rodeos
early in the season, Reeves has taken a little bit of a dive. Small
pieces go wrong and keep him out of the money, but with grit
between his teeth and hat pulled tight, he jumps off another
horse and wrestles with the demons of the rodeo road keeping
him from the NFR.
“I have had probably the best year I am going to in my life, I am
not just going to back off the barrier and quit trying,” Reeves
said. “At this point, I might as well just keep trying. We will be
busy in the last nine weeks of the season.”
At the end of the day, Reeves said one of the few things he gets
to keep from all this are the friends he makes on the journey.
THE ROAD TO THE JUNIOR NFR
It is no secret that every kid bitten by the rodeo bug dreams of
the day they ride for the title of World Champion. For a lucky
few, that day comes a whole lot sooner as the Junior National
Finals Rodeo kicks off its third year at the Thomas and Mack.
Ringing in more than 600 competitors, ranging in age between
8-18, last year, the competition is fierce, and the stakes are high.
It was eight years ago when the juniors first stepped on the
same dirt as their idols. Not a full-blown rodeo for the juniors
until two years ago, the JNFR is quickly garnering the attention
of the top competitors moving up the ranks. Several of the
timed event qualifiers got their start in the junior events and
are now part of the top 15 competitors. It all began with Bo
Gardner in his first year as the vice president for marketing at
Las Vegas Events.
“The first year was a bunch of different events: trick riders,
mounted shooting, clown acts, just a bunch of random stuff,”
said Steve Goedert, PRCA announcer. “The first couple of years
they were just trying to get a feel for it and the direction it
would go. The entire basis of the idea for Bo was that he wanted
a spot for people to come watch an event while enjoying all that
Cowboy Christmas has to offer.”
The rough stock might be miniature sized, but they lack
nothing when it comes to performance. Unlike the regular NFR, the
juniors also compete in breakaway roping, both the girls and boys.
“Bo wanted to make a platform for the next generation of rodeo
athletes a spot to perform and incentive to bring them to Vegas
with their friends and family,” Goedert said. “One of the great
aspects of our arena is that it is upstairs in the convention center.
This allows a new group of people every hour to come through.”
The first five days of the NFR are dedicated to the rough
stock events, with four days of preliminary rounds and one
Rodeo LIFE 125