Being the only Canadian in the 120-member Wrangler National Finals Rodeo field can be a pressure-packed position, especially on Canadian Night. But for barrel racer Lindsay Sears, it was a chance for a breakthrough.
Sears, of Nanton, Alberta, guided her 12-year-old sorrel mare Martha through the cloverleaf pattern faster than anyone else, winning her first round of the year to brighten what has been a mediocre Finals by her standards. Sears had placed in Rounds 2-4, but had also put three barrels on the ground in Rounds 1, 6 and 7, so a victory on Canadian Night was just what the two-time world champ needed.
“It’s a huge night for us as Canadians, and I’m very, very proud,” said Sears, who won her gold buckles in 2008 and 2011. “I definitely didn’t expect it by any means, and I just wanted to go out there and get a check. That’s your goal every night.”
Sears did her best to stay positive through the up-and-down week during the first seven rounds.
“It was one of those weeks where I was having trouble getting around the barrels, and Martha’s been working great all week,” she said. “She’s been clocking great, and I’ve just had to wait it out and not get antsy about it.”
The talented barrel racer made some changes along the way, but kept her confidence in her horse, the 2008 AQHA/PRCA Barrel Racing Horse of the Year.
“Martha’s been good all week and came into the Finals strong, and she’s just gotten better,” Sears said. “She’s done her typical Martha deal, where she gets stronger as the week goes on, and we just had to change a few things up.
“The ground is a little bit different this year. It’s good, but it just has a little bit more give to it. I was having trouble leaving the barrels (up), and we changed some things with her back shoes the last two go-rounds and she got her confidence back.”
Top story from Round 8, 1A
Perhaps lost in the shuffle of Sears’ patriotic win and bareback rider Kaycee Field stepping closer to a second world title was a pair of Wrangler NFR rookies who earned breakthroughs of their own. Saddle bronc rider Tyrell Smith of Cascade, Mont., won Round 8 with an 84-pointer on Carr Pro Rodeo’s Cool Runnings, and tie-down roper Bradley Bynum was tops in his event with a 7.2-second run.
Smith’s victory came a night after he placed second and earned him his fourth check in eight days.
“At first, I was a little jittery to be at my first NFR, and I put some pressure on myself that I should have more money than I do or be higher up in the standings,” said Smith, who has earned $39,459 and stands eighth in the world standings with two rounds remaining. “All summer, I never put any expectations on myself, but I did once I got here at the beginning. After the TV pen, I started to fall back into my own routine, and it’s been going well.”
He has a dedicated cheering section, but isn’t too happy with his supporters’ choice of pink letters to spell out his name in their signs.
“That is my girlfriend, her mom, my mom and some family friends who have been coming down throughout the week,” said Smith, 26. “I’m not a big fan of the choice of pink for my name, but arguing with my girlfriend about her sign construction is pointless.”
Bynum didn’t win a check until Round 5, but is riding high after his first go-round victory. Considering he qualified for the Finals on the last weekend of the regular season by going to four rodeos in one weekend, everything at the $6.125 million rodeo has been gravy for the Sterling City, Texas, cowboy.
“I’m extremely happy, just thrilled,” he said. “I’m just going to try to keep having fun and see where it goes from here. I’ll stick to the game plan and try to rope smart. You use the calves as you draw them, and if it works out, it works out.”