The sad saga of Steven Peebles

Two days ago, bareback rider Steven Peebles was riding high.

He’d just won Round 2 with an 85-pointer on New West Rodeo’s Right Spur for a $19,002 check that put him second in the world standings behind Kaycee Feild. He smiled wide as he accepted his go-round buckle at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa and perhaps thought about what the next seven days in Las Vegas might hold.

Steven Peebles is out for the remainder of the 2014 Wrangler NFR with a back injury.

Steven Peebles is out for the remainder of the 2014 Wrangler NFR with a back injury.

He got his answer Saturday night, when Powder River Rodeo’s Craig at Midnight crunched him into the chute gate during a painful 68.5-point ride that left him out of the money and on his knees, reaching for the middle of his back in the arena dirt.

The news was not good.

Peebles suffered a mid-thoracic spine compression fracture and, after conferring with the Justin Sports Medicine Team, he made the tough decision to doctor release out of the final seven rounds of the world’s richest rodeo. Peebles broke the news to his fans on Facebook.

“Well it’s final and NOT proud to announce the decision has been made and I will not be getting on tonight! It was a decision that was hard to make and hard for me to take in,” Peebles wrote. “But my T7 in my spine had big piece break off and bone was also smashed down smaller, a compression fracture and gets smashed down at all or get in any situation where I compress it I could end up in a wheel chair never to walk again, and really don’t want to play with that. So as hard as it is gonna be for me to accept I got to call it a year and will be back in 8 weeks to start a new year and go hard as I can again for the world title!

“Just wanna give a HUGE thank you to everybody family, friends and fans I couldn’t have greater support then all you and means way more than you think to see all your thoughts, concerns, and prayers means the world to me and keeps me going!! THANK YOU!!!!!”

It’s a heartbreaker for a great cowboy and even better person who had designs on giving Feild a run for his money down the stretch. Peebles has qualified for nine consecutive Wrangler NFRs and banked $145,932 on the season before the injury.

“I’ve ridden with pain all my career, and I’ve learned to block it out,” Peebles said after his Round 2 victory.

Members of the Justin Sports Medicine Team had to help Steven Peebles from the arena on Saturday night after he suffered a gnarly back injury.  --PRCA photo by Mike Copeman

Members of the Justin Sports Medicine Team had to help Steven Peebles from the arena on Saturday night after he suffered a gnarly back injury.

But this kind of pain, coupled with the severity of the injury, proved to be too much. In the end, protecting his health in the future was more important than 2014.

“It was one of those deals where (the question is) can he compete without creating further damage? No,” Justin Sports Medicine Program Director Rick Foster said. “The bottom line is because of a fracture, he’s not going to be full strength, and it would be foolish to try.

“That horse, when they opened up the gate, he kind of reared back into him and then compressed him back up against the back of the chute gate.”

Dr. Tandy Freeman said Peebles’ injury will not require surgery and should propose no long-term effects for the 25-year-old cowboy. He should be good to nod his head again in six to eight weeks.

Feild was sorry to see his compatriot go down with the season-ending injury.

“I feel so bad for him,” Feild said. “It’s too bad it happened to Steven. He’s the closest guy to me (in the standings) and is riding better than he ever has, and I was really looking forward to me and him battling it out all week and having a lot of fun with it, too.

“It’s just unfortunate. He’s been one of the best for years, but it seems like every year he’s been battling injuries. I just wish the best for him and pray he has a healthy season next year.”

Steven Peebles experienced a big high on Friday night when he won Round 2.  --PRCA photo by Larry Smith

Steven Peebles experienced a big high on Friday night when he won Round 2. –PRCA photo by Larry Smith

ProRodeo Hall of Fame bareback rider Clint Corey, who heads up the PRCA’s judging department, was also disappointed for the well-liked cowboy.

“Steven was in contention for a world championship, and that makes it tough,” said Corey, who won the 1991 gold buckle. “He rides so well, and he’s so tough. That compression fracture in his back happened as he nodded, and he went ahead and rode that horse. I don’t know how he did it.

“I’m disappointed for him, and I know he was looking forward to possibly winning his first world championship here. I look for him to get healed up and be back here next year.”

It’s a shame his fans won’t be able to see Peebles spur again this year at the Thomas & Mack Center, but they can rest assured he’ll be back stronger than ever in 2015.

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