Caleb Smidt carried out a week of absolute domination at the 2022 National Finals Rodeo, clinching the Aggregate and World Championship with $225,220 amassed within the yellow walls of the Thomas & Mack.
All said and done, Smidt broke his own season-earnings record with $374,736.70, worth a fourth World Champion Calf Roper title.
“I dang sure didn’t plan on this when I came out here,” Smidt said. “I planned to have fun and rope calves.”
An NFR for the Record Books
Smidt’s week started off with a bang. The 33-year-old from Bellville, Texas, brought home both Round 1 and 2 wins with a 7.5 and 7.2, respectively. These gave Smidt a jump on closing the $53,992 gap between himself and then world standings leader Shad Mayfield, the 2020 World Champion.
“The first couple of rounds I had good calves, good runs and just kind of jumped out to the front there,” Smidt said. “Then just kept drawing some good calves. If I didn’t have a good calf, it was like the rounds were kind of softer and it’d give me a chance to place.”
Smidt split third and fourth place in Round 3 and split fourth and fifth place in Round 4. Following his Round 4 payday of $9,793, he took the lead in the world standings and didn’t look back.
At that point, he was leading the aggregate too with four head tied in 30.3 seconds. From there, Smidt was in cruise mode. He went on to place in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth rounds. In Round 10, Smidt caught and tied in 8.8 seconds. The effort didn’t earn him a check, but he was set for a first-place finish in the average.
“When I realized I won, I was in awe and tried to take it all in,” Smidt said.
The 2022 Rodeo Road
Smidt had an excellent year on the road, too.
“It’s been an amazing year,” Smidt said. “I won the American; I won Calgary, and I won this rodeo. Probably the three biggest rodeos. It was a blessing of a year and just awesome. All the glory to God for being able to do this.”
Smidt’s Calgary win netted him $50,000 and, while his American victory didn’t count towards PRCA earnings, the $100,000 payday did help him get down the road to other events. According to Smidt, he went home in August—the earliest he’s ever headed back to Texas. He says the thing that separates him from his peers are his prayers and faith in Jesus Christ.
“That’s the only thing,” Smidt said earnestly. “All these guys are talented.”
A Win in His Pocket
Riding Pocketful Of Light or “Pockets,” Smidt was able to put together one of the most solid aggregates in a decade. The 15-year-old gelding has been with Smidt throughout his eight NFR qualifications.
“He’s awesome; he’s been here just as many times as I have,” Smidt said. “I think he’s probably got it more figured out than I do.”
As long as Smidt draws a decent calf, he says Pockets is going to give him a chance to do his job.
“That’s all you can ask of a calf horse, just to give you a chance,” Smidt said. “He backs in there and I worry about myself and what I need to do. He takes care of the rest.”
Pockets, who was honored as the AQHA 2022 Calf Horse of the Year, handled the pen of “tricky” calves well.
“He makes it a lot easier, that’s for sure,” Smidt said. “A lot of these guys were switching horses this week.”
Footloose till Fort Worth
Smidt is taking a two month break from rodeo to spend time with his family for the holidays, go hunting and “try not to think about calf roping.” He says he plans on his first rodeo back being Fort Worth.