Check the PRCA world standings in the tie-down roping, and you’ll see Riley Webb’s massive world standings lead, Brushton Minton’s meteoric rise, young-gun Beau Cooper’s well-deserved place inside the top 10 and veterans Hunter Herrin and Shane Hanchey steady near the top.
But scroll down the page a little bit farther, and you’ll notice reigning World Champion Caleb Smidt in an unfamiliar spot on the bubble at No. 15 with $75,015.95 won on the year, prepared to battle it out in the Northwest to book his return trip to Las Vegas for a chance to shine once more in the Thomas & Mack.
“I’m feeling old, and my horse is old,” Smidt, 34, said. “I’ve broke some barriers to win a lot, I’ve missed some, too. I need to do my job and not make any excuses. Every time I back in there, I need to win.”
Smidt picked up checks throughout the winter at RodeoHouston, Rodeo Austin and San Angelo’s Stock Show and Rodeo, but he didn’t win anything again until a go-round check at Rodeo de Santa Fe (New Mexico) in late June. He was sitting good in the average at the Greeley (Colorado) Stampede when a canceled flight forced him to turn out of the short round there for what would have been good check.
He got hot mid-July and won $7,683 for second in the second round in his set at Calgary, and the same amount for second in the third round, too. Smidt picked up another $7,597 for winning fifth in the average and placing in the rounds in Casper, and he stayed rolling with a Sheridan WYO win for $10,764. He won the first round at Nampa, worth $4,230, and in true cowboy-to-the-core fashion, he split the win at Salinas for another $10,884. He nabbed another $2,688 out of Deadwoods’ Days of ’76 Rodeo, but, since then, he’s struggled to get a time on the board.
“I really think I’ve been trying too hard,” Smidt said. “A lot of people try to break it down way too much. It’s easy when you don’t over think it and just do your job. When you have a good horse and draw a good calf, you can’t overthink it too much. I’ve been trying to win first, just because I’m behind it feels like I have to instead of just doing my job and trying to win a check.”
If anyone knows how to pull himself out of a slump, it’s Smidt. Despite a lingering back and knee injury, he was 7.8 to win the first round in Lawton, Oklahoma, at the Rangers Rodeo, worth $1,754. He’s sitting fifth in the second round with a 9.6, and he’s leading the average heading into the final day of competition with a 17.4 on two head. He’s winning fourth in the average with a 19.6 on two in Lovington, New Mexico at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, where he already picked up $1,436 for a fifth-place 9.2 in Round 1.
“This week, I felt like I was relaxed, my horse was decent, and I needed to do my job and I did,” Smidt said. “The beginning of the year, Pockets was not ready. I just really didn’t take good enough care of him—I forgot he was old, and now I have him back 100% sound and he feels good. He hasn’t required much maintenance throughout his whole life, and now he’s 16 and run 1000s of calves. So he needed more than I had been doing for him. But now he’s back to being Pockets, and I’m ready to do my job.” CR