Jake Watson watched calmly as his fellow competitors, whom he also considers friends, fell short of a big score.
He was the last of 10 riders in pool A on the first day of Saddle Bronc during the Calgary Stampede on July 11 and finished with a night to remember.
“It was good, really good. I knew that horse pretty good and tried to stick to the basics and it all worked out,” The 23-year-old Hudson’s Hope native said about his top day one score of 84 that vaulted him into Sunday’s final and a chance to win $100,000.
“I was more nervous the day that committee called me and told me I was in than the day that I rode. Since then I’ve been getting pretty excited, I actually rode in the novice three years [at the stampede] as well. I never really thought too much about it.”
After strong performances the rest of the week, Watson only managed an 81 in his eight-second ride Sunday, July 17. Watson was one of the last competitors in the go around with a chance to make the final and despite some big scores before him, said he just tried to focus on conquering the horse he was on.
“You gotta think of it as you’re riding against your horse not the rest of the scores. Everybody has good days and bad days and you just have to go out and take one ride at a time,” he said.
The 81 put him in 9th place, five spots and four points out of the running for the grand final Sunday night. Watson may have drawn a tougher horse than his competitors, but refused to use that as a justification for the missed opportunity.
“He wasn’t the easiest draw, he was real big and just kind of strong,” Watson said of the horse Urgent Delivery he rode in Sunday’s final.
“He travelled quiet a ways and didn’t stay close to the bucking shoots. I could have rode him a lot better, I don’t have any excuses on that.”
From the sideline Sunday night, Watson got the chance to see the success of his longtime childhood rodeo buddy, Zeke Thurston who grew up just down the road from the stampede grounds.
“He won it two years in a row, first two years on the professional circuit, so it’s a pretty big deal. Not too many guys have done that,” Watson said.
Although it was his first time as a pro in Calgary, Watson remembers going to the stampede as a youngster and also as a novice saddle bronc rider. His family was on hand to watch him in Calgary and he said he had plenty of family watching on TV across B.C.
The first year pro likely left the stampede with a little more cash in his pocket this time around, earning over $14,000 for five days of work. He’s also earned almost $50,000 on the pro circuit this year, well beyond his goal of $20,000. Watson is off the Nampa, Idaho for the Snake River Stampede before heading to Morris, Manitoba later this week and is currently seventh in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association World Standings.