SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 30, 2007) Jarrod Ford has been in a slump. At the Wrangler NFR, the Greeley, Colo., cowboy didnt earn a single dollar. He rode his second-round bull for 87 points, but an 89 didnt place in that round.
After that, he was bucked off the remaining eight bulls. Every night as he walked from the arena to the locker room, he looked more and more dejected.
Rather than 2007 being a chance to start fresh, Ford rode as though the slump might be carrying over. Prior to last weekend, in his last 15 outs he only stayed on 13 percent of the time. In the first round of the Dodge Xtreme Bulls Tour at Rapid City, he drew the toughest bull in the pen, Broken Arrows Smokeless Wardance, and his riding average got worse.
The second round pitted Ford versus a little-known bull from the Burns Rodeo Company named Live Wire. The previous night, Trent Cormier bucked off of the bull. He wasnt a pup, but he wasnt so difficult that Ford could justify not making the whistle.
As it turned out, Ford did make the whistle and scored 85 points for his efforts exactly the kind of ride that could bust a slump. While it wasnt enough to get him to the final round in Rapid City, it was enough to take a huge weight off of his shoulders. Ford proved to himself that he still had it.
Its been kind of rough since the Finals, Ford said. I didnt do any good in Denver, so the Wednesday before Rapid City, I went to Riverton, Wyo., to the college and got on a few of my practice bulls and switched some things up. I switched spurs, got a new rope and got on without my helmet Id been riding with a helmet since Nampa (Snake River Stampede in Idaho) last year. Then at Rapid I felt good on Wardance, but didnt quite ride him far enough. I felt really good on the second one and Im hoping that will help my confidence. Im thinking Im going to be in a lot better shape now. I feel like Im ready to roll.
Those changes, combined with a little history, are why Ford could be dangerous in San Antonio, Texas this Thursday. Last year, Ford rode two bulls he had previously drawn Final Dose from the Cervi & Guidry string and Sammy Andrewss Fender Bender to the event championship. Bulls from both those stock contractors along with ones from Buetler & Son, Broken Arrow and Southwick, Robertson and Wilson will be in San Antonio again this year.
Ford, however, is not the only cowboy going to Texas with a little momentum.
Cooper Kanngiesser, who was also blanked at the Finals, rode two bulls in Rapid City and nearly rode his third (Broken Arrows Pandoras Box). Healthy and confident, hes a threat every time.
Plus, theres the reinvigorated veteran Cody Hancock, who won the Rapid City event after riding three bulls.
Rolling into San Antonio with the money theyve got for two bull ridings and the rodeo, you could walk out of there with $50,000 or $60,000 and be set for the year, the optimistic Arizonian said. So Im really excited about it.
Steve Woolsey, Chad Besplug and Clayton Williams are also riding well and could sneak up to make names for themselves in San Antonio.
And, B.J. Schumacher didnt win the world title on luck. If he draws the right bull, look for him to begin his title defense in earnest.
Bob Welch has covered rodeo for six years and in addition to writing for ESPN.com ProRodeo, is the managing editor of Spin to Win magazine and serves as an associate producer onsite for the Xtreme Bulls and Wrangler ProRodeo Tour telecasts. Welch lives with his wife, Kristen, and 2-year-old son, Tate, in Black Forest, Colo.