Jess Pope finds positivity in Casper, Wyo. victory in 2023

Jess Pope’s words were the definition of an apt analogy for the situation.

The Waverly, Kan., bareback rider was the first to admit that his trip to the Calgary Stampede was nothing short of disappointing. He failed to place in a round or the average, leaving Canada with nothing added to his win total for the season.

But between Calgary and Casper, Wyo., is more than 800 miles of open road. Plenty of time to think and reset, something Pope took advantage of.

“Rodeo is all about how you can handle your mental capacity and looking out the windshield instead of the rearview. Calgary didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but shoot, that’s just rodeo. It’s just the luck of the draw,” Pope said. “I was excited to come down here, I did well here and at Sheridan (Wyo.). It brings a lot of momentum going into next week.”

The reigning PRCA Bareback Riding World Champion didn’t let a few bad moments north of the border get in his way of bouncing back, as he used an 89-point ride in the short-go at Saturday’s Central Wyoming Fair and PRCA Rodeo to win the title with 173.5 points on two-head.

Pope labeled his first ride of 84.5 points on Mo Betta Rodeo’s Jason’s Pet as a mediocre showing, but it was good enough to place fourth in the first round and get him back for the short-go.

The outing in Calgary was quickly forgotten when Pope realized he had drawn Cervi Brothers’ Prairie Fire in the finals. While Pope had only seen the horse compete once in-person at RODEOHOUSTON in the winter, the animal has quickly developed a reputation among bareback riders as a good draw.

“There was quite a bit of talk over the winter about that horse just because of how good she was doing and the guys that she got on the ground and everything,” Pope said. “As soon as I saw the draw, I said, ‘Boy, that sounds real familiar.’ I looked her up and realized she was exactly who I thought she was.”

The match-up obviously didn’t disappoint, as Pope rode for 89 points for a two-round total of 173.5. That was more than enough to stay ahead of Cole Franks at 170 points in the average.

Coupled with success at the Sheridan Rodeo, Pope’s winnings in Wyoming will help keep him among the top 20 in PRCA | RAM World Standings as the action heats up over the coming weeks.

After getting married recently and overcoming some injuries that limited his riding early in the season, Pope is feeling better and focused on finishing the year out strong. And, with some good draws like what he had in Casper, his confidence appears along for the ride as well.

“It dang sure looked like on stats that (Prairie Fire) bucks pretty hard – it bucked quite a few guys off this winter,” Pope said. “I was pretty excited to have her because I knew if I was going to win, I was going to need something that was going to stand out. And she did just that.”

Other winners at the $320,357 rodeo were all-around cowboy Paden Bray ($2,888, tie-down roping and team roping); steer wrestler Denell Henderson (8.2 seconds on two head); team ropers Jake Smith/Douglas Rich (9.8 seconds on two head); saddle bronc rider Damian Brennan (172.5 points on two head); tie-down roper Lane Livingston (17.8 seconds on two head); barrel racer Paige Jones (34.23 seconds on two runs); and bull rider Trevor Reiste (177 points on two head).

courtesy of the PRCA

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