Saddle bronc rider Reed Neely snares RAM California Circuit Finals Rodeo title

Challenges create problems. In rodeo, desperation lurks as funds shrink from the gypsy lifestyle of crisscrossing the country and defining days in eight-second increments.

Reed Neely admits he rides his best when he’s broke. He has spent the past few years balancing life as a college student at Fresno (Calif.) State and professional saddle bronc rider, refusing to flinch in the face of adversity.

“Now is the slow time of year when we don’t have many rodeos to make money,” Neely said, then cracked. “And Jeff Bezos of Amazon gets a hold of my credit card.”

On Dec. 31, the 24-year-old found himself in a familiar place – determined to deliver – and success followed suit. Neely captured the saddle bronc title at the RAM California Circuit Finals Rodeo in Red Bluff, posting 242.5 points on three head, besting second-place finisher Bailey Small (219).

This rodeo brings out the best in Neely. He has won at Red Bluff four consecutive years, either in the all-around or average, and this weekend featured a trademark performance. He scored 78 points on Bridwell Pro Rodeo’s Jaugernaut, netting $1,974 for his top first-round performance. He followed with his best ride, posting an 86.5-point score on Rosser Rodeo’s Yeti Rambler to win the second round for another $1,974.

“This is a fun one. I love it here, and the horses were great,” Neely said. “I have ridden Jaugernaut before and he’s a sweet hopper. And I rode Yeti Rambler at the Cal Poly rodeo on the beach. He bucked his behind off then, and was just as good this time, so springy.”

There is a comfort to this event for Neely, which is five hours north from his home. He stays with a family friend Chuck Morris.

“He rodeoed with my dad (Jeff, a bareback rider). He’s an amateur stock contractor and I have gotten on his horses for years,” Neely said. “He really shaped me into the bronc rider I am.”

A year ago, Neely, a Sanger, Calif., native, won this event with 228 points on three head, rallying to win the average. This time, there was no need for a comeback as Neely demonstrated consistency gleaned from hours of practice.

Neely, who became a PRCA card member in 2022, honed his craft with a combination of pro and college experience. He finished fourth in 2021 and eighth in 2022 at the College National Finals Rodeo representing the Bulldogs rodeo team. He graduated with his degree in agricultural communication and, as he is traveling with Lefty Holman and Brody Cress this season, remains focused on taking his career to the next level, perhaps even to the NFR.

“Now, instead of studying books, I am studying horses, writing down every detail and watching video,” Neely said. “And I am working out with Lefty and Brody. We get along great because we are gym freaks. It’s all about maximizing our potential this season.”

Other winners at the $170,499 rodeo were bareback rider Clayton Biglow (256.6 points on three head); steer wrestler Tucker Allen (12.3 seconds on three head); team ropers Dan Williams Jr./Todd Hampton (20.7 seconds on three head); tie-down roper Brushton Minton (30.6 seconds on three head); barrel racer Nellie Miller (41.17 seconds on three runs); and bull rider Cody Russell (83.5 points on one head).