TUCSON, Ariz. – Since the day the entry books closed for the 95th edition of La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, bareback rider Tanner Aus had been thinking that Beutler & Son Rodeo’s Nutrena’s Killer Bee would be the horse to draw in the final round.
“Some horses shine indoors and some horses shine outdoors, and I think that horse (Killer Bee) in that arena (Tucson) is record-setting potential,” Aus said. “If you don’t feel like attempting that as a bareback rider then I think you’re crazy.”
Nutrena’s Killer Bee was the 2019 PRCA | Pendleton Whiskey ‘Let ’er Buck’ Bareback Horse of the Year and is synonymous with fear.
“Killer Bee is a horse that kind of strikes fear in my heart, personally, and I know it does some other guys too, so I had a lot to think about,” Aus said. “Part of you wants to do it and part of you doesn’t.”
The Granite Falls, Minn., cowboy did have a lot to think about and a lot of time to do so. Aus and his traveling partners had a drive of about 870 miles between the short round of the San Antonio Livestock Show & Rodeo, Saturday, to the final round in Tucson, Sunday.
“We drove from San Antonio to Tucson, and I was lucky the guys I was traveling with picked up the slack because I couldn’t sleep at all, and this morning I was dog tired,” Aus said. “But Layton Green and Ty Breuer helped me get across that long drive.
“We made that trip twice in three days. We drove to Tucson and flew back to San Antonio and then drove back to Tucson. That’s just part of rodeoing – when it works out it makes it look like it was a great idea.”
The miles logged were worth it, as Aus won the final round with a 91.5-point ride aboard Killer Bee to give him the two-head average win with 179 points. He also took second in the first round aboard Beutler & Son Rodeo’s Forward Motion with 87.5 points. Aus earned $7,736.
When rodeo announcer Will Rasmussen introduced the matchup to the fans in Tucson on Sunday, he told them to “sit up and pay attention, we have the world-famous bucking horse – the best bucking horse I’ve ever seen – this is world champion bareback horse by the name of Killer Bee and Tanner Aus – four-time NFR qualifier.”
“I was excited but nervous, because I know what the horse is capable of and she proved it today – the judges marked her 24.5 on both sides,” Tanner said. “She has a couple different trips, and my focus today was just to stay ahead of her and keep my hand shut because I knew she was going to be strong in the riggin’ and probably strong breaking over and hitting me in the back. I was able to do that for about half of the ride and then it was all I could do to just stay on her back for the second half.”
Afterward, Aus was off to the airport, but he couldn’t help reflecting on his year.
“Right now, I’m sitting in the airport talking to (bareback rider) Orin Larsen, counting up our rodeos,” Aus said. “I guess I’ve gone to seven. I’m thankful I’ve been drawing well and feeling great, and I’ve had productive time at home staying in the gym. It’s really early in the year and we have some of the biggest rodeos coming up in the next month, so I’m going to try to keep it rolling, stay healthy and look forward to drawing good in Arlington (Texas) and Houston.”
Aus wasn’t on his way to another rodeo.
“I’m headed home,” he said. “I can’t wait. I’ve been gone for a week and a half from my wife and daughter. I am thankful to have made the final round at San Antonio and to get the win at Tucson, but I’m ready to go home and spend some time there until The American on March 7.”
Although his travel schedule was hectic, there was no regret.
“I’ve been coming to Tucson for years and have had some luck and I’ve always been striving for the title, so I was really thankful for how it went today,” he said. “I’m thankful for the people that helped me get there and thankful to get on good bucking horses. It’s the first outdoor rodeo of the year, and it makes you think of spring and summer. It’s a great place to be.”
Other winners at the $333,754 rodeo were all-around cowboy Curtis Cassidy ($6,252, tie-down roping and steer wrestling); steer wrestler Eli Lord (17.5 seconds on three head); team ropers Rhen Richard/Jeremy Buhler (20.5 seconds on three head); saddle bronc rider Jesse Wright (172 points on two head); tie-down roper Westyn Hughes (19.2 seconds on two head); barrel racer Stevi Hillman (34.97 seconds on two runs); and bull rider Ky Hamilton (175.5 points on two head).
For more coverage of La Fiesta de los Vaqueros check out the March 6 edition of ProRodeo Sports News.
Courtesy of PRCA