SHERIDAN — The faint of heart need not apply for bareback riding.
“It’s a fight for eight seconds,” Cole Reiner said.
Reiner was one of two Wyoming residents to compete in bareback Thursday evening during the Sheridan WYO Rodeo at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds. Reiner hails from Kaycee and attends Sheridan College, while fellow bareback rider Colemun Harbaugh has lived in Sheridan for the past seven years.
Reiner scored 79.5 points and Harbaugh tallied 76, good for eighth and 14th place, respectively, so far.
A physically grueling event, bareback riding demands excellent balance and toughness and provides a jolt of adrenaline.
“I like anything that’s wild and a little painful,” Harbaugh said.
Though they are a decade apart in age — Harbaugh is 29 years old and Reiner is 19 — the two local riders both started competing about two years ago and have seen each other improve along the way.
Thursday marked the first time competing in the Sheridan WYO Rodeo for both cowboys.
“I tried not to think about the crowd or the noise, but once you hear your name and they say ‘Hometown boy from Sheridan,’ it gets you pumped up,” Harbaugh said.
Reiner remembers attending the Sheridan WYO Rodeo as a kid and picturing himself competing.
“I’ve been all around and coming home here is probably the best crowd I’ve been around,” Reiner said.
Reiner grew up roping horses and will be a sophomore this fall on the Sheridan College rodeo team. He credited head coach Marc Gilkerson and his teammates with helping him significantly improve during the past year.
“Last year I came in just wanting to kind of get by and figure it out,” Reiner said. “This year, heck, I’m going to try and win every rodeo. That’s my goal.”
He used to have nerves before events but gets more excited now.
“It’s always a rush,” Reiner said. “That’s why I love doing it.”
Reiner will focus solely on bareback riding this upcoming year. Harbaugh also competes only in bareback.
It is a full-time job almost year-round and neither one intends to stop anytime soon. Reiner will travel to a competition in Nebraska this weekend and Harbaugh will compete Friday at a rodeo in Casper. They will also venture to several other states throughout the summer.
Harbaugh and Reiner both said northern Wyoming is a great area to learn rodeo from local experts. Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Famer John Forbes and his rodeo company in Kaycee helped both of them a lot along the way.
Harbaugh was raised on a farm in Nebraska and has been around horses his entire life. He competed in professional motocross for several years before taking up bareback, which his father participated in many years ago.
The physical demands of the event appealed to Harbaugh. He said some keys to a successful ride are lifting one’s hips and setting one’s feet.
“Staying square and just gutting it out,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh certainly gutted out the event Thursday. He rode with four separated ribs sustained during a rodeo earlier in the month, but he still produced a score he felt good about.
“I just feel lucky and blessed to be able to do this at my age and have a great time,” Harbaugh said.
Despite being relative newcomers to the event, Harbaugh and Reiner proved what hard work, discipline and a love of adrenaline can lead to in bareback riding.
Clayton Biglow and Wyatt Denny had the top bareback scores of the evening, though, scoring 88 points each to jump into a tie for first in the event. Joey Sonnier III’s 84.5-point ride was tops in Thursday’s saddle bronc riding, while a big 89-point ride earned bull rider Trevor Kastner the top score of the night and a seat atop the standings.
Only two steer ropers scored points during performance two, with Trenton Johnson’s 12.6-second go the best of the evening. Jesse Brown was the top steer wrestler at 4.3 seconds, and Reese Riemer had an 8-second tie down showing to lead the performance. Eli Lord and Jade Nelson had the time to beat in team roping at 5.1 seconds; only two other teams recorded times.
Katie Pascoe was the top cowgirl Thursday with a blazing 17.16-second run in barrel racing.