Feb 19, 2013 7:07 PM by Q2 Sports
JACKSON, Miss. - The emotional lift Jesse Kruse took away from his week's work at the Mississippi Coliseum may prove even more valuable than the spending cash.
Matched with four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo mare Prom Night, Kruse had an 88-point ride to earn a win at the Feb. 7-13 Dixie National Rodeo that was one of his most significant in the last couple of years.
"Jesse was just in charge from the beginning," said David Morehead of Three Hills Rodeo, Prom Night's owner. "He looked like he meant business. It seemed like he stayed ahead of her the whole way. He dominated that ride. She had a really good day and he did too."
It was the highest-scored ride for Kruse since his world championship season of 2009, when he had seven trips that were scored at 88 or above, won 13 rodeo titles and finished with $194,465.
And he did it on a horse that has a 50 percent buck-off rate at the WNFR, his victims including five-time World Champion Billy Etbauer and Jesse Bail.
"I just tried to stay to the basics and get her rode," Kruse said. "She about had me bucked off the whole way. She's one of those horses that, if you stay ahead of her, you can get her rode and get a good score. But if you mess up, she'll make you pay.
"It dang sure helps get my confidence up, especially after the last three years."
Since his gold buckle campaign of '09, the Great Falls, Mont., native has slipped to 10th in 2010, 15th in 2011 (earning the last NFR spot by just $85 over Jake Wright) and 17th a year ago, missing the 15th and final spot in Las Vegas by $4,046 to his fellow Montanan and new traveling partner Tyrell Smith.
"It felt pretty bad sitting there at home and watching it (on TV), especially when there is that much money at stake," Kruse said. "I went out to Vegas for the bronc futurity at the South Point (Hotel, Casino & Spa) and that was a good deal ... but it's just not the same."
Kruse arrived at the Mississippi Coliseum just 48th in the world standings, but the check for $5,501 he earned here and the $2,456 he picked up in advancing to the semifinals of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo the same week will have him among the leaders in the world standings shortly.
The big issue now is - what else? - staying healthy. Kruse has been dealing with a sore left hip for about a year. The doctors tell him it will get better with rest. The trick is figuring out a schedule that keeps Kruse in contention for a gold buckle chase while getting enough rest so that the hip problem doesn't interfere.
When the hip is troubling him, he sometimes has been unable to mark his horses out in accordance with the rules - to get his spurs in contact with the horse above the point of the shoulders before the horse's front legs hit the ground leaving the chute.
"I felt great at Jackson," Kruse said, "but I tweaked it a little bit at San Antonio. It's not bad, but you have to be aware."
The other champions at this $190,320 rodeo were bareback rider Evan Jayne (87 points), steer wrestler Gabe Burrows (8.2 seconds on two head), team ropers Payden Emmett and Len Dorman (10.6 seconds on two head), tie-down roper Houston Hutto (16.3 seconds on two head), bull rider Jeff Askey (87 points) and barrel racer Taylor Jacob (15.26 seconds).
Ross Lowry and Stephen Britnell tied the arena record in winning the second round of the team roping with a time of 3.8 seconds; they failed to claim an average check because they did not have a qualified run in the first go.