There probably aren’t any rodeo contestants that love their job anymore than Caleb Bennett.
The bareback rider who grew up in Utah competed in nearly all of rodeo’s events growing up. While he enjoyed (and still does) roping, he was just waiting for the day he could get on the back of a bucking horse.
He barely made it out of the chute on his first horse, but it saw a deep-seeded desire grow into a $1.2 million career. He qualified for his seventh Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) last year, won the fourth round in Las Vegas and earned $67,962. He finished sixth in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings.
He started out this year with a big win in Austin, Texas and as of April 25th, was 10th in the world standings – well on his way to an eighth consecutive NFR qualification.
Along with competing in rodeos, he has taken on a role in the leadership of the PRCA. His fellow bareback riders elected him as their event representative for the board of directors. He works hard for their event, but because of his love of all of rodeo’s disciplines his interest is in making things better for everyone involved.
While he has yet to win a gold buckle, he is easily one of the most consistent bareback riders going down the road. He was the National High School Rodeo Association champion in 2007, the same year he joined the PRCA. He went on to college, got his marketing degree from Utah Valley University and qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo four consecutive years. As soon as he was able to focus on professional rodeo fulltime, he was headed to the Thomas & Mack Center.
Caleb has learned how to take care of his body and that has helped with the longevity of his career, even though he has chronic wrist and elbow issues that few bareback riders deal with.
His ulnas in both arms are longer than they should be and if he wasn’t getting on the back of a bucking horse he might never have known this. He has a torn TFCC (the cartilage structure that holds the ulna bone to the wrist) in his riding hand. When he went to the doctor to see about getting it fixed, they found out about his ulna. The surgery would require shortening the ulna and that would keep him from getting on bareback horses so until he retires it will be an issue.
No matter what highway or dirt road he is on, what arena he is competing in or what bucking horse he is getting on, one thing for Caleb is constant – his pure enjoyment of rodeo.
One on One with the Wrangler NFR Contestant Caleb Bennett
Favorite movie: The first ones that comes to mind are Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men. I’ve watched them over and over again and can nearly say the next line before they do.
Favorite current TV show: Two and a Half Men is about the only thing I watch on TV.
Dogs or cats: Dogs – definitely dogs. I’m not a cat person at all. I have blue heeler male named Tripp. He’s three years old and quite a character. Whenever somebody comes, his hair stands up and he acts real scary, but he’d be more likely to lick you to death than to bite you.
Favorite dessert: Ice cream – any flavor with cookie dough, brownies or some sort of chocolate.
Favorite card or board game: Cribbage – There’s a lot of strategy to it and it makes you think. We played pretty much everything as kids. Now, that Richie (Champion) and I started traveling together, we play a lot of cribbage and Rummy.
Favorite sport, other than rodeo: What is there besides rodeo. I watch a little football, but not very often. My favorite part of rodeo is getting to hang out and watch all of the events. I can’t get enough of it.
If you weren’t in rodeo, what would you be doing: A second passion of mine is fitness. I would have to have a job that involved fitness and working out. I studied sports medicine in college and that fueled my fire for fitness.
What food would you refuse to eat: It’s crazy, but I won’t eat fish that is cooked. I love to go fishing and I love sushi. I’ll eat raw salmon or tuna in sushi but that is it.
Best childhood memory: When I got on my first bucking horse. I was about 12 years old – using some of my dad’s old equipment. That was after I finally talked him into it. Then for over two weeks, I ran my hand in his rigging every day sitting on the edge of the couch. When I finally got on a horse, I nodded my head, blacked out and came off. I don’t’ remember a thing except they had to tell me to get out of the way so they could close the chute gate. Every inch of my body hurt, but I was ready to get on again.
Favorite thing you like about Las Vegas: For me it’s the nerves of the NFR. As weird as that is to say, but it’s the nerves you get because of the atmosphere and the environment. They are different there than anywhere else we go. As many times as I’ve been there, the nerves never change and when they do it might be time to retire.
What do you do in your spare time: Anything that is outside. Biking, hiking, fishing, running, hunting and if it is cold, I’m in the gym. I like to stay busy and really like being outside.
What super power would you like to have: I would read peoples’ minds. I’ve always thought it would be interesting. Especially when you meet someone the first time, then wonder what they actually thought about you.
Best travel partner: I’ve got to give that to Richie. He’s been really good for me the past few years. I can get inside my own head and beat myself up. He is so positive and easy going , that’s lightened me up a lot. He’s taught me to care less in a good way and enjoy every moment. He’s taught me to have more fun and worry less about the things you can’t control. I’ve had some great traveling partners and learned something from each of them.
Famous figure you’d like to meet: UFC fighter Conor McGregor. His mentality and attitude are so tough. He doesn’t take no for an answer. He’s an example of hard work and dedication. That’s where I came from and it would be cool to meet someone who has similar characteristics.
Music: I don’t listen to heavy metal, but pretty much anything else. If I had to pick just one it would be classic country.
What would people be surprised to learn about you: That I really like to team rope and rope every chance I get.
Best thing about riding bareback horses: The unpredictability of the animals keeps it exciting. They don’t pattern like a bull does. They have some characteristics that may be similar each trip, but the differences outweigh the similarities.
What horse is your dream horse to get on: Virgil. He is a tremendous athlete and gives you great opportunities. I’ve been on him seven times and never had the same trip with him. For the size that he is, he is absolutely the greatest athlete going down the road.
What is the worst injury you’ve ever had: I cracked my pelvis in 2010 and that laid me up for a while. With bareback riding it’s always something, but usually the Justin Sportsmedicine Team can keep us going.
If you could live anywhere where would it be: It would have to be Utah. As a state, it has so much outdoor life to offer, has amazing, great rodeos and four seasons. Just like the song says, it is “beautiful Utah.” All of my family lives there. I’m in Montana now because of my fiancée’s work. But I would like to get back to Utah.
Facebook or Twitter – Instagram. I don’t tweet and Facebook wears me out.