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Winning Keeps Caleb Smidt Motivated During Grueling Journey to the NFR

Aug 29, 2022

Winning Keeps Caleb Smidt Motivated During Grueling Journey to the NFR
Here we go with part seven of Gold Buckle Buzz, a series of exclusive interviews with each 2021 PRCA World Champion. Please enjoy tie-down roper Caleb Smidt.

By Brian Hurlburt

It’s a consensus in the rodeo world.

The annual journey to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo® in Las Vegas in December is grueling.

It’s doesn’t matter if a cowboy or a cowgirl is at the top of the sport or just breaking into rodeo. There will be ups. There will be downs.

There will be bumps. There will be bruises.

Sometimes there will bumpier bumps and bruise-ier bruises …

For Caleb Smidt, 3-time PRCA Tie-Down World Champion, including in 2021, the main motivator is collecting the winner’s check as many times as possible along the way to Vegas. His journey looks like it will end again at the NFR because through Aug. 19, he was second in the world standings, just behind Shad Mayfield.

Caleb Smidt during Round 4 of the 2021 Wrangler NFR. | Photo courtesy of PRCA

“Winning, that’s what keeps you going,” Smidt says. “It can be a long summer. We start in January with the winter rodeos in Texas. Those aren’t bad for me because they are close to home. A little scattered out, but it’s about five or six good rodeos in three months instead of two or three good rodeos in one week like the summer is. The summer can be hard if you’re not winning or not having fun. It can get to be where it’s really long and really dragging. But winning always helps plus being with your family when they can be with you and also having a good support team. Those are the things that keep me going. I enjoy it even though it is a lot of miles, but when you’re winning, doing well, having fun with good traveling partners, it’s not all that bad.”

The hardest part of the NFR journey are the days and nights away from home, where Smidt’s heart wishes to be.

Caleb and his daughter Myla inside the media room after Round 10 of the 2021 Wrangler NFR. | Photo courtesy of Tom Donoghue

“Being away from the family is difficult and not fun,” Smidt says. “I leave and I have three kids now, so it’s hard to take them and my wife on the road all summer. They will come out for a couple weeks during the summer, but it’s hard for them to be gone from home that long. I travel with good people and I know my family supports me from home. On the road, my traveling partners support me and I support them.”

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Smidt didn’t grow up in a rodeo family. But he was drawn to the sport and worked and worked to make his goals and dreams come true.

“Nobody has ever pro-rodeoed in my family, but it’s what I wanted to do since I was a little kid,” Smidt says. “I loved it. And I put a lot of effort into it and just never quit. All I can say is believe in God and there ain’t no telling where you can go in life.”

Where Smidt’s life has gone is to the top of his sport. He knows a thing or two about sustained excellence but admits that it is a difficult concept to put into words.

During the Round 7 of the 2021 Wrangler NFR. | Photo curtesy of Christopher “Click” Thompson

“I don’t know if you can define excellence,” Smidt says. “Excellence just happens but only after a lot of effort. I put a lot of practice in and dedicated my life to rodeo. All of the practice sessions each and every day made it happen. I am getting older now, so practice sessions aren’t like they used to be, but I feel like I put it in a lot of work when I was younger. It’s a tough sport to come out on top. It takes a lot of time and a lot of pain to be able to compete at a high level. I never expected myself to be here. I always wanted to be at this level and to have accomplished some kind of excellence is a blessing. It’s just awesome to accomplish what I’ve accomplished. I don’t take any of it for granted.”

The NFR is the goal for Smidt and every other cowboy out there. It’s the big money at the end of the season, for sure, but the bright lights and feel of the Thomas & Mack Center also excite Smidt.

“The Thomas & Mack Center is awesome,” Smidt says. “It’s a place that seems like everybody’s sitting on top of you. It’s like you’re in a little dungeon and everybody’s up above you. Each year during the first round, I get a new feeling like I haven’t had all year. It’s a different place. The fans are awesome. They’re loud. If they don’t get you excited at this rodeo, you probably shouldn’t rodeo.”