Bareback Duo Scores On High School Rodeo Circuit

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Garrett Riggins and his buddy, Klayton Haught, got into bareback riding on a whim.

"Last year, during the Payson High School rodeo, Klayton and I said, ‘Heck, let's ride,'" Riggins said.

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With the season better than half over, bareback competitor Klayton Haught, a member of the Payson High School Rodeo Team, is battling to qualify for the national rodeo at Farmington, N.M. Haught continues his quest Saturday and Sunday against competitors from around the state at the Payson Event Center.

"I filled out the papers and went and jumped on one," Haught added. "If I'd known what I do now, I would've never done it."

Neither Riggins nor Haught lasted the required eight seconds on that first ride.

"I went about five seconds and got my hand popped off and flew off the side," Haught said.

"I didn't make it eight seconds either," Riggins said. "It was a lot different than I thought it would be."

And they admit they were more than a little frightened.

"I was scared to death," Haught said. "I don't even remember that ride now."

"Our first couple rides, Klayton and I, like, blacked out," Riggins said. "We didn't know what was going on. The horse was so powerful, and you're getting whipped so hard."

Today, just a year later, Riggins and Klayton are among the top high school bareback riders in the entire state. Going into this weekend's rodeo at the Payson Event Center, the seventh of 11 rodeos on this year's circuit, Riggins is in second place, just a few points out of first. Haught is in fifth place, but only needs to move up one spot to earn a trip to the national high school rodeo at Farmington, N.M. in mid-July.

Thanks to a little training at two rodeo schools, Riggins and Haught have become accomplished bareback riders. They have ridden more than 50 horses apiece.

"I'm not afraid anymore," Riggins said. "If you have fear of getting hurt, that's when it's going to happen. Besides, it's not if, but when you get hurt, so you just can't be worried about it."

Bareback riding is generally considered the most demanding event in rodeo. According to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, its toll on the body is "immense."

"Bareback riders endure more punishment, suffer more injuries and carry away more long-term damage than all other rodeo cowboys," PRCA said.

Haught explains how the event is scored.

"There's two judges, and each grades half -- up to 50 points maximum," he said.

"They give up to 25 points for the horse's performance. If the horse bucks good, they give it a high score; if it bucks bad, they give it a real low score.

"The other 25 points are for the rider -- if he rides good or bad, if he's out of timing, if he's all over the horse."

The key, according to Riggins, is to get in sync with the horse.

"The horse bucks according to how you spur it," he said. "If you get into good timing with the horse, it bucks the best."

Riggins says he and Haught are now glad they climbed aboard that first bronc. "We ended up liking it. We said, ‘Heck, yes.'"

The cowboys also would like it if more people showed up this weekend to support the local high school team -- with 11 members, one of the largest in the state.

"It's free admission, and the Optimists will be selling good food," Haught said.

"Not many people show up, and it's a lot more fun if you have people supporting you," Riggins added.

The Payson High School Rodeo runs Saturday and Sunday, with slack beginning each day at 9 a.m. and the performance at 1 p.m.

In high school rodeo, slack features the timed events like barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying and team roping. Performance includes the rough stock events like bull riding, saddle bronc, and, of course, bareback.

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