Winning a round at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is a rush for any contestant, but being able to share it with a respected friend and mentor is even more special.
Reigning World Champion Bareback Rider Kaycee Feild experienced that at the Thomas & Mack Center on Friday night, tying three-time world champion and personal idol Will Lowe for the round victory. Lowe, who won his world titles in 2003 and from 2005-06, scored 86.5 points on Classic Pro Rodeo's Bi Polar, and Feild followed with the same score aboard Carr Pro Rodeo's Riverboat Annie.
The tie put $16,343 in each of the cowboys' pockets and had them wearing wide grins as they made their victory laps. It was a thrill for Feild to split the round with the 11-time Wrangler NFR qualifier.
"To share the round with Will Lowe, who's one of my idols and a world champion, is pretty special," Feild said. "I look up to Will tremendously."
It was the fourth consecutive year that Feild has either won or shared the Round 2 victory.
"We usually start with the easier ones the first night, then have the ones that you can really spur in the second round and the eliminators in the third round," Feild said. "They get you going for the next round."
Feild leads the world standings with $165,638, with Lowe in second at $143,412, and the duo are also 1-2 in the Wrangler NFR average race. They are once again in a battle for the gold buckle, a prize Feild won last year, while Lowe finished third.
Lowe was complimentary when talking about Feild.
"He's a fantastic rider," said Lowe, who won Wrangler NFR average titles in 2006 and 2007. "He's a world champion, and I imagine he's going to be a multi-time world champion. I'm excited that we get to ride together, because you want to ride against the best."
The talented cowboys have a friendly rivalry, which is common in the sport and one of the things that makes pro rodeo unique. Whether it's a steer wrestler lending a horse to a competitor or one bull rider pulling the rope for a rival, sportsmanship is present in a big way in pro rodeo.
"You give guys high-fives after they just got finished beating you," Lowe said. "It's because you got to see something extraordinary, and we know what it's like to be on the edge like that. It's as close to the edge as you can get when you're riding these bucking horses, and that's where we like to live.
"We all know what it's like to be out there like that, so when someone jumps out and does something extraordinary, you're happy for them."
Lowe has always been helpful in giving advice to Feild and other up-and-coming bareback riders, even if it means they might use the knowledge to beat him. It's a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation in the sport.
"I was lucky, because I started riding when guys like Clint Corey, Mark Gomes, Larry Sandvick and Pete Hawkins were riding," Lowe said. "Those guys were always golden and would do anything in the world to help you out, and I try to be the same way. I'm more than happy to help anyone I can, because I'm not competing against them. I'm competing against that animal that's underneath me."
Feild got some good advice from Lowe earlier this year, in fact.
"I was having a hard time right before August, and I said, 'Man, I've got to go home and get riding right,' " Feild said. "He just told me, 'Forget about everything. You're a world champion and have won everything, so take a step back, look at what you've done and appreciate it. Quit treating it like a job.' "
Lowe has been a guy Feild could count on for direction from the start.
"I remember the first year I started rodeoing, I got real sore and was just getting throttled every time," Feild said. "Will and Tom McFarland, his traveling partner, took me aside and said, 'You're going to be doing this a long time, and you need to slow down. You're a young kid, and you need to look at what you can (and can't) do.'
"He's just building you up and always helping you with your emotions and making you a better person."
The 30-year-old Lowe said Feild reminds him a bit of himself, though the 25-year-old Feild has 4 inches and 20 pounds on him.
"He's a little bigger than I am, so our styles aren't exactly the same," Lowe said. "What does show in him (that's similar) is his determination, his ability and his heart. You can see that he loves it and has fun doing it, just like I do, and he puts everything he's got into it every time."
Neal Reid is a freelance writer based in Colorado Springs, Colo., who spent five years as editor of the ProRodeo Sports News and who has written for USA Today, ESPN, ESPNW, American Cowboy, Western Horseman and The Associated Press. This is his ninth Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.