When a four-time world champion … hold on a minute, check that.
When a four-consecutive-times world champion sings the praises of a cowboy competing in his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, well, that newcomer knows he must be doing something right.
That’s the case for bareback rider Mason Clements. He could rightly be called the protégé of Kaycee Feild, the eight-time Wrangler NFR qualifier who walked away with the gold buckle four straight years, from 2011 to 2014.
And Feild can’t say enough good things about Clements.
“He just had something about him that was different,” Feild said, noting he first started taking note of Clements — a fellow Utahn — a few years ago. “He started coming down to my house and training with me. He can see bareback riding different than anyone else. I don’t know if it’s from his motocross in the past or what. He can control everything and slow it down, and see the whole ride. He was a very quick learner, with hardly any experience.
“His work ethic is unreal, his discipline is unreal. He’s a unique individual and definitely a unique athlete for the amount
of experience he has.”
Clements is getting a lot more experience over these 10 days at the Thomas &Mack Center. The 25-year-old — who was born in Henderson and has plenty of family here — used that work ethic to nab the 15th and final qualifying spot in bareback riding. He finished the regular season with $86,114, less than $3,000 ahead of 16th-place Justin Miller.
“I knew I had to be third place or better in my last two rodeos, in Mona, Utah, and Pasadena, Texas. And I was third at both of those. Talk about nerves,” Clements said, recalling his number-crunching after the Pasadena ride. “I added them up myself and was thinking, ‘Yeah, I think I got it.’ And then the next day, it updated and I found out I made it to the NFR. I did it.”
It took the whole month of October for the achievement to sink in.
“It was after the third night of the circuit finals,” he said. “I got off my last horse, I rode really good and I was jacked up about it. I was like, ‘Yes, we’re going to the NFR.’ There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of fuel for the fire.”
Even though Clements is in his mid-20s, his ascension has been a relatively speedy one. He switched from bulls to barebacks when he was 20 and caught the eye of Cody DeMers and Kelly Wardell, both four-time NFR qualifiers who were coaching at the College of Southern Idaho. Clements got a scholarship, rode as many horses as he could in the next year and won the Rocky Mountain Region collegiate bareback title in 2014, advancing to the College National Finals Rodeo.
“Being 21, all I wanted to do, all I could think about was riding bareback horses,” he said. “So I left after that first year and went to riding full time.”
He traveled with Feild for his rookie season of 2015, a move he credited for the breakthrough success that finally came in 2017.
“I think that made a huge impact on where I am today,” Clements said. “Wolves travel with wolves. I’d seen the mindset and the intensity he’s got, and that was the mindset and intensity I’ve taken to every sport I’ve done. What better person to follow and learn from and watch everything he does than that guy?”
He was also getting insight from Hall of Famer Lewis Feild, Kasey’s father. Lewis, who passed away in February 2016, was a three-time world all-around champion and two-time bareback world champ.
“The key points that I never knew, Kaycee and Lewis helped me with those keys and helped me build on what I had,” Clements said. “There’s definitely talent involved, but make no mistake, you can’t really learn it without getting on as many horses as possible.”
Clements was learning even when he wasn’t riding — by watching how Kaycee went about his business.
“I think along with learning from my own trials and errors, mistakes and hard spots, you need to be watching when that happens to others. Watching how Kaycee deals with it helps me,” Clements said. “And listening to what Lewis always said: ‘Keep everything simple. It’s what you love to do, so keep it easy, don’t complicate it.’”
Kaycee said it’s been easy to mentor Clements along this path, because Clements’ mindset is much like two other greats Kaycee knows well.
“The only people I’ve ever been able to talk to with such depth as Mason are my dad and Bobby Mote,” Kaycee said, noting Mote was a four-time world bareback champ, too. “You can see how Mason plays it out in his mind.”
Kaycee, who had an injury-riddled season and didn’t qualify for this year’s NFR, will still be here the entire time and hopes to help Clements’ Vegas debut go well. Kaycee won’t be surprised if Clements quickly figures things out.
“I pick him for the average title. He’s focused like I’ve never seen him focused,” Kaycee said. “Mason’s gonna really start to capitalize in the fifth, sixth round.”
Although Clements entered in 15th, he said he could see good things happening at the Thomas &Mack Center. He split third in the opening go-round with an 85-point ride aboard Times Up to earn $13,327, and he’s now 12th in the world standings. He’s not counting out a chance to make a big run in a rodeo with such healthy nightly payouts, along with that average money Kaycee alluded to.
“It’s another thing I’ve always taken with me: pick someone who’s got your spot in the standings. I’m not going in with the thought that the gold buckle is not in my sights,” Clements said. “It’s still in my sights and something I’m willing to go get.”
At the same time, Clements is going to enjoy the first of what he hopes will be many trips to Thomas &Mack.
“It’s legendary. It’s somewhere that so many great world champions have set their feet, and I get to put my name in,” Clements said. “I get to nod my head for 10 days, competing for that much money and doing what I love. Yellow bucking shoots, gold buckles, the go-rounds, the average. I’m looking forward to all of it. I get to go put my own name down in history.”