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NFR cowboy Roscoe Jarboe overcomes back injury to return to finals

At 22 years old, Roscoe Jarboe is already competing in his third Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. On its surface, that Jarboe made it back to Las Vegas this year doesn’t seem surprising, since he qualified each of the past two years.

But scratch just below the surface, and it’s really quite amazing that Jarboe is competing this week, and even winning a few dollars.

At Rodeo Austin in late March, Jarboe had a solid 87-point ride aboard F1, but the aftermath of the ride wasn’t quite so good.

“I got on him just like any other bull, rode him, then went to get off. I tried to make a good dismount, and if you watch, it looks like a good dismount,” Jarboe said. “But the bull turned and caught me with his back feet. He stepped on me in the middle of my back and twisted me up kind of funny. He flattened me out.

“My back couldn’t handle that kind of pressure, and it gave way in a couple different spots.”

In layman’s terms, the cowboy from New Plymouth, Idaho, had a broken back. Specifically, he fractured his L2 through L5 vertebrae. And there was plenty of uncertainty over what that meant for his 2018 season and perhaps beyond.

“For a while, we weren’t sure what the recovery time was gonna be,” Jarboe said. “I was looking at surgery. When I got into a doctor, I was told I wouldn’t need surgery. I will need it eventually, but it was OK. There was no nerve damage.”

The doctor went on to recommend not riding for three to four months. When every rodeo counts for those trying to reach the Wrangler NFR, three to four weeks is often untenable, let alone three to four months.

“That’s quite a bit,” Jarboe said. “I waited three months, then jumped back on. At the end of June, I did a couple rodeos that didn’t go very well. The first bull I actually rode (for 8 seconds) was in Meridian, Idaho. That gave me a little confidence. I got bucked off a couple after him. It was probably the Fourth of July when I started turning it on a bit. I bucked off only two or three times in eight rodeos.

“St. Paul (Ore.) was a big one for me. I got third, which jacked me back up in the world standings a little bit. Ever since then, it was game on.”

But the injuries weren’t quite done yet, as Jarboe hurt some tendons in his riding thumb. The thumb swelled up so large that it made it difficult for him to hold onto the rope. In fact, for a month and a half, he couldn’t even fit his thumb into his riding glove.

“I could have had a simple surgery, but it would be a long recovery,” he said. “So I had to ride through that.”

Compared with his fractured vertebrae, the thumb injury wasn’t nearly as tough a challenge to battle through. And he certainly had something to motivate him: attempting to qualify for his third straight Wrangler NFR, by finishing the regular season among the top 15 bull riders.

“When I first hurt my back, I was pretty discouraged. I didn’t think I’d finish out the year, or maybe even next year,” Jarboe said. “As my back got better, I’d dropped to 33rd in the world. I needed to win a lot of money. That gave me something to shoot for, gave me a goal. Once I started climbing the ladder, I told myself, ‘I can’t stop now.’ There’s no point to stopping once you’re in the top 15.”

Jarboe had 18 rodeos under his belt in the 2018 season before breaking his back. When he returned, he had to stack his schedule to the point where he was riding practically every day the rest of the regular season, from July through September.

“In a three-month period, I hit 80 rodeos. I rodeoed pretty hard,” he said. “I definitely feel pretty good about being able to do that and stay as healthy as I did, going that hard those last three months.”

Jarboe finished the regular season fourth in the world standings, with earnings just shy of $110,000. The Wrangler NFR qualification added a $10,000 bonus to that total, and Jarboe got out of the gate quickly with 86 points and a fourth-place finish in the first go-round to pocket an additional $11,000.

He successfully rode his bull on the third night too, though 76.5 points wasn’t enough to crack the top six and earn a check. And although Jarboe got bucked off four of his first six bulls, falling to 12th in the world standings ($130,737) in the process, he’s got a good mindset, and there’s still a lot of money out there to be won over the last three rounds.

“I’m keeping it pretty simple. I rodeo because I love to ride bulls,” Jarboe said, though he’d welcome a little NFR luck to go along with that love. “I sure wouldn’t mind it, after all I’ve been through.”

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