The bull rider from Rexburg, who is number 4 in the world, is now heading to the National Finals Rodeo

REXBURG (TwisTed Rodeo) — Garrett Smith wasn’t happy.

He had arrived in Heber City, Utah, the first weekend of November hoping for a dominating performance in the bull riding at the Wilderness Circuit Finals Rodeo, the regional finals for competitors and rodeos primarily in Utah and Idaho.

Things didn’t go as planned, so he decided on plan B. He had already planned to spend a few days in Clarendon, Texas with his older brother Wyatt and get on some practice bulls. Those two days turned into a week, and he spent his time focusing his talents and mind on the task ahead, his fourth appearance at the National Finals Rodeo.

“I wanted to fix everything and after the Circuit finale I just decided to stay a little longer,” said Smith, 27, of Rexburg. “My confidence is getting better. I just got on some practice bulls and it felt really good. We should be ready when we go to Vegas.”

That time is coming soon. ProRodeo’s grand championship will be held December 1-10 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, its home since 1985. After a three-year absence from the NFR, he’s returning after a fantastic regular season that earned him $141,658 in Bulls. He enters the 10-day final as No. 4 in the world rankings.

“The highlight of my year was winning the Reno Rodeo’s Xtreme Bulls title,” said Smith, who credits much of his success to his sponsors Idaho Project Filter, Cinch, Resistol, Rodeo Vegas, Rodeo Tax, Truth Bucking Stock and Crown Royal. “I had never won such a big Xtreme Bulls before.

“I’d stayed on two of them before and ended up sixth or seventh, so I was pretty excited to get that win.”

He wasn’t just excited; He took advantage of that momentum. Two weeks later, he added another Xtreme Bulls championship in Cody, Wyoming, and the ball officially rolled in his favor.

Smith’s push to the top actually began a month and a half early. During the first week of May at the Xtreme Bulls in Uvalde, Texas, he fought his way through the heat to finish second overall, ride two Bulls and win the championship round. He then won the bull riding crown in Guymon, Oklahoma, and topped his earnings – pocketing nearly $15,000 that week alone.

“That was a pretty good confidence boost to get through the rest of the season,” Smith said. “I feel like that’s where it started.”

He’s hoping his role lasts during the 10-night championship in the Nevada desert. He made his first appearance on the sport’s biggest stage in 2014 when he served as a hazer for his bulldog brother Wyatt for the final five nights of NFR.

Because of that relationship, he spent time in the Texas Panhandle where Wyatt Smith is an assistant rodeo coach at Clarendon College. Garrett Smith was offered an opportunity to hone his skills at the school’s rodeo and horse facilities and he took advantage of it. By returning to the basics of rodeo practice bulls, he hopes it will help him transition to his performance in Sin City.

While he had a major financial stroke of luck in the 2022 regular season, he still trails leader Utahan Stetson Wright by almost $180,000. That might seem insurmountable to some, but bull riders have a different mentality. With nearly $29,000 paid to go-round winners each night, there are amazing opportunities to climb the leaderboard.

There’s also the fact that “base money” counts towards bull riding rankings. The NFR pays out six spots in each of the 10 rounds, and there’s a chance for more income if fewer than six ride their bull on any given night. If Smith is the only cowboy remaining in a round, he increases his earnings by $93,270. It’s the kind of move that could make a difference in the race for the world title.

“You can’t think too much about money during the regular season,” he said. “Big money is in Vegas. You do Vegas to break even and Vegas is where you make your money.”

Smith has earned almost $170,000 from his three previous trips to the NFR combined. That’s good for the profit margin, but he’d like a little more. There will be 10 more nights until the 2022 campaign to make this happen.

“I only watch one bull a night down there, and I’m going to do it with that attitude,” Smith said. “We all come together here. We all have to ride our bulls and not worry about what the other guys are doing. I can’t control what they do or if they stay with their cops. I have to worry about staying with my bull and then moving on to the next one. The more bulls you ride there, the more chances you give yourself to win money.”

He did that very well this year. Yes, he had some important wins – he had nine event titles – the way to more than $140,000 was to find a place near the top when he didn’t finish first. It’s an ancient lesson passed from one rodeo cowboy to another throughout the history of the sport.

Second place still pays well, and he’s had plenty of paychecks throughout the campaign.

“I just started playing,” he said. “Ever since I was little, Wyatt has always told me, ‘You make it to the finals nickels and dimes, and it all adds up.’ He wasn’t wrong.”

While in Las Vegas, he will also try to raise money for people affected by breast cancer through his fundraiser The plan is to help these individuals and families meet the costs associated with their fight against the disease. Garrett has teamed up with the Tadd Jenkins Auto Group in Rigby to make this happen.

“Not everyone sees the cost of breast cancer,” Smith said. “I can actually help a family that needs it. The money goes directly to a family. Luckily we chose Chicks N Chaps so we know it will help someone.”

Smith grew up in a rodeo family. His father, Lynn Smith, and mother, Valorie Blanchard, gave their three sons opportunities to compete and they took responsibility. Wyatt is seven years older than Garrett and his little brother Payson is four years younger. All have found success in and out of the arena.

“What I’m most excited about returning to NFR is that the whole family will be there,” said Garrett Smith. “Payson and Wyatt are from Texas, and Mom and Dad will be there. It’s the only time the whole family gets together, so it’s very special for me.

“Family is huge to me. You always have your friends, but your family will always be with you, for better or for worse. They were tremendous at picking you up when you need it. They will also humiliate you when you need it.”

One of the hiccups in Smith’s career has been the injury virus that has afflicted him from time to time. He changed things up a bit this season and it paid off. He will enter the NFR as healthy as ever.

“I have a little training schedule and it’s helped me quite a bit,” he said. “Tyler Martin hails from Rexburg, the owner of Teton CrossFit. He sends me all my workouts, stuff I can do on the go without having to go to the gym. It was a big help for me.”

It’s also another reason he’s heading into his fourth NFR with confidence and why he’s at the top of his game.


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