OGDEN — He is as honest as he is tall.
And Steven Anding, of Crossroads, Texas, is one tall bareback rider.
The 6-foot-3 Texan marked 80 points Thursday atop Three Hills Rodeo Inc. Dire Straits in the first performance of the 79th annual Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo.
“I don’t think it will hold in there (for a check),” said the 37-year-old Anding. “There are a lot of good horses and riders still to come.”
In an abbreviated field of bareback riding — there were five turnouts — Anding had the high score among just four qualified rides and grabbed the go-round lead.
“I’ve never had her before or even seen her, so I have no idea whether she is a gelding or a mare,” Anding said. “I spurred over her head and it cost me a few points. It is what it is.”
Dire Straits is an 8-year-old mare.
“I haven’t bought a horse for 20 years, except for breeding. I’ve been raising horses for 30 years,” said Dave Morehead, stock contractor of Three Hills Rodeo, of Bernard, Iowa.
“She is one of my good ones,” he said. “She hasn’t been to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, but I hope she does this year.”
Before the rodeo, Anding talked to Morehead.
“He told me she was a good, solid horse and snappy,” Anding said. “I just show up and get on what I have. You can draw a good one every day and it still might not have a good day. I try to make a perfect ride every time, and if you do that, the wins will come.”
Anding has yet to qualify for the WNFR and is ranked No. 40 in the world bareback riding standings ($13,679).
“There is more drag in the legs with a longer spur stroke,” Anding said of his riding style. “If the good Lord didn’t want me to do this, he would have me do something else.”
Anding would have picked Three Hills’ Mama Mia — the No. 3-ranked bareback horse of the 2011 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo — of the horses in Thursday’s first-performance pen.
“Mama Mia would fit my style,” he said.” She is big and strong, and I ride the bigger and stronger horses better because I am a long-legged guy. But when you stub your toe like I did, it puts you behind the eight ball.
“After 4-5 jumps, she (Dire Straits) veered left and got real snappy and felt really good,” Anding said. “She kind of got me sidesaddle off my rigging. It doesn’t look too good when a long-legged guy gets out of shape. It looks like a bunch of spaghetti coming out of the pot.
“Right there at the end, I got myself back in the middle and where I needed to be. It took me a little longer, and sometimes you recover quicker.”
The rodeo, which continues through Tuesday with a break on Sunday, was held under overcast skies and no wind — until midway through the saddle bronc riding when raindrops started falling — at Ogden Pioneer Stadium.
Anding was 74 points on Wednesday at the Snake River Stampede. He is up today at California Rodeo Salinas, which is a Wrangler Million Dollar Tour Gold Rodeo, and The Days of ’47 Rodeo on Monday.
On Tuesday, Anding hits a Wrangler Million Dollar Tour Silver Rodeo — Spanish Fork Fiesta Days Rodeo — and he is up Wednesday and Thursday at Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days Rodeo, a Wrangler Million Dollar Tour Gold Rodeo.
“The year has been slow. I’m working and not going as hard as a lot of guys. I’ve been hit-and-miss on the draw,” Anding said.
“I’m kind of upset for messing the one up I had tonight.”
Cory Solomon, of Prairie View, Texas, won the first-round of tie-down roping with a 7.8-second run in Wednesday’s slack ($1,322.40).
Brady Tryan, of Huntley, Mont., and York Gill, of Memphis, Tenn., swept the first round of team roping (4.4 seconds, $1,645).