LAS VEGAS -- Kelly Timberman may not win his second bareback riding world championship.
He feels just as good as 2004 when he won his first.
Timberman finished off four years of work with Barstow Pro Rodeo Equipment, completing a new rigging that's easier on the horses and has him riding strong enough to compete for his third National Finals Rodeo average title this week in Las Vegas.
"Everything's great; I don't have anything to hold my head down about," said Timberman, who entered the ninth of 10 rounds on Friday night third in the average. "Consistency is big. I want to be consistent ... and, really, at the end of the day, if you get off and feel good in your heart about what you're doing, that's all that matters."
Timberman can't help but feel good about what he's been doing, and much of it doesn't have anything to do with performance in the arena.
About four years ago, the maker of his bareback rigging -- the piece of equipment which bareback riders wedge their hand into before they nod their head for an eight-second ride -- got out of the full-time equipment business, leaving Timberman looking in a new direction.
After four years of tweaking, he finished.
"We basically took it off the okie that Justin McDaniel designed and we just tweaked it a little bit so it would be a little bit more horse-friendly and a little bit more rider-friendly," said Timberman, a native of Mills who attended and is an assistant rodeo coach at Casper College. "It fit my riding style and the way I teach. We finally came up with it."
And they even gave it a little flavor of Timberman's home state, dubbing it the Wyoming Highlift.
Most importantly, Timberman and Barstow wanted to alleviate the stress on the bucking horses.
"We've kind of entered a new era now where the riggings don't have to be hard and stiff and hurt the animals," Timberman said. "They should be able to be flexible around the horse's ribcage.
"The healthier you can keep the animals, the better they're going to buck and have a better career and the more we're going to win on them. It works for everybody."
And it certainly gave the seven-time NFR qualifier some mojo.
Timberman was sitting squarely on the bubble of making the NFR in July, when he first debuted the rigging. By the time the season ended, he was coasting to another trip to Vegas.
"Naming it after the state of Wyoming is pretty cool," Timberman said. "And you saw where my standings went from 17th just up through the roof. That's a huge reason why I was successful late in the year."
And it's been a big part of a successful stretch at the NFR.
Timberman scored 654.5 points through eight rides and entering Friday night's competition, he needed to make up 17.5 points to win the NFR average race for the third time.
Even if the gold world championship gold buckle doesn't come with it, Timberman has plenty to feel good about.
Information from: Casper Star-Tribune - Casper, http://www.trib.com