INGLIS, Manitoba – There’s something deep in the mind of bareback rider Orin Larsen that he pulls out when he needs it.
Take the 2022 ProRodeo season, one in which he had to overcome more injuries than ever in order to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo for the eighth straight year. He suffered a partilly torn posterior cruciate ligament and partially torn meniscus in April and missed a good portion of action. In August, he suffered a broken middle finger on his riding hand and was forced to injured reserve for a few weeks.
“It was definitely a roller coaster of a season,” said Larsen, originally from Inglis but now living in Gering, Nebraska, with his wife, Alexa. “I tore my knee in April in San Angelo (Texas), and that took me out for a couple of months. In the heart of the rodeo season, I broke my middle finger. You don’t realize how important that is for gripping things until you break it.”
He first returned to the game in June and had a solid run through mid-August, when he suffered the injury to his finger.
“I didn’t really pick back up until the beginning of September, then that went pretty well for me, too,” he said. “Having that kind of adversity and overcoming it is always a special feeling. It prepares you for adversities you might face in the future. I’ve been fortunate to not have to deal with it much in my career, but now I know I can pull through.
“You definitely have to tap into part of you that you don’t visit all that much until you need to visit it. Dealing with injuries is making your mind up that you can pull through. It hurts, and it sucks at the moment, but when the dust settles, it’s pretty neat to look back and see what happened.”
His look back is on a campaign that saw him earn $111,659. He sits 12th in the bareback riding world standings and feels as healthy as he’s ever been. He proved that a few weeks ago, when he pocketed more than $38,000 at the Canadian Finals Rodeo, which took place the first of November in Red Deer, Alberta.
“That’s about as good of a tune-up as a guy can ask for,” said Larsen, who is sponsored by Durango Boots, Advantage Chiropractic & Acupuncture, Panhandle and Rock and roll Clothing, Rieta Creek Scoreboards and Tim Cooper Custom Hats. “If you can get on Virgil as a practice horse for the NFR, it can’t be much better than that.”
Virgil is a big, powerful gray gelding owned by C5 Rodeo. He was named the PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year in 2017, and he’s also a fixture every year in Las Vegas. Larsen tested the strong bronc during the last round of the CFR and scored 87.75 points to finish third in the round and in the final Canadian standings.
“I would definitely love to get on him again,” he said. “I felt like I didn’t ride as well as I could have, but that’s definitely a special animal.”
Bareback riding can be brutal on one’s body. Not only are the cowboys riding a horse that was bred to buck and kick, they are basically strapped to the animal’s back. Men wear specially designed gloves outfitted with binds, which are wedged into a handhold on a rigging that is strapped tightly to the bronc. Every energetic move the horse makes can be felt by the cowboy.
“I think when times got tough, I just tried to be a little tougher,” Larsen said.
He was raised on a ranch in valleys of Manitoba, the third of four children born to Kevin and Wanda Larsen. He moved to the United States to attend the College of Southern Idaho on a rodeo scholarship. He won the national championship in 2013 while part of the rodeo program, then followed it up a year later after transferring to Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
He may live in Nebraska, but he’s also at home in Canada. This year, he won events in the British Columbia communities of Williams Lake, Armstrong and Merritt, which were co-sanctioned with the PRCA and the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association. They were key to his success.
When he arrives for the NFR – set for Dec. 1-10 in Las Vegas – he’ll experience a big of a hometown feel. Not only will he be just one of the top 15 bareback riders in the sport, he’ll have a chance to reconnect with those he cares about most.
“I have all my roots in Canada, so I get to go up there and see friends and family that I haven’t seen for about a year, and I’ll always run into somebody that I know,” Larsen said. “It’s fun to go to Canada and get on the horses they have up there and get a chance to see family and friends. It’s a very homey experience for me.
“I’m looking forward to just being part of the NFR. I’m excited to see the top 15 bareback riders. I’m excited to see the first two rounds of the draws when we go for the back-number ceremony. It’s going to be great to see my friends and family there.”
There’s also a chance for him to collect his share of the $1.4 million purse, which will pay go-round winners nearly $29,000 each day for 10 December nights.
“It’s always been the most addicting rodeo I get to go to,” he said.