By: Julia Dondero
“There’s no other feeling like it.”
No other feeling in the world could compare to the delicate balance of rugged freedom and precise, in-sync movements as a cowboy tops one of the sport’s greatest bucking horses. To many, this sport is known as Bareback Riding, but to current WCRA Leaderboard leader, Leighton Berry, it’s poetry in motion.
“From getting ready to running my hand through the rigging and controlling my adrenaline in the chute, there’s nothing like it.” explained the National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Weatherford, Texas.
Growing up competing in timed events, the second-generation Bareback Rider developed a true love for the sport of Rodeo from a young age. While Berry has always had many legendary Bareback Riders in his corner, he didn’t turn to the rough stock side of the arena until his Sophomore year of high school. Berry accredits his father, Kirby- who also rode bareback horses professionally for nearly two decades, as his biggest coach and source of inspiration.
While Berry can still be seen occasionally backing into the Tie-Down Roping box, Bareback Riding is his true passion and has carried him to great successes over the years. With two NFR qualifications under his belt, the Weatherford College graduate currently sits in second place in the PRCA ranks and is currently leading the WCRA Rodeo Carolina leaderboard race.
With the deadlines for both the WCRA Rodeo Carolina nomination period and the PRCA season quickly approaching, Berry expressed the importance of staying focused throughout the season.
“I focus on staying physically and mentally fit. Focusing on having a positive, prepared mindset prepares me for the next one,” explained Berry.
Like anything in life, the highs always accompany the lows, and this could not be more apparent than in the sport of Rodeo. Berry explained the importance of staying focused throughout the highs and lows of the season.
“I’m very grateful for the big winter wins and nomination points I earned from those events. While this Summer hasn’t gone my way, I know I have to stay focused on my goals of a world title and WCRA major win and know God has a plan”.
Looking towards Rodeo Carolina, Berry aims to nail down his current number one position on the leaderboard and maintain this momentum as athletes prepare to head to the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, NC October 5-8. Defending his current leaderboard position also provides him a unique opportunity within the WCRA, the opportunity to have his pick of the stock through a draft system.
Based on one’s leaderboard rankings, rough stock athletes have the opportunity to choose their stock and find their best match. For Berry, this advantage has been a game changer and constant motivator to stay at the top of the leaderboard.
“I took it [the stock draw] as an opportunity to have the first pick. If I have the best stock, there is no excuse as to why I shouldn’t win. This opportunity opens the door for Bareback Riders and I’ve been the guy to nominate more because it’s worth it,” said Berry.
Reflecting on the WCRA as a whole, Berry expressed his gratitude for additional opportunities for athletes chasing those gold buckle dreams.
“These opportunities are great for rodeo. As a young Bareback Rider, I feel I am stepping into my prime. If there are great stock and payout opportunities, I want my piece of it. The WCRA is a great opportunity for young riders and I am excited to see it only grow from here.”