NFR Day 4 Preview: Peebles closing in on four-time bareback riding world champ Kaycee Feild

Steven Peebles, of Redmond, Ore., rides Beaver Fever in the Bareback Riding competition on the second day of the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 04, 2015. Brett Le Blanc/Las Vegas Review-Journal Follow @bleblancphoto

By Todd Dewey
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Steven Peebles has already survived a brush with death this year. Through the first three rounds of the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center, the bareback rider also has climbed 12 spots in the standings, nearly erasing a big deficit to four-time defending world champion and four-time defending NFR average winner Kaycee Feild.

Peebles suffered broken ribs at a rodeo in July that punctured an artery and filled his chest with blood. He barely made it to the hospital in time to save his life.

After qualifying for the NFR in 14th place with $80,085 in winnings — more than $38,000 behind Feild — Peebles tied for third in Thursday's opening round before winning the second and third rounds Friday and Saturday to climb to second place, within $7,000 of Feild.

Peebles leads the NFR with $71,875 in earnings.

"People asked me before I got here if I thought I had a chance coming in 14th, and I really wanted to come in here the first few rounds and be able to win and get caught up for Kaycee," Peebles said. "I wanted to be caught up by the middle of the rodeo and have a clean slate, so this feels great."

Feild will wear purple chaps today on the NFR's Memorial Night to honor his father, Lewis Feild, a five-time world champion who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Purple is the color for pancreatic cancer awareness.

Team ropers Aaron Tsinigine and Ryan Motes won their second round in three nights during the third round with a time of 4.1 seconds. The duo has moved from fifth to second in the world standings, less than $9,000 behind the two-time defending world champion team of Clay Tryan and Fallon native Jade Corkill.

Five-time saddle bronc riding world runner-up Cody DeMoss reclaimed the top spot in the standings by winning the third round with an 84-point ride on Summit Pro Rodeo's Big Fork.

DeMoss skipped his victory lap and went straight to the Justin Sportsmedicine room to receive treatment for a massive contusion on his inner left thigh. He's been getting treatment before and after his rides.

After failing to finish in the money the first two rounds, regular-season steer wrestling leader Clayton Hass won the third round with a 3.6-second run. Hass moved from sixth to third in the world, less than $12,000 behind Ty Erickson, his close friend and traveling partner who took second place with a 3.8-second run to ascend to the top spot in the standings for the second time in three nights.

Timber Moore took over the top spot in the tie-down roping world standings from Tuf Cooper, who recorded a no time, hurting Cooper's chances for his second straight gold buckle and fourth in five years.

Peebles recovers to ride again

By Patrick Everson
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Rodeo cowboys know that part of what they sign up for is taking a tremendous beating on pretty much a nightly basis. And each year, the only way they'll get to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is to absorb that beating and move on to the next round, the next ride, the next rodeo.

But sometimes, that's just not possible, as bareback rider Steven Peebles found out earlier this year. After a rough but victorious July night in Livingston, Mont., it wasn't a matter of moving on to the next rodeo. It was a matter of life and death.

"I was riding a horse and made 86 points, which won the rodeo, but my hand flew out of the rigging at the end of the ride," Peebles said. "I got thrown up in the air, and when I came down, I landed flat on my back."

It was painful, to be sure, but it's not like Peebles, 26, hasn't felt such pain before. The now seven-time WNFR qualifier — knocked out of last year's Finals in the third round with a compression fracture in his back — has had to ride through pain many times and was prepared to do it again.

"I didn't know it at the time, but I broke my ribs, and one rib punctured an artery. My chest was filling up with blood," he said. "By the time I got back to my rig, I was hurting pretty good."

The plan was for Peebles and his traveling partner, fellow bareback rider Brian Bain, to drive to Billings and catch a plane to their next rodeo.

"I said I'd probably go to the hospital in Billings. I didn't want to miss our flight," Peebles said.

But Bain could sense there was much more to Peebles' pain.

"As I started driving, I looked over, and he kept telling me how tired he was, how he wanted to go to sleep," Bain said. "He got kind of pale and clammy looking. So I knew it was more serious. I took him back into town to get looked at.

"Then I went to get fuel, and I got a text from him saying I better get back there soon."

When Bain got back to the hospital, it was a chaotic situation.

"They were pumping blood into him because he was losing it so fast," he said.

After getting Peebles somewhat stable, he was loaded into an ambulance that raced off to Bozeman, at a hospital more capable of dealing with the evolving emergency. Peebles said the staff on duty told him he was fortunate to make it that far.

"They said that if we drove to Billings, I'd probably be on the side of the road, dead. I barely made it to Bozeman," Peebles said.

The emergency room crew broke into his rib cavity and continued to streamline blood back into his body, at which point Peebles said he passed out.

"It was a close deal. I was just glad to wake up the next morning, I guess," he said. "They said, 'If you'd been 10 to 15 minutes later, we'd have lost you. It's a miracle you're still alive. You can thank the man upstairs.'

"The guy who was clogging off the artery, mapping through my veins, he said he set a record. He got through in 15 minutes, the fastest he'd ever done it. He said I didn't have much time, and he didn't think I'd live."

But live he did. He remained in the hospital for six days, with Bain by his side much of the time, darting to a couple nearby rodeos, then coming back. Bain then drove Peebles to his Oregon home to begin recovery.

Not surprisingly, Peebles wanted to get back on the circuit as quickly as possible. Every rodeo missed is one less chance of making it to the WNFR. His caregivers recommended a break of two to three months, which would have all but ended his hopes of returning to the Thomas & Mack Center for a seventh straight year.

"It took almost a month to get all the blood back, so I was pretty weak. Walking to the kitchen and back to grab something to drink, I was out of breath," he said, noting that after a week, he went back to the hospital for four more days. "It was quite an adventure."

Still, that two- to three-month recommendation was not going to stand.

"I gave it six weeks, and I was back in the arena," Peebles said, admitting nerves were shaky in that return. "There were thoughts going through my mind, and my family was pretty scared. Some of them were begging me not to do it. It was a little sketchy.

"I kind of just quit thinking negative. I'd been on a roll, so I thought, just go back to that same mentality before I got hurt — the same thought process, same everything."

And it indeed was the same. He scored 84 to cash a second-place check, then followed with three more first-place checks. He was pushing hard to climb back into the top 15, in order to qualify for the WNFR.

"I was pretty stoked by that. I knew I had a lot of ground to make up and six weeks to do it," he said. "I just went hard and rode everything, and it went really well."

Three weeks later, he was back in that top 15. By the end of September, when the regular season ended, he'd amassed $80,085 for the year, good for 14th place and a return trip to Vegas. And after finishing in a four-way tie for third in the WNFR's first go-round Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center to pocket $9,413, Peebles won the second and third go-rounds Friday and Saturday for a pair of $26,230 checks to move all the way up to second in the world standings, at $151,960.

But all that success now wouldn't have been possible without Bain at his side back in July.

"A lot of guys might have said, 'Ah, you'll be all right.' But Brian had that gut feeling that it was serious," Peebles said. "I was trying to tough it out. He took me to the hospital, and thank God for that. I had no idea I was on a timeclock."

Bain, who reached the WNFR in 2011 and 2012, has to be reminded that he literally saved Peebles' life.

"I haven't pulled that card on him yet," he joked. "It was quite an ordeal. Ultimately, the good Lord was looking out for a couple fools, but the right decisions were made that day."

Amen to that.