BILLINGS — He’s back.
And he’s better than ever.
For almost two years, Parker Breding physically rode bulls, but mentally he was somewhere else.
“I had two bad years, not terrible years, but I didn’t feel that drive inside me that you need,” said Breding. “It was almost impossible to go every week, almost exhausting not to have that drive. You’re always trying to fool yourself.”
The 25-year-old Breding’s competitive fire flared again last New Year’s Eve at the annual Bucking Ball in Gillette, Wyoming.
Since then, the Edgar bull rider has taken his rightful place among the PRCA’s elite.
“I regained the passion,” Breding said. “It fueled my fire to be somebody again.”
That somebody enters his third National Finals Rodeo second in the world standings to four-time Sage Kimzey. Kimzey, of Strong, Oklahoma is trying to become the first cowboy to win five consecutive PRCA bull riding titles since the legendary Jim Shoulders (1954-1959).
The 10-performance, $10 million NFR begins Thursday at the Thomas and Mack Center. It will be televised nightly on CBSSN at 8 p.m.
Other Montana competitors include: Ty Erickson, steer wrestling; Bridger Chambers, steer wrestling; Clay Tryan, team roping; Chase Tryan, team roping; Chase Brooks, saddle bronc riding. J.R. Vezain of Melstone qualified in bareback riding but suffered a season-ended injury at a rodeo in Pasadena, Texas.
Breding has earned a career-best $185,475, including the $29,567 won with his third national circuit championship. Breding jump-started his 2018 by winning the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit year-end and Finals titles in January and closed his remarkable regular season with a win at Puyallup, Washington for another $9,700 not including all the ground money for being the only qualified ride in the finals.
“It was just pretty amazing,” he said. “I started the year off on a mission. Winning the circuit and national circuit dang sure set me up for the rest of the year. And Houston helped a bunch even though it didn’t count in the world standings.”
Breding pocketed another $57,500 at RodeoHouston this past spring.
He won only four other rodeos during the season, but placed at plenty of others to keep pace with Kimzey. Breding had more than $81,000 in PRCA earnings by April.
The difference was not letting buck-offs follow him back to his vehicle.
“I think I’ve matured a bunch,” said Breding. “I got a real short memory with my buck-offs.
“All the mental aspect changed for me. I’m having fun again. I really enjoy being on the road, enjoying the places that I’ve been and plan on doing it again.”
His positive approach was tested this summer at the Mandan, North Dakota rodeo.
“It was a monsoon,” Breding recalled. “It just rained. Nobody was in the stands.”
Wet to the bone, Breding still put together an 89-point bull ride. “My bull rope was soaked,” he continued. “I was proud I was able to put all of that out of my mind and go at it like the weather was good.”
He’s also changed his mental and physical approach leading into the NFR. Instead of working out hard every day, Breding’s been installing gutters with good friend Guy Nordahl.
“It’s a change,” Breding said. “Before, I was always thinking what I needed to do at the Finals. This one, I’m not thinking about it as much. I didn’t put any pressure on myself.
“I’ll just ride the way I’ve been riding.”
And he views 2018 as a springboard of more things to come.
With wins at the All-America Series in Waco, Texas and Casper, Wyoming, along with a second-place finish at the NILE in Billings in October, Breding already leads the 2019 world standings.
“After two years of watching the NFR on television, I’m real excited to be a force in bull riding again,” said Breding. “I’ll just go and see what I can do.
“I know someday I’m going to win the world title. Maybe not this year, but maybe soon.”