Parker Breding was down.
Down, down, down.
His winter rodeo season was miserable.
The Edgar bull rider earned less than $10,000 in January, February and March.
It was a difficult reality check for Breding, who in December had won more than $31,000 -- including more than $22,000 in two rounds -- at his first National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Breding finished 10th in the final 2013 world standings with $114,189.
His 2014 was not reaching expectations.
“I was tired after last year, I only had about a week off after the Finals,” said Breding, trying to find the answers. “A lot of it was mental. I would ride bulls six, seven seconds but couldn’t do the last little things to get it done.
“I didn’t know what I wanted right then. And you can’t do that in bull riding.”
So on March 22, Breding pointed his vehicle north toward Montana, came home and put his bull riding gear in a corner of his parents’ house.
“I thought I needed to be home a little bit,” he said. “I just hung out at the house, took my mind off of things.”
“Dad (Scott) wanted me to work out … but I never did,” the younger Breding finished with a soft chuckle.
Looking for something, anything, to change his riding results, Breding decided to try a Brazilian bull rope at an Elite Professional Bullriders event in Havre.
The decision paid off. He rode all four bulls, including rides of 86 and 85 points the final performance to earn almost $3,000 and regain some of his missing confidence.
“The Brazilian bull rope, the wraps are different,” said Breding. “It pulls you back to the center. I’m one of the lankier bull riders (he’s 6-foot-1). Now I can lean on my rope and get away with it.
Ironically, his father had the same thoughts about switching ropes. Scott Breding is a five-time NFR qualifier who also competed at the Professional Bull Riders World Finals.
“When I’m struggling, my dad will sit down and analyze things,” said Parker Breding. “He suggested I switch ropes. It just fits my style better. I just wanted to change my luck, then I would go back to the American-style rope.”
There is a drawback, however.
“It hurts my hand,” he added. “It’s putting more pressure on different points. I hope it goes away. If not, it’s a small price to pay to get a few ridden.”
Breding also spent some time visiting friends at the Montana State University spring rodeo before heading to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Guthrie, Okla.
It was the second straight year he qualified for the RNCFR.
“Last year, I did terrible. I just wanted to ride one, to do better than last year,” he said.
He started 0-for-1.
“It was a tiny bull. My confidence took a shot to have that happen again,” said Breding. “It was, ‘Here we go again.’ ”
He rebounded by going 87 points in the second round on Hotwired. “He was a big black bull that kind of looked like he would jerk you down,” Breding said. “I found him a little intimidating. Especially after that first bull.”
The 87 points was enough to get him into the semifinals where he went 84 on Fire Show. “I was happy to get him rode,” Breding said. He was also the only bull rider to complete an eight-second ride.
He capped his weekend with a stellar 88-point ride on Silver Creek in the final round, again being the only cowboy with a successful ride for his first RNCFR title.
“That bull had a great day. He’s usually around 84 and he was 88,” Breding said. “It was a huge surprise to win that.”
Breding left Oklahoma with more than $17,000 in cash, a $20,000 voucher toward a new Dodge truck -- “I don’t have the money for the rest of it,” he said with a laugh -- and a re-discovered confidence that makes him one of the best bull riders in the world.
The next day, he flew from Oklahoma to Las Vegas to compete at a PRCA rodeo in Logandale, Nev.
Despite being stuck in freeway traffic for almost three hours, he was 78 to finish fourth for another $1,694.
And the 2014 PRCA season is far from over.
“I’m feeling really good right now,” said Breding. “I’ve got to make up for what I missed all winter. But there is a lot of time left in the season.
“I’m motivated to jump right back in there. I feel like I can be a force again instead of wondering what will happen.”