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BILLINGS – Tristan Hansen had a couple of choices how to spend his birthday on Saturday night.

He opted for the one with the most kick.

The Dillon cowboy celebrated his 23rd birthday riding a bareback horse at the Chase Hawks Roughstock Rodeo at Rimrock Arena at MetraPark. He scored 76 points. 

“I just couldn’t explain it … the adrenaline rush,” he said of the lure of riding bucking horses.

Hansen's other choice for his birthday was to stay in Dillon.

“It's better than sitting on the couch, which I would have been doing back home,” he said of his birthday plans.

The annual rodeo features 60 cowboys — 20 bareback, 20 saddle bronc and 20 bull riders — from across the United States and Canada.

It was Hansen’s first time competing at the popular roughstock rodeo.

“I had the option to go last year and I just forgot about it,” he admitted. “Didn’t forget this year.

“It’s (the rodeo) is fun. It’s a cool deal.”

Hansen was hoping to pocket some money as he continues his progression up the rodeo ladder.

“I wanted to win a little money to set me up for next year,” he said.

Originally from Victor, Idaho — located on the other side of the Teton Mountains from Jackson Hole, Wyoming — Hansen attends the University of Montana Western. He will complete his degree in natural horsemanship and business this coming spring semester.

Done with his collegiate rodeo career, Hansen is helping new UMW rodeo coach Kody Lahaye with the logistics of running a nationally-known program.

Like many of the other competitors at Chase Hawk, Hansen too, was competing in Las Vegas recently. For the second straight year, Hansen rode in in the PRCA Permit Challenge at the South Point Hotel. It featured the top five money winners among permit holders for the 2018 season.

Hansen won the first round of bareback riding and placed fourth in the second, “My second horse didn’t like the bright lights of Las Vegas,” he joked, to finish third overall.

The 5-foot-6, 175-pound Hansen had a strong 2018 in the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit. He trails standings leader Jessy Davis of Power by just $325. The money won at the MPRC Finals in Great Falls this January will count in the 2019 PRCA standings.

Prior to this year, Hansen honed his skills in the Northern Rodeo Association by placing second, third and second in the bareback standings.

“The NRA was a big eye opener for me. It helped me get ready for the pros,” said Hansen of the Montana-based rodeo organization that was the starting point for PRCA world champions Dan Mortensen and Clay Tryan, along with Professional Bull Riders world champion Jess Lockwood.

Hansen’s now ready to take his riding game to the next level. He hopes to find someone to help him with the nuances of scheduling PRCA rodeos.

“I’m hoping I can jump in with someone, show me how to game plan,” he said.

Hansen has had some discussions with Billings’ bareback rider Justin Miller who is recovering from hip surgery and is considering a return to the arena. “He told me if he’s 100 percent, he said I could ride with him,” Hansen said.

On Saturday, Hansen was happy to have a place to celebrate his birthday.

“When I was talking to the woman about entering, I didn’t think anything about it,” he said of the calendar. “Then I thought, ‘Oh shoot. That’s my birthday.’ "

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Email Joe Kusek at joe.kusek@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJoe

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