Subscribe for 17¢ / day

When asked to describe his 2010 rodeo season, Travis Tryan was succinct with his answer.

“Perseverance,” he said quickly. “That’s the one word I can come up with.”

Tryan’s unrelenting work ethic and a lot of horse patience have helped take him to his 10th consecutive National Finals Rodeo.

The NFR begins Dec. 2 in Las Vegas.

Tryan goes to the NFR fourth in the world team roping header standings.

Troubles for the Billings cowboy began in the spring when two of his horses, including four-time PRCA Horse of the Year Walt, passed away while another had to be put out to pasture. Walt, formally known as Precious Speck, died of an aneurysm on April 24 when horse and rider were warming up at a rodeo in Clovis, Calif.

“It was April and I had no horses,’’ Tryan recalled. “I still thought I could qualify for the Finals. I just knew it was going to take a lot of hard work. And then I went for two months and didn’t win anything.”

He and Michael Jones, his partner since 2007, parted ways in late July following Cheyenne Frontier Days. At the time, Tryan was 19th in the world standings with just two months remaining in the regular rodeo season. Only the top 15 qualify for the NFR.

Tryan paired up with Rich Skelton, a PRCA-record eight-time world champion.

“The timing was perfect for both of us,” Tryan said. “We both needed partners. He likes how I handle the steers and Rich, he’s just automatic. Of all the steers we’ve roped this year, he might have missed just five or six.”

The two didn’t win team roping titles at any rodeos, but cashed $52,000 worth of checks for a return trip to Las Vegas. The money won included more than $23,000 at the season-ending Justin Boots Championships in Omaha, Neb.

Tryan admitted to checking the world standings during the final two months of the season.

“I really don’t watch the standings but there is so much driving and you’re bored. You have to read something,” he said with a chuckle.

Tryan finished with $88,822 during the regular season. He is within striking distance his brother Clay, who leads the standings with $146,608.

“My goal, I can say this honestly, is to win the most money at the Finals,’’ said Tryan, who turns 31 in January. “After that, who knows about a world championship? We’re still a new team. Winning the money, that’s a good goal for me.”

And he knows Skelton won’t cower from the bright lights of the NFR. Skelton and Speed Williams won eight consecutive world titles (1997-2004) at the Thomas and Mack Center. He and Williams also won the NFR average in 2001. Skelton, a 15-time NFR qualifier, has won more than $2.2 million dollars in team roping since 1986.

“I feel confident in what we can do at the Finals,” Tryan said. “You look at Rich’s track record at the NFR … Wow. He’s heeled so many steers at so many big events. When the pressure’s on, he’s right on it.

“It doesn’t add pressure roping with Rich. Because of regardless of who is back there, I need to do a good job. If I don’t take care of my business heading a steer, it won’t give him a chance.”

Tryan has been roping daily at his home in Santo, Texas and still trying to determine his horse power for the NFR.

“I’ve been working with different horses,” said Tryan, who is leaning toward using a horse loaned from fellow team roper Jade Corkill. “I’m just trying to get things figured out before the Finals. But I think Rich and I will be a good fit there.

“And I’ve got plenty to do around here. You practice most of the day and when you get in the house finally, you don’t want to do anything. If you win some money, that takes care of a lot of stuff.’’