Competing in rodeo means hours of windshield time, but cowboys Clay Elliott and Audy Reed love life on the road.

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Audy Reed (left) and Clay Elliott travel to rodeos in a white Dodge van, complete with a mattress in the back.

The life of a rodeo cowboy is loaded with uncomfortable situations. And dealing with wild, dangerous livestock is only a small part of it.

Clay Elliott and Audy Reed spend way more time making long drives in the middle of the night and sleeping in the back of a van than they do riding roughstock. The two saddle bronc riders have done well in the first half of 2017, both sitting in position to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada. But they still have a long way to go, and fortunately Clay, 23, and Audy, 22, both enjoy being on the road.

“The traveling I think is the funnest part of rodeo,” says Clay, who is from Nanton, Alberta, Canada. “I love it.”

The two cowboys have ridden almost everywhere together, competing in rodeos from California to Alabama. Other bronc riders have joined them from time to time.

“Ain’t nothing better than getting to travel to a rodeo with your best friends on weekdays while most people are working,” says Audy, of Spearman, Texas. “It’s fun.”

Audy and Clay rarely book a flight or stay in a hotel room. Instead, they have covered most of the miles in Audy’s white Dodge van, which he bought used at the beginning of the year. Not only does it have room for all their clothes and gear, it also has a mattress in the back.

“It’s pretty nice,” Clay says. “If we have a 16-hour drive, we each can get eight hours of sleep. But we end up sitting in the front talking, maybe for too long.

“The first part of the drive, when you’re leaving a rodeo, you’re all jacked up about the horse you just got on. Say one guy [scored] 85, another guy got bucked off, and another was 82. Everybody’s energy goes together, and you feed off that. You can avoid the negativity.”

One of the most adrenaline-charged trips came on the heels of the Southeastern Livestock Exposition in Montgomery, Alabama, where Audy, Clay and Zeke Thurston shared the championship with 87.5 scores. The winnings added to an impressive amount of money won during 2017 for both cowboys. Through the middle of May, Audy had pocketed more than $40,000, and Clay had more than $32,000, placing them in the top 10 of the PRCA standings—a good start on their quest to qualify for the NFR. It would be Audy’s first trip and Clay’s second.

“I’m happy that it worked out last year,” says Clay, who at the 2016 NFR won $60,000 of his year-end earnings of $139,760. “But I guess it really doesn’t mean anything. You don’t want to find yourself coasting. Rodeo is a very humbling sport. It doesn’t owe you anything. So just because you’ve done good doesn’t mean [rodeo judges] are going to give you points.”

Both agree that success comes from hard work and persevering through the natural ups and downs of rodeo.

“You never know when your next ride might be the beginning of a hot streak or the beginning of a slump,” Audy says. “There are times you do good, and there are probably a lot more times when you don’t do good. But you just keep going.”

Clay adds that keeping an even keel and having good friends to support you are key.

“I think why Audy and I get along so good rodeoing is because Audy is always right here,” he says, holding up a steady, level hand. “If he gets bucked off or if he’s 85, he acts the same, while I kinda have my ups and downs. So we level each other out. I’d like to get Audy a little more excited when he makes a good ride.”

“Ain’t nothing better than getting to travel to a rodeo with your best friends on weekdays while most people are working.” —Audy Reed

 This article appeared in the 2017 issue of Young Western Horseman. Both saddle bronc riders qualified for the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

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