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It felt good to be back, and better knowing he’ll be back again soon.

Canadian bareback rider Orin Larsen joined many friends and fellow roughstock riders here in town to take advantage of a new PRCA payday at the Daily Record Bares & Broncs at the Ellensburg Rodeo arena.

The Bares & Broncs is in its 13th year of existence, but this is the first year it’s PRCA sanctioned. The sanctioning brings significantly more added money ($10,000 in both bareback and saddle bronc) and of course, many of the best in the world made the trek up north to Ellensburg.

“A lot of us were talking behind the chutes it’s kind of weird being here when it’s not 90 degrees at 11 in the morning,” Larsen said, comparing mid-May to Labor Day weekend. “But it’s awesome to come back to Ellensburg after missing it last year.”

Thanks to COVID-19, events at the Ellensburg Rodeo arena have been sparce over the past 20 months, including the cancelation of the annual Labor Day weekend rodeo which pays out more than $450,000 between the rodeo and Xtreme Bulls.

But back to Larsen who dubbed being back in Ellensburg as awesome. His ride could earn the same distinction as well. Larsen rode Summit Pro Rodeo’s Bald Mountain to an 87 to lead the first performance of bareback riding in the one-head event.

It’s a far cry from where Larsen was just two months ago. The 30-year-old is coming off elbow surgery in early January. He competed at the NFR, took a couple of weeks off for the holidays and then went under the knife right after the New Year.

“I got it done in January, right after the NFR,” he said. “Right after New Year’s get cut open and get it fixed.”

Like many riders, Larsen — ranked 20th in the PRCA this week — is no stranger to competing while hurt, but he knew it was time.

“It was just needed. As soon as possible,” he said. “Right after the Finals I just needed it done and fixed. I’m stronger than ever now, so I’m pretty excited.”

He admitted to riding on adrenaline a bit at this year’s NFR where he finished his sixth trip to the Finals sixth in the world with more than $152,000 won.

“It started hurting after the 10th round. The eighth, ninth and 10th rounds you’re just riding bucking horses and having a blast and you don’t think about it too much.”

He allowed himself a bit of R & R in the winter months.

“I gave myself four weeks after surgery and I found out that wasn’t long enough, so I went home for another couple of weeks and started back up here about a month or two ago, so we’re just getting in the full swing of things.”

Did he come back early because he was itching to get on a horse, or because he was driving his wife nuts stuck at home?

“Maybe a little bit of both,” he joked.

Friday’s pen of horses certainly drove some of the best in the world nuts. The contestants might not know many of the horses, but they knew the bloodlines.

“Some of them I do. A lot of these are younger ones, but they’re proven, so they’re pretty good here,” Larsen said. “We know these stock contractors around here and their breeding program.”

Tonight’s Bares & Broncs begins at 7 p.m. Gates open at 6.

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