Smith overcomes top field to secure Dixie title

February 21, 2012

ACKSON, Miss.(Courtesy of ProRodeo.com) – Dustin Smith’s original plan to stay close to home in Rome, Ga., this year and work in construction for his dad’s Garner Brothers Company may have to be revised now that he’s building a bigger career in rodeo.

Smith, 23, rode 2011 PRCA Bareback Riding Horse of the Year Full Baggage for 87 points to win the Feb. 9-15 Dixie National Rodeo over a field that included 11 qualifiers from last year’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

It is the biggest win of his four-year ProRodeo career, surpassing his second-place tie in this same rodeo a year ago, and gave him a huge jolt of confidence entering his first appearance in the $1.2 million San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo on Feb. 19 (where he qualified for the semifinals by earning checks in two rounds).

“I don’t know what it is about Jackson that I have done so well there,” Smith said. “I’ve gone there every year since I bought my permit in 2008 and I always try to get on the Saturday night schedule. The last couple of years I’ve drawn well and I’ve had good results.”

Smith had mixed feelings when he learned he’d drawn Full Baggage of the Frontier Rodeo string. They were matched two years ago at Arcadia, Fla., and while Smith completed the ride, it wasn’t smooth and he only scored 74 points.

He remembered Full Baggage as “a kinda big, scary looking horse,” and he certainly knew how much the horse had improved since their last encounter.

“My approach was the same as last time,” Smith said. “I was still nervous. When the announcer’s talking about this being the Horse of the Year, you know you’re in for a tough time, but you also know you’ve got a real shot at putting up a big score.

“I’m glad the buzzer went off when it did because I wasn’t on him for a whole lot after that before I hit the dirt in a face plant.”

Smith, who was third in the PRCA bareback riding rookie standings in 2009, had his best season a year ago when he finished 42nd in the world with earnings of $18,265. The problem was that most of that earning came during the winter months.

He hit the road hard for two months in the summer without much of a return. That got him thinking that he might limit his competition mostly to rodeos in the Southeastern Circuit and see if he could repeat the circuit year-end title he won in 2009.

“But if I can follow Jackson with some checks in San Antonio, that could change things pretty fast,” Smith said. “We’ll just have to see what happens.”

Other champions at the Mississippi Coliseum were steer wrestlers Matthew Mousseau and Bray Armes (8.9 seconds on two head), team ropers Derrick Miller and Mark Luttrell (11.2 seconds on two head), saddle bronc rider Tyrel Larsen (87 points) and tie-down roper Fred Whitfield (17.0 seconds on two head), bull riders Cody Samora and Cody Rostockyj (86 points each) and barrel racer Robyn Herring (14.99 seconds).