Everything was picture perfect: An early-June wedding on a Rocky Mountain setting in beautiful Utah.
“The ceremony was going to start at 6:30 p.m., and it was a warm day,” Mason Clements said of his June 5 nuptials to his bride, Brianna. “I prayed for some mid-morning, early-afternoon showers to cool it off, and at about 3 or 4 p.m., it started to thunder, lightning and rain. I was starting to second-guess my prayer.
“It all turned out beautiful. The sun came back out, and there were a few clouds, the sunset … it was cool. The venue is a rustic-barn setting with an open pasture of grass behind it. I had seven of my best men there to stand with me and support me, and Brianna had seven of her best women.”
The setting and the ceremony were the perfect celebration to the beginning of a marriage that is meant to last a lifetime or more. For a rodeo cowboy from Utah, it was a way to celebrate his roots and put his love on display for all to see, for most to cherish. Before them stood Kelly Wardell, a cowboy himself who had served as Mason Clements’ bareback-riding mentor for many years. On that day, he was the officiant, the man that declared them husband and wife, the man that told him to kiss his bride.
“Brianna thinks he’s an awesome guy, and she kept telling me to ask Kelly to officiate our wedding,” he said. “I truly believe he set the tone with his words and his speech. It made this journey I’ve taken through rodeo that much better, because Kelly is someone I’ve looked up to and respected for a long time, since 2012. He’s just that guy that will do anything for you, so it’s special that he did that for us.”
That’s a common trait among rodeo cowboys. They understand the ups and downs that comes from the game they play, the life they live.
But there will always be a calling that many won’t understand; cowboys are competitors, and rodeo means competition. Instead of packing up his new bride for a beach or a resort somewhere special, Mason Clements found himself in a familiar place the day after his wedding, Sunday, June 6 – he was en route to try his hand on another bucking horse.
“I entered the Riggin Rally with a 50-50 intention of going,” he said. “About the week of our wedding, I decided I’d better just stay and hang out with her and our families and enjoy the time. The Riggin Rally and the dates are things you can’t change with ProRodeo and the organizers and sponsors that are involved in it. Here I am, about to say ‘I do,’ but I also have a job that pays the bills and is something that I love just as deep.
“When I saw the draw, I knew I had to get on that horse.”
The animal was Great Nation, owned by Sankey Pro Rodeo and Phenom Genetics. The powerful bay had bucked at the 2020 National Finals Rodeo, so Clements knew there was something special to the horse, and he was right. He scored 89 points to win his section and advance to the championship round, where he was 89.5 points on Calgary Stampede’s Yippee Kibitz, good enough to finish in a tie for third place.
He earned $4,815 for his venture to Darby, Montana, and his wife wasn’t at all upset.
“She always wanted me to go, but she didn’t want to go the day after the wedding,” Clements said. “ ‘I want you to go,’ she said, ‘and I want you to win and come back as soon as you can. We’ll take care of family stuff.’
“She gave her full support and love there. I also had my awesome traveling partner, Leighton Berry, who came up for the wedding. The next morning, he drove me all the way to Darby, and I slept three-fourths of the way. He made sure I got there on time and got rested. I was really blessed and fortunate to have all the people put in the time and effort to make our day be special for both of us and make sure I was where I needed to be the day after.”
The honeymoon is still up in the air. For now, Brianna will join him on the rodeo trail. This is a much different life than she knew before, raised on an oceanfront in Cocoa Beach, Florida, the home of Cape Canaveral. She grew up playing soccer, then moved out West, where she recently graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis in journalism.
“The summer run would be our unofficial honeymoon,” he said. “We’re planning on going somewhere warm and tropical and relaxing come the end of the season when we can take the whole week off and spend time with each other when everything’s slower.”
Brianna Clements understood fully what life with her new husband would be like. He made sure of it when he proposed two years ago, and she agreed to life with a rodeo cowboy.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Mason Clements said. “As past years have gone, that first week of June is pretty empty. As luck would have it, there are three rodeos that week before and two to three rodeos the weekend of, and one happened to be the Riggin Rally. It’s the only stand-alone bareback riding event and one of the biggest events of the year.”
As of late June, he was 19th in the world standings. That finish in Darby helped with that a bit, but he still needs some help if he hopes to make it back to the NFR for the fourth time in five years.
“After Reno, it goes from being a part-time job like it has been the last two months to a full-time job,” he said. “The way I’ve been riding and my health have been excellent, so there’s no sense in going to a lot of rodeos where I didn’t draw the best. You’ve got to play it smart. There’s a ton of rodeo left in the season. I’m taking this good feeling and this confidence into my summer run.”
The toughest part of his job has been the injuries and other things that have come his way to keep him on the sidelines. He hates missing opportunities, so he’ll hit as many of them as possible. He missed the early portion of the 2019 season because of injuries, and he still finished 16th on the money list … just one lousy spot out of the NFR. He finished 18th three seasons before because of an injury, so he knows the pain that comes from missing out.
The Riggin Rallies are specialized events coordinated by fellow bareback rider Tilden Hooper and the Steiner family – Bobby Steiner, the 1973 world champion bull rider, and Sid Steiner, the 2002 world champion steer wrestler. The contests pit most of the best in the game – both equine and human – in a bareback riding-only battle of skills.
“The energy you have when you’re behind the chutes or in the arena or when you’re walking up to the event, you realize you’re going to compete against the very best bareback riders on the very best stock,” Clements said. “The Steiners and Tilden work very hard to bring the best and produce a top-notch event. It couldn’t get any better.
“I believe that it’s changing bareback riding, and it’s going to change the lives of young bareback riders in the future. It’s got the magnitude and the manpower behind it to make it so strong and unprecedented. It’s amazing.”
That’s why it was the right place to be the day after his wedding. Even his new bride knew it.