Superstitions are a common theme among athletes.
Some may put their right shoe on before the left before a contest, others may have a certain snack they like before a game, and many, many athletes follow a specific routine.
But for saddle bronc rider Chet Johnson, the pre-ride superstition he stands by is a little more uncommon than those. Johnson’s pre-ride superstition consists of avoiding eating chicken before a ride.
“It’s not as bad as it used to be, but it goes back to the theory ‘You are what you eat,’” Johnson said with a chuckle. “And you don’t want to be a chicken when you’re getting on a bronc.”
Johnson has had a storied career riding broncs, being anything other than a chicken. In 2010, he was kicked in the back of the head by a horse, resulting in three skull fractures, swelling and bleeding in the brain, and a ruptured eardrum.
It could have been a major setback in his career, but the incident didn’t keep him out of work more than he needed to be.
“It wasn’t too bad. I was in the hospital five days, two in (the intensive care unit), and the doctor told me to take it real easy and protect my head and take six months off from riding, and then I would be cleared,” Johnson said. “Six months to the day, I got back on a bucking horse in Denver.”
The 40-year-old has found himself cashing a lot of checks throughout his career, but has never been able to secure that title on the final Sunday in Cheyenne. His best finish was second place in 2009, scoring a 90-point ride in the final round, but falling to who he refers to as his idol and a legend, Billy Etbauer.
“I would have loved to win,” he said. “Cheyenne obviously is the biggest event in the state and so iconic. But to be beat by an icon, that’s an easier pill to swallow.”
Along with the Calgary Stampede, Cheyenne is at the top of Johnson’s list of rodeos he hopes to win before his days competing come to an end.
Johnson was born in Lusk, Wyoming. He went on to win the saddle bronc title at the Wyoming High School Finals Rodeo in 1999, and from there rodeoed at Sheridan College in Sheridan, Wyoming.
As a Wyoming guy through and through, he’s still clinging to the hopes of grabbing his first CFD win. An opportunity was missed following the cancellation of last summer’s Cheyenne Frontier Days because of COVID-19. But maybe the 125th anniversary could turn out to be Johnson’s most memorable trip to Cheyenne.
“It would be a dream come true (to win at Cheyenne),” he said. “I’ve come close at that rodeo and just missed it.
“To watch that rodeo since you’re a little kid … and getting toward the end of my career, it’s a bucket list rodeo for me, and it would be nice at this point in my career.”