Blackfoot native Stetson Jorgensen at the National Finals Rodeo

Stetson Jorgensen doing what he does best in a steer wrestling event at a rodeo. Jorgensen sits number five as the National Finals Rodeo began on Thursday night in Las Vegas.

BLACKFOOT – Blackfoot cowboy Stetson Jorgensen is about as tough a cowboy as there is in the world of professional rodeo and he competes in one of the toughest events, steer wrestling.

Jorgensen turned pro in 2015 and like hundreds of other cowboys in the country, has worked hard at his profession and gradually has gotten better and rose up through the ranks to be one of 120 cowboys invited to the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) in Las Vegas, which begins this week at the Thomas and Mack Center on the campus of UNLV.

Jorgensen toiled at the rodeos, sometimes competing in three or more rodeos a week. The travel alone would have made most cowboys rethink what they were doing and maybe try another line of work.

Not Jorgensen, who knew all he needed was to hone his sport and catch a break.

Looking back on the past year, that break may have come when he was teamed with his horse, “Mabel.”

Mabel comes into the picture as an eight-year-old mare that was just as green as Jorgensen when they began their journey to the NFR last December. She is owned by the 88 Ranch Performance Horses of Douglas, Wyo., and she has made all the difference in Jorgensen’s performances since then.

“She makes the job a lot easier for me,” Jorgensen said. “I’m pretty lucky to have her in my corner and on my side.”

Luck probably didn’t have anything to do with it. The two just bonded almost immediately and Jorgensen has been working on making her the ultimate partner for him in a sport that is just as tough on horses as it is on athletes.

This past year, Jorgensen has spent time helping his new partner, who is newer to the sport, stay sound and keeping her mind in the right place. The two have been good for each other in that respect as they both have been able to form the ultimate partnership.

Mabel has been so good, in fact, that she recently took third place in the Purina Horse of the Year Award, presented annually by the American Quarter Horse Association. Jorgensen knows that he wouldn’t be where he is today without his partner.

Jorgensen has set his goals and is doing everything he can to achieve them. It doesn’t matter how many miles he has to travel or the places he has to go, he wants to get to the top of the profession.

“He’s pretty driven,” Buck Ryan (Jorgensen’s brother-in-law) said. “He has set his goals and is doing everything that he can to work towards them.”

It all comes back to getting his horse Mabel a year ago. That is when his fortunes changed for the better and when the team really started to click.

“He just loves that horse and he has taken really good care of her and she of him,” Ryan said. “That’s his baby and they are quite the team.”

While Mabel is technically owned by Garret Henry and the 88 Ranch Performance Horses, she is Jorgensen’s via his lease with the ranch. Although Mabel came to Jorgensen as a “trained” rodeo performer, there has been a lot of fine tuning that has made them the team they are today. Adjustments had to be made on both sides of the partnership to make things really work between them and get the solid performances that the pair have been achieving over the past 12 months.

Leading up to the National Finals Rodeo, Jorgensen and Mabel have been working on getting their starting time down. The difference between a win and just a placing at the NFR could come down to the 1000s of a second that is gained or lost at the start and winning performances is what it is all about when you get to the NFR.

Jorgensen comes into the Finals sitting in fifth place with earnings of just over $90,000 this past year. The leader, Ty Ericksen of Helena, Mont., is leading the way with over $146,080 and while it is unlikely that Jorgensen can catch Ericksen, he could make a lot of money during the 10 performances of the NFR. There is money to be made each night and a few wins and the overall winner will also cash in with a bonus which could easily make Jorgensen another $40,000 to $50,000 in earnings for the year. Not a bad Christmas present for Stetson and his team.

The National Finals Rodeo runs through Dec. 14 and is televised nightly on the CBS Sports Network and streamed on ProRodeoTV.com .

East Idaho News contributed to this article.