Eli Vastbinder Looks to Cheyenne for a Gold Buckle

Twenty –five year old cowboy, Eli Vastbinder is in his third season on the CBR Road to Cheyenne televised tour. This year, the bull rider from Statesville, North Carolina is performing at a career high riding 52.17 percent of the bulls he attempts.

Eli’s 2016 Road to Cheyenne included eleven of the fifteen tour stops across the United States and he posted eleven qualified rides from twenty-three outs. He climbed the CBR ladder moving from 17th in 2015 to 8th on the current position list of World Finals qualifiers.

Statistically he boasts eleven round wins in his career with nine 90 point plus rides. He progressed to the four man Shoot Out round three times, Lufkin, Hobbs and Huron and eight times he rode his first bull with a scores high enough to advance to the semifinal round in the CBR’s three round tournament style events.

Although he did not win an event title, consistency was his friend this season as he finished third in Hobbs and fourth in both Huron and Lufkin and rode 11 of the 23 bulls he attempted on the Road to Cheyenne.

Vastbinder’s year was forced into a hiatus when he lacerated his spleen, broke three ribs and damaged a kidney, at the PRCA’s Xtreme Bulls event in San Antonio in late February. That injury would keep him out until April 30 where he returned for Del Rio, Texas. But when he was present he was impressive riding at least one bull at eight of the 12 events he attended.

His high marked ride was 91 points to tie the round on 050 Gold Buckle during the semifinal round in Hobbs, New Mexico. It is fairly common knowledge on the back of the bucking chutes that if you draw 050, talk to Eli. He and Neil Holmes are the only CBR riders that have heard the whistle each time they draw the two-time Bull of the Year nominee.

“He is one of my favorite bulls going down the road and he’s won me a lot of money... and a gold buckle for myself... he will go either way or both ways. The first few jumps are the toughest but if you get past his corner in good shape you got him whooped unless at 6 seconds he changes his mind and goes back the other way,” laughed Vastbinder who has ridden the bull the four times he has drawn him in both CBR and PRCA competition.

Vastbinder, originally from Ohio, but currently resides in North Carolina, trusts bull riding guru Gary Leffew as his mentor.

“Courage doesn't mean you don't get afraid - Courage means you don't let fear stop you,” a quote found on Eli’s Facebook page which best describes the 5’11, 170 pound bull rider who turned professional in 2010.

2013-14 was Eli Vastbinder’s rookie year in Championship Bull Riding and he made an immediate impact on the televised tour during that inaugural season and as a result of that season he was asked to represent Mahindra USA as a Mahindra Young Gun in 2015 and 2016.

Vastbinder’s first Road to Cheyenne tour, which was the 2013-14 season, was stellar... Eli qualified for his first CBR World Finals and rode two out of three and finished the 2013-14 CBR season ranked 5th and won the CBR Tuff Hedeman Vegas Shootout buckle, his first major CBR tour win. He tied for the win in the Bossier City tour as well.

His 2014-15 season, minus an event title win was statistically the same for Vastbinder. He rode approximately 50 percent of his bulls at the CBR televised events with two of those rides earning 90 points or more.

“When you come to the CBR, you know you are guaranteed to get on a good bull,” said Vastbinder as he stays in shape on the pro rodeo trail on his way to the upcoming CBR World Finals.

Qualifying for the CBR World Finals in 2015, motivated Vastbinder who put on a show in Cheyenne. When he wasn’t on the midway signing autographs you could find him making four qualified rides in front of the grandstands, including a trip to the final four Shoot Out Round. He would buck off Champion Pro Rodeo’s 9100 Kojack in Round five but only after an amazing run at the finals where he earned enough points to move him four notches up the ladder on the final CBR World Standings. He finished the season ranked No. 13.

Eli takes the blame for not riding 9100.

“I had never been on him until that Shoot Out round, I was pressured and tense and knew I had the bull to win it on and I froze up, I’d love to have back.”

As to why he shines in Cheyenne the only cowboy making the trip from the East Coast has this to say about the CBR World Finals at Cheyenne Frontier Days.

“Amount of money on the line in both the bonus and the rounds, you work a little bit harder and try harder and that’s what happened last year and it will happen again this year.”


It’s All in the Family

Eli got his start riding roughstock and first bull riding title from the Ohio Little Britches Junior Bull Riding. In 2009 he won the Ohio High School Rodeo Association title for bull riding and was the Reserve All-Around Cowboy, which he earned in the roping events together with bull riding. Vastbinder is a three time National High School Finals Rodeo qualifier.

Currently riding in the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association, Vastbinder is a former Great Lakes Circuit Champion as well.

“My 2016 Road to Cheyenne was hilly, lots of ups and downs and certainly not my best season but good enough and it’s not over yet,” said Vastbinder from his home in North Carolina as he prepared for a rodeo run to get warmed up for Cheyenne, where he is expected to shine.

Vastbinder who is active on Twitter and Facebook never misses an opportunity to thank his fans, family and his faith for support.