Sound Hopes

Bareback rider Tom McFarland's elbow doesn't ache anymore. His victory at the Turquoise Circuit Finals Rodeo in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. (Jan. 16-18) is testament of that.

"I feel great right now," said the 20-year-old McFarland, who hyper-extended his right elbow during the second round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo last month. "I feel healthy again. Hopefully I'll draw good again this year; I can't wait to see my buddies."

McFarland (Morristown, Ariz.) won the first two rounds and placed in Round 3 en route to the aggregate title (234 points on three head) and $1,846.

After a couple of minutes on the phone with McFarland it's obvious he's pumped up and ready to go in 2004, both professionally and personally.

McFarland and wife, Ashlie, are making last-minute arrangements to take their 3-year-old daughter, Hayley, in for ear surgery at Phoenix Children's Hospital. Hayley, who Ashlie calls a "daddy's girl," was born deaf. "She's going in for cochlear implants on Feb. 12," McFarland said. "We got the surgery date set and we're really excited about that. They implant a deal right behind the ear; it bypasses the nerves and when noise hits it, it fires the noise straight to the brain."

It'll take Hayley about two years of therapy to learn how to hear, but she should start school, McFarland said, "hearing and talking normal."

"The easiest way to explain this is when they turn it on, her ears will be like those of a newborn's," McFarland said. "She'll have to learn how to hear."

The couple's other daughter, 8-month-old Klowey, is "doing great," McFarland said. "She's getting fat. I guess that's what they are supposed to do."

In the arena, McFarland is primed to make amends for a Wrangler NFR that never got going. He hyper-extended his right elbow on his second-round re-ride horse and struggled the rest of the week, bucking off four times.

He won his first check, a share of fourth place, in Round 10.

"The [Justin] Sportsmedicine guys kept me together," McFarland said. "I would have dang sure like to have started if off a little healthier, but I guess those are all excuses. A guy gets done what he gets done."

McFarland skipped entering the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver and had debated about going to the Turquoise Circuit Finals Rodeo in order to heal up more.

"[Dr.] Tandy [Freeman] recommended giving it some time off and I wasn't even going to the circuit finals, but I talked myself into it and I'm glad I did it now because everything went well."

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