LAS VEGAS – There are times that saddle bronc riders feel like they are sitting in a rocking chair atop a 1,200-pound horse.
That wasn’t the case for Hardy Braden on Saturday night during the third go-round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Still, the Welch, Okla., cowboy made it work, matching moves with JK Rodeo’s Dakota Babe for 84 points.
“I wish I could’ve ridden that horse a little better,” said Braden, who finished in a four-way tie for fourth place and pocketed an additional $5,500. “There’s something to that horse that I felt tonight. She’s droppy and heavy and really wants a guy’s feet in the saddle.”
The perfect spur stroke in bronc riding is from the front of the horse’s shoulders back to the cantle of the saddle. Dakota Babe’s bucking motion seemed to keep Braden from getting his feet back out in front in rhythm with the horse.
“This is a marathon, not a spring, and we’ll just keep clucking away at them,” he said.
He won the opening round, then came down in the second round – that night featured the toughest-to-ride broncs in the game, the eliminator pen. Only seven of the top 15 cowboys in the world standings were able to say on for the qualifying 8-second ride.
Through three nights of ProRodeo’s grand championship, Braden has earned $41,731. That is $7,000 more than he earned through the entire 2016 season.
“I’m not complaining at all; I’m just nit-picking,” he said. “You never want to settle for anything, and you want to be a guy that just wants to get better all the time. I’ve just got to keep going at them.”
He has seven more rounds to rake in even more cash. This is the richest rodeo in the world with a purse of $8 million. He’s seen these bucking horses all year long, and he’s excited to be in the City of Lights chasing his rodeo dreams.
“I’m a little sore after (Friday) night,” Braden said. “That dude whacked me on the spine, and it’s a little swollen. We’re alright, still upright and walking.”
And he’s ready for his next shot at riding one of the greatest bucking horses in ProRodeo for seven more nights.