LAS VEGAS – The shouts from Oklahoma are almost heard in the Nevada desert.
Hardy Braden knows he has many people cheering him on in the Sooner State and several rooting for him in southeast Kansas. He is from the tiny town of Welch, Okla., and attended college at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College and Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
“It’s a special deal that I’m here to represent all that, and I’m glad it is working out well,” said Braden, who has more than doubled his season earnings while competing at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
He entered ProRodeo’s championship with $102,774 and was ninth in the world standings. Over the first nine nights of the NFR, he has pocketed $103,500. He is now fourth in the world standings with a chance to cash in even more in Saturday’s 10th go-round.
“I’m going to blame it on luck,” he said with a laugh.
On Friday night, he rode Lancaster & Jones Pro Rodeo’s Angel Fire for 85.5 points to finish in a tie for third place. He added $13,327 to his income.
“It was a little touch and go there for a bit,” Braden said. “She got up off the ground and had a lot of timing in there. Thank goodness she didn’t have any moves toward the end, because I was getting loose in the saddle, and she’s a bucker, so any moves could’ve put me on the ground.”
The talented bay didn’t, though. Braden has ridden eight of nine horses – he was bucked off in the second round, which featured the hardest-to-ride horses in the world; he was just one of eight cowboys who failed to get a score that night.
Since then, he’s ridden them all and placed seven nights.
“I got to make this kind of money riding bucking horses, doing something I love,” he said. “Not a lot of people can say that. Not many people make that much money doing something they love.
“It’s better than winning the lottery.”
And Hardy Braden has the winning ticket.