Hanchey trades diamond for gold

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Shane Hanchey roped the 2020 National Finals Rodeo average championship, and that success has parlayed into a phenomenal 2021 regular season. He heads to his 12th straight NFR sitting No. 1 in the tie-down roping world standings.

Champion roper switched from baseball to rodeo and has reaped rewards

Shane Hanchey will be the first to say that rodeo wasn’t his sport of choice.

“Baseball was my first love,” said Hanchey, 32, originally from Sulphur, Louisiana, now living in Carmine, Texas, northwest of Houston. “I thought I was going to play baseball for a living for the longest time. Once I got Reata, that shifted my focus.”

He was just 16 or 17 years old when he met up with his once-in-a-lifetime horse, a smaller, blaze-face sorrel gelding that made life so good for so long. The horse came along about several years before Hanchey won the tie-down roping world championship for the first time in 2013, and he was the driving force behind most of Hanchey’s qualifications to the National Finals Rodeo.

Even today, just weeks before the start of the 2021 NFR, which will be his 12th straight. It’s been eight years since he strapped on that Montana Silversmiths gold buckle, and it’s about high time he does it again. He knows none of it would be possible without his little red soldier.

“This has probably been the best one year I’ve ever had,” said Hanchey, who heads to Las Vegas in December No. 1 in the tie-down roping world standings with $175,079. “I came into the NFR No. 1 in 2018, but they just released the back numbers (for this year); to have No. 2 hit me on how great of a year it really was. Only Stetson Wright won more money than I did.

“At the end of the day, all the money I won was in one event.”

That’s true. Wright is the reigning two-time all-around world champion who added a bull riding gold to his resume in 2020. He is second in the bull riding standings but No. 1 in the all-around and the saddle bronc riding races. But as single events go, Hanchey’s 2021 regular season may stand the test of time a little more.

He owns a lead of nearly $42,000 over the field, while Wright’s lead is just $11,000 over his older brother, two-time world champion Ryder Wright.

You see, Shane Hanchey has had great motivation since last December, when the NFR took place in Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. He placed seven of 10 nights, won the NFR average with a 10-run cumulative time of 83.1 seconds and walked away with nearly $144,000 in earnings in a short span.

Yet, he fell $2,400 short of his goal.

“Leaving the 10th round, even thought I was short of a gold buckle by a couple thousand dollars, I got a lot of confidence from it,” said Hanchey, a Cinch endorsee. “I proved to myself that I was back to where I wanted to be as far as timing and momentum at the National Finals. It carried into a pretty good winter. Winning The American (in 2021) drove the nail in it for me.

“Knowing you had the NFR made in March made it a lot less stressful for me. It gave me a lot of momentum and confidence that I just carried with me the rest of the season.”

The American offers a $100,000 payout to all winners, and half that counted toward the world standings. But the proof of a great season shows up in the financial records. Without that $50,000 windfall toward the money list, Hanchey still would have finished the regular season among the top five in the world standings.

Here’s how things have changed since he first turned pro 13 years ago. When he won the world title, he finished the year – including his NFR earnings – with $207,672. He’s less than $33,000 behind that total before this year’s finale begins. He could easily surpass his 2013 earnings by the second night of this year’s championship.

“Rodeo has elevated so much in the last seven or eight years,” he said. “It’s crazy to think winning a world title with that kind of money back then. That’s a good sign.

“Counting these big rodeos and letting the money count toward the standings, that makes it more pressure when you’re backing into the box for the final four round at The American, but it also makes it worth it all.”

Yes, the money is greatly different now than it was a decade ago. Rodeos like The American, RodeoHouston and the Calgary Stampede now count toward the world standings, while many other rodeos have increased their purses over time. It all adds up to a better way to make a living than rodeo allowed a decade ago.

Even then, Hanchey was among the upper-echelon of calf ropers. He’s worked hard to maintain that status, if not build upon it. At 5-foot-10, 150 pounds, he’s smaller than most of the guys who rope at his level, but he’s never let his size stop him. In fact, he’s focused his time on doing everything as right as possible to make sure he was at the top of his game, including his mental approach to roping.

“One of the best compliments I ever got was from (fellow tie-down roper) Blair Burk, and he made the NFR 14 times in his career,” Hanchey said. “What he told people was that my highs never got too high and my lows never get too low. I hope to take that with me my whole career. I don’t get too happy when it’s going great, and I don’t get down on myself when it’s not.

“I feel that’s part of the reason I’ve been able to consistently be in the top 10, top 15 in the world.”

It’s as good a reason as any. When he was a newcomer to ProRodeo, he competed against the stealthy veterans and took their money. As he’s aged and matured, he’s continued to be one of the men to beat any time he backs into the roping box.

But life has changed. He began dating the former Taylor Jacob six years ago, and the couple married this past April. She qualified for the NFR in barrel racing in 2013 and ’15, setting a Thomas & Mack Center record in her first trip to Las Vegas – that record has since been broken a few times.

She will return to Las Vegas in a different capacity – not only will she be Shane Hanchey’s wife, but she’ll also compete in the second National Finals Breakaway Roping.

“She didn’t set out the year wanting to make the National Finals,” he said. “She watched the breakaway finals in Arlington (last December) and thought it was really cool. When we got home from the NFR, she said, ‘I want to start roping again.’

“That turned into one thing after another. She started winning. Me having the season I had, I was able to let go of my good mare, Pam, and Taylor started on her on the Fourth of July. I told her she had a chance, but she didn’t really want to believe me until Salinas (California on the final weekend of the regular season).”

Meanwhile, Shane Hanchey is preparing to compete at the NFR for the 12th straight year. He’s come a long way since those days of fielding ground balls and throwing out runners.

“I just don’t think that if you would have seen me at the high school rodeos in 2006 or 2007 you would have thought this kid was going to make the NFR 12 straight years,” he said. “I never dreamed it was going to be 12 consecutive years. I am grateful and humble that I can keep doing this. When they think about the greatest calf ropers to ever come out of Louisiana, I hope I get mentioned. Being from Louisiana and being able to represent those kinds of cowboys sure means a lot to me.”


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