For many cowboys, the hardest ride to make is the one closest to home.
For Todd Herzog, not so much.
The Penhold saddle bronc specialist made the most of his opportunity to show his talent to friends and family Thursday night at the Daines Ranch Rodeo.
Mind you, he had a little help in that department, from a sassy brown mare of the Calgary Stampede herd called Lynx Mountain.
She did exactly what she was supposed to do for eight seconds, and so did Herzog, and 87.5 points later, the lead in the event was in new hands.
“When I saw I had Lynx Mountain here, I was pretty darn excited,” said the 29-year-old.
“I was the first guy on that horse in the open bronc riding, when they first cracked her out at the Calgary Stampede back in 2006. That was the only time I’ve ever got to draw her, and I had a really good ride on her that day, and I’ve always wanted to get on her again since. I’m just glad it’s at a big rodeo like this one. She’s still a cowboy’s dream, that horse.”
And that’s exactly why bronc riders picked her as the best horse of the year in Canada in 2009.
Herzog couldn’t have hand picked a better selection for his hometown show.
“It feels pretty good doing well here. I’ve grown up around here in Penhold. We used to live just about five miles down the road from the ranch here.
“I grew up coming to this rodeo all the time, and I was just thinking about it before I got on, remembering when we were kids. When you start out riding broncs, I remember looking at the draws before the rodeo, and trying to pick out all the guys you think were going to win the rodeo. There’s a lot of guys that looked at my draw here, and figured I would have it. It’s kind of fun being here now, and having a chance to do well.”
There are several reasons novice cowboys and sport watchers would have had this combination starred in their programs as the one to beat. Herzog claimed second place last year at Innisfail. He came within a jump or two of winning his first Canadian championship at the finals in Edmonton last November. And he’s sitting number one in the Canadian standings this season, with a $1,700 jump on the next closest cowboy.
There’s a lot of rodeo left between now and Sunday, when they hand out the beautiful Ross Contway bronze and trophy buckle to the champion — It was Ross Contway who also presented one of his handcrafted bronzes to Jack Daines in honor of his 50th rodeo. But Herzog admits, if his mark holds up on top, it would mean a lot.
“That bronze is such a beautiful trophy, and the buckle, and being the 50th anniversary this year and everything, it’s pretty special to do well this year. I sure hope I hold up for it, but best of luck to everybody else that comes. There’s a lot of guys left that have good draws too, so you never know what’s going to happen.”
Herzog is enjoying his seat at the top of the standings. It’s a far cry from too many years in his career when he would get momentum building, and then find himself having to recover from a serious injury.
“This year’s been great. I’ve been drawing good, and it’s good to finally feel healthy and be in shape, and having a chance to actually show what you can do all year long. Knock on wood, I hope I stay healthy for the rest of the year and have a shot at everything.”
But doing so well at rodeo presents some dilemmas for the working cowboy. He has a paying job as an instrumentation technician for Total Controls, which he doesn’t want to abandon. Fortunately, the company has been supportive of his rodeo efforts.
“It’s pretty nice having that kind of backing. You’ve got something to fall back on.”
Herzog’s other big backer is his Mom, and she was excited about Todd’s ride at the Ranch.
“I heard her screaming down at the end of arena after I rode,” he chuckled. “She’s been one of my biggest supporters my whole life, and it’s pretty nice to have her around.”
Kelly Timberman’s lead was safe in the bareback riding, at 88 points, and Devon Mezei remains on top in bull riding, with his 86.5. The only cowboy to make the whistle Thursday night was Tanner Girletz, of Cereal, who was 83.5 to move into second.
The pace in the timed events speeded up. In the steer wrestling, Lucas Parker of Marwayne is fastest, with 4.5 seconds. Logan Hofer of Magrath might be one cowboy who hopes some of the rain he’s getting at home might come Innisfail’s way, since he’s leading the tie-down roping now with a 7.9 second run.
“I knew my calf was going to be a little bit slower,” commented Hofer. “So I saw my start, and just went and got him. I’m hoping it doesn’t get much faster here, but I imagine it’s going to get a little faster.”
Brett Buss of Ponoka and his heeler Mike Beers from Oregon turned in the fastest team roping run of the night at six seconds flat, but that means Justin Davis and Jake Stanley are still in front with 5.3 seconds. Rylee McKenzie of St. Paul is the barrel racing leader with a time of 15.72 seconds.
Bailey Hlus of Innisfree leads steer riding with 76.5; Cole Goodine of Carbon has an outstanding 83 on top in novice bareback; with Coleman Watt of Hardisty leading novice saddle bronc at 69.5.
Action continues tonight at 7 p.m. at the Daines Ranch, with two performances Saturday, at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., and the final performance Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.