LAS VEGAS – Hardy Braden doesn’t have to look too far to find his bronc riding hero.
It’s his dad, Butch, who rode broncs professionally for a number of years before becoming a PRCA pickup man. Hardy Braden learned everything he knows about the game from his dad before furthering his education at both Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College and Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
Earlier this week, after failing to place in the sixth round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Braden reached out to his father for some advice. It has paid off in spades; he won Round 7 and finished fifth in the eighth round.
“I’d been sitting on my right foot a little bit and getting up in my saddle,” he said. “I called him just to verify what I had done. I take my binds up a half hole to make it a little tighter and to keep my foot from coming all the way up in the saddle.
“I asked him if that was the right decision to make and clarify what I was thinking. He agreed, and he mentioned that he thought that a couple rounds ago that I probably should have done that. Hee is always the one to call for me as far as advice or to justify my thinking.”
That’s because Butch Braden is his son’s trainer and coach and has been before the 28-year-old cowboy began riding bucking horses.
“He is my everything; he is my world,” the young Braden said.
His ride Thursday added $6,769 to his pocketbook, increasing his NFR take to $90,173.
“That is pretty unbelievable,” he said, noting that he might have to do something special for his family after the NFR concludes. “Everyone is getting special Christmas presents, I guess.”
He laughed a little, but he was serious. His family has been by his side since the beginning. While Dad serves as a pickup man, his mom, Tammy, is a PRCA timer who worked the NFR from 2013-15. He also has a sister, Tara, who has been beside her brother every step of the way.
On Thursday, he matched moves with Outlaw Buckers Rodeo’s OLS Tubs Magic Carpet for 84.5 points.
“I had seen t hat horse go; Sterling (Crawley) had it in the third round,” Braden said. “He told me what he did with the horse, and I was just trying to do the same day. She had a decent trip with Sterling, and I was just trying to match that.
“She tried a little harder than I was expecting. She almost ran me out of the back of the saddle.”
He stayed in the buggy and looked strong doing it, but he’s been doing it most of this year’s NFR. He has placed in six of eight rounds and pushed his earnings to $192,947. He sits fifth in the world standings and is excited to ride in the final two go-rounds.
After having so much success through the first eight nights, there’s no reason he wouldn’t be excited.