A special buckle

Local saddle bronc rider earns eighth World Championship

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Saddle bronc rider Wes Hertzog proved he still has it at the age of 51.

This year he did it by outriding both young and old.

"I didn't have anything special this year," said Hertzog, who turned 52 on Dec. 9. "I just rode well almost every time."

Hertzog added another notch to his belt with his eighth World Championship in the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association. This year he was first in three of the four go-rounds and won the average at the NSPRA nationals to take the title.

The NSPRA is a series of about 80 rodeos with the finale in Reno, Nev., Nov. 6-10.

"I didn't travel as much as I have in years past for the series," he said. "I just watched the standings and when someone was getting close, I would go to a few rodeos to keep my lead."

Hertzog won 18 rounds during the season and finished well ahead of his nearest competitor, Keith Chapman of Georgetown, Texas. The final point standings had Hertzog winning the title 1,165 to 770.

In saddle bronc riding there are two judges who look at two aspects of the ride. They judge the ability of the horse to buck and how well the rider holds on. The best score a rider can get is a 100, with 25 points for the bronc and 25 points for the ride from each judge.

While Hertzog was off earning his fourth consecutive world title, his daughter Robin Kitchen was giving birth to Thayne Wesley Kitchen.

"I couldn't be there because of the rodeo, and I knew they were thinking about naming him after me, so I had them make a belt buckle with his name on it so they couldn't change their minds," he said. "I hope that pacified my absence a little."

Today, Thayne's first buckle is displayed in his parent's living room.

"Maybe when I become too old to ride will be the day he can take over for me," Hertzog said.

That day seems distant for Hertzog. The rider who started learning the skill at 12 years old proved he can still compete against the youngest boys out there this year.

He won the Wyoming Rodeo Association championship with a second and first place in the two go-rounds of the rodeo. It was a competition that is open to all ages.

"It's harder to win against 10 old guys than 30 young bucks," Hertzog said. "Kids these days just don't know what it takes."

Hertzog has been playing with the idea of getting back into bull riding as well.

"I told my sponsor if he'd pay for it, I'd earn him a bull riding saddle (saddles are given out as prizes)," Hertzog said. "He said he'd think about it."

In 1995, Hertzog won the all- around award for the NSPRA by competing in more than one event. He has solely competed in saddle bronc since, but wouldn't mind going for another all-around title.

"I've got two more children who one day might have grandchildren to give buckles to," he said. "So I guess I've got to keep riding."

Despite all of his success, the cowboy doesn't give himself complete credit.

"I enjoy it more now as I get older because there is less pressure," he said. "You still have to be a little lucky every time you go out there."

The next season begins for the NSPRA in February in Arizona.

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com

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