Doing Cowboy Stuff: Lemmon Livestock Ranch Rodeo Team Wins at Black Hills Stock Show
Cash Hetzel, Eli Lord, Colby Hetzel and Austin Visser took home the top prize at the Black Hills Stock Show Ranch Rodeo in Rapid City on February 1, 2022.
Not unlike real ranch work, ranch rodeos happen in all kinds of weather, sometimes in the rain, wind or heat; this time in the cold.
“It was pretty cold when I saddled my horse Tuesday morning for the prelims,” Colby Hetzel said.
The cold weather kept their sponsor, Paul Huffman, away, but he said that after the win, he won’t be likely to miss another performance.
“I probably haven’t missed it in twenty some years, but that morning when I was headed out it was so cold and windy that I decided to stay home,” Huffman said. “But their win was a pretty good deal; I won’t miss it again!”
Lemmon Livestock has been sponsoring the team for about two years, although Cash Hetzel said they have competed in a few Ranch Rodeos over the last four or five years. They mainly spend their time at area ropings and rodeos in the summer months and working at Lemmon Livestock, as well as doing ranch work year round.
“When we brand in the spring or gather in the fall, Austin, Colby and Cash are usually out helping at the ranch,” Huffman said. “They all sort at the sale barn and work there four or five days a week.”
Cowboying and roping keep their talents sharp even though they don’t compete in very many ranch rodeos.
“We might go to one or two per year,” Cash said. “We’re mainly just cowboys. Eli and I rodeo quite a bit in the summer and all four of us are team ropers. Eli has also been in the top twenty in the world in bulldogging a couple of times.”
The four men competed Tuesday morning in the preliminary round, placing seventh out of the forty-four teams that entered. The top twelve teams contested in the finals that evening in front of the crowd at the James Kjerstad Event Center in Rapid City, and when the dust settled the Lemmon Livestock cowboys had managed to come away with first place. Austin Visser’s horse was also named Top Horse after the event.
Colby Hetzel said that their horses are just as much, if not more, a vital part of the team as their human partners. All four do some of the training of their mounts.
Austin Visser’s big bay gelding Moby won Top Horse at the event.
Cash rides ‘Hillbilly,’ a gelding he’s been hauling to ropings for a while. Colby rides a horse he calls Big Cat.
“He’s pretty wild,” Cash said, “But he’s really good at this event.
Eli rode the only mare in the group.
“Her name is Harmony,” Cash said. “He got her when she was a yearling and did all the work with her himself. She’s pretty nice!”
Colby said that the training they do with their own horses helps to build a great partnership.
“When you’re on the same page with your horse it makes everything a lot easier,” he said.
The BHSS Ranch Rodeo consisted of four separate scoring events. The Lemmon Livestock team scored second in the Trailer Loading, fifth in Rope, Mug and Tie, first in Head, Heel and Brand, and Cash Hetzel rode his first ranch bronc to bring them in at fifth place in the Bronc Ride. Not every Ranch Rodeo includes a bronc ride, so this was an added element of suspense for the team.
“It’s the first one he’s ever crawled onto,” Colby said. “This is the only one we’ve had to ride a bronc at, so we were pretty nervous about how it would go.”
“We were all pretty amped up about it,” Cash said. “I got him covered and got out unscathed, but it was kind of fifty/fifty how it would go!”
“It’s pretty fun; we mostly just prepare by doing what we do on the ranch,” Colby said. “Ranch Rodeo takes a lot of skill, but there is a lot of luck involved in how it all turns out.”
Thanks to this year’s win, the Lemmon Livestock team has an automatic invitation to compete in the finals of the 2023 BHSS Ranch Rodeo.
“We get to go defend our title,” Cash said. “It was a pretty big win and we all had a good time. It was a cool deal.”
With mere seconds being the difference between first place and lower scores in each event, well honed skills played a big part in the team’s win.
“We all have a pretty good sense of competition, Cash said. “We all compete in rodeo and ropings, and just do a lot of everyday work at the ranch. Ranch Rodeo is a cowboy event and we all like doing cowboy stuff.”
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