There is a buzz in the stands, accompanied by the electronic chortling of the announcers over the loudspeakers.
The horse shifts its weight in anticipation. The cowboy clamps a rope firmly between his teeth and waits.
The serenity erupts into a flurry of hide, hair, rope and dirt.
The entirety of the execution is under 10 seconds.
There are only a handful of men in the world who have perfected the tie down, a highly technical multi-faceted athletic event. One of them resides in the Lake Area.
Shane Hanchey, a Sulphur native, has been on a tear in the professional rodeo circuit the last few years. The lanky 23-year-old has become a mainstay in the tie-down rankings and finished last season at fifth in the world.
Hanchey, currently ranked No. 26, has continued his hot streak this year despite considerable obstacles.
Hanchey’s horse, Smokin Reata, came down with colic before the season began and had to undergo surgery. It was six months before Reata, a two-time American Quarter Horse Association Horse of the Year runner-up, was back on its feet.
In that time,Hanchey was in good hands. Clint Cooper, Hanchey’s friend, lent him a horse. It was atop Sweetness, a three-time AQHA Horse of the Year winner, that Hanchey captured this year’s National Western Stock Show Rodeo championship in January, along with $11,000.
“I got it kicked off this year better than most,” Hanchey said. “But I kind of hit a wall lately.”
However, what Hanchey sees as a slump would be a banner year for most cowboys.
“I say I’m in a slump,” Hanchey said. “But I won $22,000 last week. Not many people can say they are in a slump after winning $22,000 in a week. But I need to keep rolling toward the national finals.”
Hanchey took the prize money last weekend at the Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Along with negotiating much of his schedule without his normal ride, Hanchey has had to get through the past weeks without his biggest fan. His grandmother, Lola McBride, passed away less than a month ago.
“I wouldn’t say it has been a distraction,” he said. “It’s more of a motivational thing. She was my biggest fan ... she still is. I just know now that I ride for her. I represent her and my family. So I’ve got to stick to working hard.”
If there were ever anything in question about Hanchey, it was not his work ethic. Now in the heart of the season, cowboys, including Hanchey, are scrambling to ride at every possible opportunity, hoping to climb the ladder in the standings.
Hanchey’s schedule as of late has been hectic. In the 10 days before his appearance in Calgary, he rode in 10 cities, seven states and two countries.
Asked if his schedule would slack off at all on the road to the National Finals Rodeo in December, Hanchey scoffed. “I can’t slow down now,” he said.
“September 30 is pretty much the end of the season and I’m in no state, in terms of the world rankings, to slow down. I’ve got to hammer down and get to as many (rodeos) as I can,” he explained.
For the foreseeable future, Hanchey will hit the road hard. Within the next 10 days he is scheduled to ride in Salinas, Calif., Ogden, Utah, Cheyenne, Wyo., Fork, Utah, and Helena, Mont.