“Top Hands” make a championship team.
That’s true of any sport, but it was again verified when the Lonesome Pine Ranch from Cedar Point won the recent silver anniversary Kansas Championship Ranch Rodeo at Medicine Lodge.
“It takes some luck, but top cowboys riding top horses working together are essential to win a ranch rodeo. Every team at Medicine Lodge was tough, without question, and can certainly win in their own given day,” emphasized Bud Higgs, team captain of his largely-family Lonesome Pine team headquartered in Chase County.
While every team member carries “Top Hand” credentials and has collected such or similar titles numerous times previously, bronc rider Christ Potter was officially honored as the “Top Hand” at the recent Kansas Championship Ranch Rodeo.
“Chris lives at Maple City, but he’s worked for us a long time riding colts and doing day work. While he won the bronc riding for us at the state finals, Chris is an all-around cowboy. He heeled cattle that were headed, mugged our wild cow and sorted out the right number in the sorting. Chris definitely is a top hand,” Higgs credited.
Likewise, Higgs himself has received a number of cowboy versatility recognitions over the past decade, and his son, Troy, a high school senior and star quarterback, was named the all-around cowboy at an earlier ranch rodeo.
The only cowgirl on the team, Higgs’ daughter Mackenzie has been captain of several Lonesome Pine Ranch teams winning top honors at Youth Ranch Rodeos this summer.
Involved in ranch operations with his son, Franklin Higgs, Valley Center, has raised many top Quarter Horses and shown them to state and national championships.
It is notable that all four Higgs’ members of the Lonesome Pine Ranch team ride home raised and trained mounts that go back several generations of their own unique bloodlines.
Brian Peak grew up in Chase County, now lives at Dexter, and rides horses and does day work for the Lonesome Pine Ranch. “Brian is truly an all-around cowboy who can take over in every event when the need arises,” Higgs applauded.
En route to the state title, Lonesome Pine Ranch won the cattle doctoring and wild cow milking events, along with the bronc riding.
“We were close in the team penning, coming in second, and ended up seventh in the branding; that was our only weakness,” Higgs contended.
Just about any other year, Lonesome Pine Ranch would have been most excited to be state champions, because the winner becomes qualified to enter the 18th Working Ranch Cowboys Association World Championship Ranch Rodeo, November 7-10, Amarillo, Texas.
“We’re proud to win this tough rodeo with 12 top teams competing, but fortunately we had already qualified for the world championship by winning the Meade Ranch Rodeo earlier in the year. So, the second place Arndt-Bailey team automatically moved up and became qualified to compete at Amarillo, which makes us happy for them, too,” Higgs said.
The Arndt Ranch and Bailey Ranch team from Lyon and Chase counties includes Ryan Arndt, Mike Arndt, Josh Lilly, Wes Bailey, Glen Collinge and Richell Bailey.
Winning the calf branding event, the Robbins Ranch and Massey Company from Chase and Greenwood counties came in third overall, with Adrian Vogel, Billy Lauer, Grady Gibb, Colt Massey and Jason Gibson as cowboy members
Ranking first in the team penning event, Lazy B Ranch and Huseman Ranch of Ellsworth County placed fourth overall, with Eric Bohl, Scott Bohl, Austin Rathbun, Mark Huseman, Clayton Huseman, and Cole George as the riders
Coming in fifth was the team representing the KW Cattle and Diamond E Ranch including Nathan Wells, Jeff Madison, Coy Hyer, Kolby Stock, Andy Eck, and Travis Duncan.
Top Horse Award from the American Quarter Horse Association went to QR I’ll Be Red Now, owned and ridden by T.J. Haden of the Haden Ranch.
Entering five WRCA competitions and another half-dozen open ranch rodeos this year, winning is far from new for the Lonesome Pine Ranch.
“This is the tenth year we’ve qualified for the World Championship Ranch Rodeo. This is our year to win it; we’ve been as high as third there before. Our team works so well together increasing our chances for a championship. Chris is sure capable of winning the bronc riding, too; he’s hard to get bucked off,” Higgs calculated.
“Our confidence is pretty high,” Higgs added.
Like his team members, Chris Potter is a lifetime cowboy living in the saddle as his profession. “I’ve worked for several ranches, and been on a number of ranch rodeo teams. I ride the broncs,” said Potter, who’s only been bucked off one bronc this year.
“He knocked me out, and they had to take me to the hospital, but I was back at that rodeo in time to compete in the last event,” Potter quickly added.
Getting bucked back off hasn’t happened often in the past 14 years. “I must have been on more than 150 broncs. I went five years without ever being thrown. I’ve bucked off a total of six times, and was knocked unconscious on two of them,” said Potter, who generally represents his ranch rodeo teams in that event and also enters the ranch bronc riding event at other rodeos.
Never deterred when he doesn’t win an event, Potter, 33, evaluated, “Stuff will happen. I forget about the previous ride and go on. I intend to keep right on riding the broncs, hopefully longer than some of my tough competitors, and some of them are quite a bit older than I am.”
With the most recent “Top Hand” addition, seven trophy saddles have been collected in his cowboy career, and Potter continues to prove his all-around ability by the horse he rides, and the horses he trains.
“Brownie has been my steady mount for the last four years. He works well in every event. My wife, Amy, and our kids ride in rodeos, too, and it’s my job to keep them mounted,” said Potter, who has trained a number of horses, including those for Lonesome Pine, but most of them these days are for family use.
Being a contestant at seven World Championship Ranch Rodeos, Potter was on the winning Sweetwater/Tom Drummond Ranch team in 2009.
“I’d sure like to help make this a repeat win for me and a first for the Lonesome Pine Ranch. I’m most optimistic we will do it,” Potter analyzed.