Life in the saddle on a top horse is required to be a top hand.
Troy Higgs of the Lonesome Pine Ranch at Cedar Point makes his living on horseback looking after Flint Hills cattle.
Experience knowing what to do working cattle has paid dividends for the 25-year-old cowboy.
Out of more than 100 of the best working cowboys in the world, Higgs is the Top Hand.
He was selected for the prestigious honor at the 25th annual Working Ranch Cowboy Association (WRCA) Finals in Amarillo, Texas. Higgs received a new horse trailer for the award.
“I was pleased to receive the recognition, but I’m more concerned about doing what’s best for our team,” Higgs emphasized.
With 19 teams qualified for the WRCA rodeo yearend competition, Higg’s Lonesome Pine Ranch placed fourth overall. “We didn’t have the most luck, but everybody worked together as a team,” Higgs assured.
Additional team members are his dad Bud, grandpa Frank, sister Makenzie, Bo Krueger and Travis Duncan. “We’ve been competing together in ranch rodeos throughout the year and work well together,” the Top Hand said.
Lonesome Pine qualified for this year’s finals by winning the Sandhills Championship Ranch Rodeo in Arthur, Nebraska, during the summer.
Teammates have multiple expectations for Troy Higgs as he does for himself. Perhaps not meeting those personal and team goals to the degree hoped the cowboy’s abilities ranked best among all riders.
He was designated as the ranch bronc rider for Lonesome Pine with determination to ride all three bucking horses. “I got bucked off my broncs last year, so my main objective was to make three qualified rides,” Higgs said.
Drawing a top bucking horse the first time out, Higgs marked 81 points. “My second bronc didn’t buck and I got a re-ride which turned out well. I was 81 points on him too,” the cowboy said.
On his final bucking horse, Higgs met his goal of three qualified ride. “That bronc ran off so I marked 68 points, and that kept me from winning the event,” Higgs said. “I was still pleased to make the whistle on all of my draws.”
Roping is an important part of cowboy work and Higgs was designated his team’s main roper as well.
“There were 12 head of cattle for me to rope during the whole rodeo,” he said. “My goal was to throw only 12 loops, but I missed three loops in the branding. I ended up throwing 15 loops total, but fortunately got everything roped.”
A special highlight for the cowboy was his sister Makenzie heeling for him in the stray gathering. “I was so proud that she caught all three steers I turned back for her. That really made me proud of Makenzie,” Higgs credited.
Horsepower is essential for a top cowboy. “I am fortunate to have an outstanding horse called Grasshopper,” Higgs said. “He was raised by my grandpa and works well in all events even cutting out cattle in the sorting event.
“Grandpa has been raising top Quarter Horses for more than 50 years which keeps us well mounted,” Higgs added.
In everyday life, Higgs is real working cowboy. “We have about 200 stock cows and look after summer grazing cattle for several different owners,” Higgs said. “I also keep busy doing day work for cattlemen over a wide area as well as training ranch horses.
“We use our horses a lot, doctoring in the pasture when needed, dragging calves to the branding fire,” he noted. “The more you work a horse the better he becomes.”
Beachner Brothers Livestock, Parsons, placed third overall at the WRCA Finals. The team had qualified for competition there by winning the Kansas Championship Ranch Rodeo at Medicine Lodge.
Champion WRCA Finals team was represented by Jolly Ranch / S&L Cattle Company of Lamar and Agate, Colorado. Second went to the Thompson Ranch of Munday, Texas.
Runner-up for the Top Hand Award was Colton Jackson riding for Smith Cattle Company of Channing, Texas.