Duke Hanson in the National High School Finals Rodeo
Tue., July 19, 2022
Hanson prepares for a bareback ride in a recent rodeo. (photo Courtesy of Jennifer Hanson)
This week, Spokane Valley teenager Duke Hanson is going on the biggest ride of his life. He’s competing in bareback horse riding at the National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyoming.
Rodeo is in Hanson’s blood. His mother, Jennifer Hanson, grew up on the circuit.
“I got started in rodeo when I was really young,” he said. “My parents started bringing me to rodeos when I was only about knee high to a grasshopper.”
Hanson, a junior at East Valley High School, got his start in rodeo riding steers, then bulls, and now bareback horses.
Although being on the back of a bucking horse with nothing but a leather rigging – Hanson described it as a “suitcase handle” – might seem intimidating to some, Hanson loves the experience.
“It feels pretty good when you get out there and you know you’re having a good ride,” he said. “It makes you feel free.”
Hanson’s fearlessness doesn’t keep his mom from worrying about him when he’s in the ring.
“I’ve been known to hold my breath until he hits the ground,” she said.
But she’s able to keep her eyes open enough to photograph his rides.
“It helps to be looking through the camera lens rather than live,” she said.
The 16-year-old said he felt good going into his first ride Monday, but his time in the arena ended early when he made a mistake out of the gate. His feet were too low on the horse, violating the mark-out rule and causing his ride to be disqualified.
“I was excited at first,” he said. “But then I was a little nervous when I got out there and realized my mistake.”
Despite his challenges on Monday, Hanson is ready to get back in the saddle – more accurately, back in the place where a saddle would usually sit. He rides bareback again on Friday.
“Right now, I’m probably most excited for my next horse,” he said.
His initial disqualification isn’t enough to get any of the Hansons’ spirits down.
“We always tell him to ride hard,” said Jennifer Hanson. “But we also tell him to have fun.”
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