Teen lassos the competition to nationals

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Tanner Kane, 17, of Huntingburg, ropes a calf while practicing his rodeo skills at Coyote Creek Ranch in Boonville on Monday.


When Tanner Kane went to his first rodeo, he thought he was just going to watch.

“My grandpa has always had horses for as long as I can remember and I just love the horses,” Tanner, 17, said. “My mom took me to a junior rodeo one day and the guy who ran the whole thing told me, ‘Well, you can’t just sit there and watch. You have to get up and do it.’”

Tanner fell instantly in love with the rodeo and has continued competing for the past 11 years.

The Southridge High School junior from Huntingburg has earned a spot on the Kentucky National High School rodeo team and will travel to Rock Springs, Wyoming, July 14-20 to compete in the 71st annual National High School Finals Rodeo.

See a gallery of photos here.

Tanner’s mother, Brandy Kane, said he and his older brother, Austin 19, enjoyed watching rodeos when they were little and decided to go to one. His father is Shawn Kane.

Tanner and Austin eventually started training by learning how to rope on dummies and riding on ponies. Tanner’s younger sister, Addyson 12, also competes in rodeos.

Tanner Kane, 17, of Huntingburg, flanks a calf, a move to position the calf on the ground in order to tie the legs, while practicing at Coyote Creek Ranch in Boonville on Monday.

Tanner has been calf roping for about seven years, four of those with his horse, Blackjack, who he picked up in Arkansas. Calf roping, also known as tie-down roping, is a rodeo event that features a calf and a person riding on a horse. The objective is to catch the calf by throwing a loop of rope around the calf’s neck. The rider then dismounts the horse, runs to the calf and ties all four of its legs together in as short amount of time as possible. Once the rider raises his hands after tieing the calf, the time is stopped.

Kane said Blackjack had worked with kids in high school and college rodeos, so he had some experience before working with Tanner.

“When we first started all this, I thought a horse is a horse,” Brandy said. “Just get on a horse and do what you have to do with it.”

Calf-roping horses are uniquely trained to hold nearly 110 pounds of pressure on the rope to the calf at all times, according to Tanner. He said Blackjack can hold over 170 pounds of pressure, meaning he can hold larger cattle.

“You’re a team with your horse,” he said. “He’s my No. 1 supporter. He takes care of me and I take care of him.”

The finals rodeo features more than 1,500 competitors from all over the United States and five provinces in Canada, Mexico and Australia.

Tanner said he will face more than 200 contestants in the calf-roping competition. This will be his first time competing in the finals.

“It shows me that maybe I can make it in the world of professional rodeo one day as long as I keep my head screwed on the right way and do what other people are trying to teach me,” he said. “As long as I keep working hard and believing in myself, I can make it to where I want to be one day.”

Tanner Kane, 17, of Huntingburg, attempts to rope his sister, Addyson, 12, after practicing at Coyote Creek Ranch in Boonville on Monday.

He is competing with the Kentucky team because it’s a closer drive to the rodeos as most of the rodeos in Indiana are in the northern part of the state.

Before he started calf roping, Tanner rode miniature rough stock for about four years. Rough stock includes bulls and horses. He said he decided to stop riding because he got kicked in the head “a few too many times.”

“This is just a lot more enjoyable when you can actually get up the next morning and not feel like your whole body is trashed,” he said. “You can get up and go do it again.”

The only injury he has sustained since switching to calf roping was hyperextension in his left knee.

Tanner has competed in more than 200 rodeos, attending anywhere from two to four every month. He practices a couple times a week, more recently at Coyote Creek Ranch, a family-owned ranch of 30 years located just outside of Boonville. Before practicing at the Coyote Creek Ranch, Tanner occassionaly practiced at Jeff and Jamie Hartfield’s ranch in Charlestown, Indiana, but would mostly practice on plastic dummies.

Kody Williams, the owner of Coyote Creen Ranch, met Tanner in March through a mutual friend and is helping him prepare for the national competition.

Tanner said Kody, his mother and grandfather have been a huge help in him being able to compete at a high level. His grandfather keeps Blackjack at his house and helps take care of him.

“My grandpa has built me the dummies out of PVC pipe and barrels and they’ve always done what they can to help me out,” Tanner said. “The Southern Indiana Junior Rodeo has been a big part of it, too. All the judges there will stop and help you.”

The national competition will include three rounds in the tie-down with the top 20 ropers going to the final round, called the short-go.

In order to make it to the short-go, Tanner said he will have to do better than his best time of 11.12 seconds, tying down cattle in about 10 or 9 seconds.

“That’s just how it works,” he said. “One millisecond could either qualify you or send you home.”

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