Turnback Horse Turned Calf Horse Becomes NFR Round Winner with Hunter Herrin 
Hunter Herrin at the 2022 NFR tie-down roping.
Hunter Herrin at the 2022 NFR. Image by Jamie Arviso Photography.

By: Lillian Kent

Hunter Herrin overcame tough cattle and a bout of flu to clinch the National Finals Rodeo Round 8 victory with a 7.2-second run.

The Apache, Oklahoma, veteran is competing in his 12th NFR, and the $28,914 payday felt like just another day at the office.

“Rodeo is a sport where you have to show up whether you’re sick or not,” Herrin said. “In other sports, you can sit out and still get paid, and we don’t have that luxury.” 

Well-Seasoned Win 

Herrin was confident in the calf he drew in Round 8. His friend, past NFR qualifier Trent Walls, advised he throw a sharp neck loop and be aggressive with his slack to make use of the calf.  

“That lets my little horse finish more and keep things tight,” Herrin explained. “He popped around on a tight rope, and it was a string, two wraps and a hooey.” 

At 38, Herrin is the oldest in the field of calf ropers. The wear and tear on his body from the sport led to two hip surgeries that put him out from 2017-2019. 

“You come back after two hip surgeries and never really know if you’d get to the same level to compete with these young guys,” Herrin said. “It’s hard work, determination, good people in your corner and a good traveling partner in (fellow NFR qualifier) Tyler Milligan. If it weren’t for him, I really wouldn’t be able to do it.” 

A Cut Above  

10-year-old gelding Gunpowder Spookster, or “Dinero,” has had several jobs in life spanning from turn back horse to babysitter to round-winning calf horse. Purchased from cutting horse trainer Tarin Rice late in 2021, Herrin and Dinero have had to take on the rodeo trail together.  

“He was good, and we really liked him,” Rice said. “I’d just bought him to make some money and sell him. I was turning back on him, and my daughter started riding him.” 

Abilene, Texas, calf horse trainer Logan Harkey ended up with the horse, and he put in the work that helped the horse develop into the superstar he is today. Harkey showed the horse at the AQHA World Show, winning the first round of the 2021 AQHA Senior Tie-Down Roping on the horse before selling him to Herrin.

“But he’d never been to a rodeo—I rode him at [Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo] for the first time this year,” Herrin explained. “He’d been in a lot of cutting arenas and stuff, but rodeo-wise, everything he’s seen was the first time.” 

According to Herrin, Dinero makes it easy to do his job with the long rope and if he misses, it’s his own fault.

Dinero may be rock-solid during a run, but that doesn’t mean Herrin’s NFR experience was drama-free. When Herrin pulled Dinero out before Round 7, the gelding was sore on three out of four feet. Outlaw Equine’s Dr. Josh Harvey determined he had abscesses causing the lameness.

“They spent countless hours packing [feet] and unpacking,” Herrin said. “It’s all Josh.” 

Thanks to Harvey’s care, Dinero felt good enough to make the winning run for Herrin the following night.

World Standings 

The top spots in the world standings and aggregate race remained unchanged following Round 8, with reigning world champion, Caleb Smidt leading both, while Shad Mayfield and Cory Solomon held the second-place spots for the world championship and aggregate championship, respectively.  

Tonight, Resistol Rookie of the Year Riley Webb was unable to keep his catching-streak going, effectively taking him out of the aggregate race. Both Herrin and Webb dropped out of the average thanks to the same calf.

“We’ve had a tough set of calves,” Herrin said. “They were tough last night and some tonight have been tough. That’s a bummer, but, especially here when you’ve worked all year to get here and you get your draw and you know you don’t have a shot. It starts with the higher ups in the organization to change that, and I’ve been coming here since 2006 and they’ve done less and less to make it better. They’ve pretty much told us as calf ropers to deal with it.” 

Currently, Smidt leads the world with $300,587 in total earnings after catching a fourth-place check worth $12,125 in Round 8. Mayfield trails with $269,936 in total earnings, but moved from seventh to fourth place in the aggregate standings after a time of 8.6 earned him a sixth-place check of $4,664. 

NFR Round 8 Tie-Down Roping Payout

1$28,913.70Hunter Herrin7.2
2$22,851.95Zack Jongbloed7.6
3$17,254.95Tuf Cooper7.8
4$12,125.10Caleb Smidt8
5$7,461.60Cory Solomon8.5
6$4,663.50Shad Mayfield8.6