Slow Build: 13-Time NFR Tie-Down Roper Hunter Herrin Takes Round 8
Hunter Herrin has hit his stride at the 2023 NFR, roping in the mid-7-second range in the last three rounds and finally winning his first go-round in Round 8.
Hunter Herrin strikes in Round 8 with a 7.4-second run.
Hunter Herrin strikes in Round 8 with a 7.4-second run. Photo by Jamie Arviso

Following a hit-or-miss start to his 13th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Hunter Herrin struck in Round 8, roping in 7.4 seconds and earning $30,706.

“I got a good start but it probably wasn’t the best neck loop I’ve ever thrown,” Herrin, 39, said. “But I knew it was going on the neck, I wasn’t getting ears tonight. I knew then that if I got her flanked, she was really good.”

Calf #2 was one Tuf Cooper went 7.6 seconds on in Round 2 and Cory Solomon figure-eighted the tail on in Round 5. Herrin prioritized nailing the barrier—something he said had kept him out of the money earlier in the week.

“I’ve been late a lot this year,” Herrin said. “I haven’t been able to practice on my little horse as much because we’ve got him feeling good. He’s as sound as he’s been in a year, so I bet I didn’t run 10 calves on him before I came. I’ve just been riding younger horses and roping.”

That horse is Gunpowder Spookster, known as “Dinero.” At 11 years old, the former turnback horse accompanied Herrin to the 2022 NFR, where the also won Round 8 with a 7.2-second run.

pedigree tree for 2011 Quarter Horse Gunpowder Spookster

Fixing a late start

Herrin explained he and Dinero’s timing was off in the box, leading them to lurch at the barrier instead of breaking flat.

“The first five rounds I couldn’t even throw my rope and hit the barrier, I’ve been so late,” Herrin said. “And it’s hard to catch the calves when they get down to the end and start ducking and diving.”

To remedy this, Herrin prioritized Dinero standing quietly in the corner, swapped out his bit for one the gelding could push on more and left the corner early—floating the barrier.

“I’ve watched the best do it, and they will break a barrier here before they’re late,” Herrin said.

The strategy has been working, with the team consistently earning mid-7-second times in the last three rounds.

Hunter Herrin’s NFR record

Round 1Round 2Round 3Round 4Round 5Round 5Round 6Round 7Round 8
9.2No Time7.523.516.

Tips for beating the early-week blues

With 13 NFR qualifications under his belt, Herrin knows what it’s like to start 10 days of rodeo off on a sluggish note—and how to overcome it.

“You’ve got to get the start, have your tip down and the rest comes easier if you don’t beat yourself flanking and tying,” Herrin said. “Others may beat you, but you’re not going to beat yourself—you’re going to give yourself an opportunity.”

He gave a shoutout to NFR rookie Beau Cooper, who’s had a tough go at his first NFR, missing the money in each round.

“Beau ropes so good—the Houston deal and then he wins Calgary,” Herrin said. “He deserves to be here.”

For the final two nights, Herrin is hoping to surpass $100K in NFR earnings, not counting the $10,000 each athlete is awarded for qualifying. He has $25,050 to go and aims to finish No. 3 in the next two go-rounds, much like his friend Caleb Smidt.