Routt County rodeo star top 10 at National Western Stock Show |

Routt County rodeo star top 10 at National Western Stock Show

Hayden resident Keenan Hayes competes in the bareback riding event at the Steamboat Pro Rodeo in August 2021. Hayes, now 20, took ninth overall at the 2023 National Western Stock Show in Denver from Jan. 12-22.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

To kick off the thick of the winter rodeo season, Keenan Hayes, a 20-year-old bareback phenom from Hayden, competed in the National Western Stock Show in Denver from Jan. 12-22. 

Hayes’ score of 85.5 on his first run of the competition would prove to be the best of his four rides, and he followed that up with an 85 on the second go.

Following dominant performances in those first two rides to top the leaderboard, Hayes advanced to the semifinals where he scored 84 points to tie for sixth and stay in the money. However, Hayes said he was ultimately stuck with a horse that did not buck hard in the final round and only scored at 80.5 points for a ninth-place finish. 

“I really had to work for that 80 points, but I just did not quite pluck the best one out of the pen, and there’s a bunch of other horses out there that were a lot better than the one I got on,” Hayes said. “That’s just part of rodeo. You can’t always expect a horse to do what it’s supposed to every time.”

The horses are drawn for each competitor randomly through a computerized system with no horses riding in back-to-back nights, adding a dynamic of luck to the event. 

Previously, Hayes competed in Las Vegas for the 2022 Permit Members of the Year Challenge show in December, where he was tied for third after his first go-round at 78.5 points but did not score in his second ride.

The rodeo season slows down quite a bit in November and December but picks up for the National Western Stock Show each year. 

After his final ride in Denver, Hayes traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, for the Fort Worth Stock Show, where he will get back on a horse for competition starting Friday, Jan. 27. 

Though he was not thrilled with the final results from the National Western Stock Show, Hayes said he thinks it was a good start to 2023, and he hopes to get in the groove in Fort Worth. 

“I’m kind of used to it by now. It’s just our job at this point, so I just go in there and try to do my best and do my job,” Hayes said. “As long as my horse does its job and I do mine, it should work out.”

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