14-year-old Cinch Heikel helps dad pickup at Nebraska high school rodeos
for Tri-State Livestock News
The acorn, it is said, doesn’t fall far from the tree, and that’s the case in the Heikel household.
Lance and Marti Heikel, of Hazard, Neb., are raising three kids: two cowboys, Cinch, age 14, and Riggin, who is 11, and a cowgirl, Emma, age 7.
And Cinch is following in his dad’s footsteps.
Lance is a well-known pickup man, having worked Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and regional rodeos across the country, starting with Steve Sutton in Onida, S.D., then moving on to Jim Korkow in Pierre, S.D., Bennie Beutler in Oklahoma, and on from there.
Now his son is helping him out in the rodeo arena.
Cinch, a freshman in high school, helped his dad pick up at Nebraska high school rodeos this fall. He, Lance, and fellow pickup man Justin Boots, also a stock contractor, were in the arena for six rodeos.
It’s nothing new for Cinch. He and the entire family have traveled with Lance as he picked up at pro rodeos, then regional rodeos in the Nebraska State Rodeo Association. He’s watched his dad pick up, and “he’s been cooling off pickup horses since he was 5,” Lance said. To cool off a pickup horse correctly, Lance said, “you’re supposed to go out into the parking lot and make big circles. The more air you can get to them, the better it is.” But his boys didn’t necessarily do that. “They didn’t get very far away,” he said, because if they were too far away, they wouldn’t get to see all the action.
Cinch has a lot of the skills that picking up requires. “He has some cow savvy and horse savvy, and he’s already becoming a cowboy,” his dad said. Being a good cowboy is the biggest part to being a good pickup man. “That’s mainly what picking up is,” Lance said. “You look at the good pickup men around the country, and most of them were good cowboys way before they were good pickup men.”
Cinch and Riggin are good horsemen. The Heikel place has twelve head of geldings, and Cinch’s good team roping horse and tie-down horse are also pickup horses. “I think it makes a better cowboy out of you, if you’re riding several different horses,” Lance said. The horses are multi-purpose, serving as ranch horses, rodeo horses and pickup horses. His boys can ride every horse on the place. The only horse he and Marti are picky about is for their daughter, Emma. She has Down Syndrome but the Heikels treat her no differently than they treat their sons.
Having good horsepower for two pickup men can be a challenge, however. Lance and Cinch each have three pickup horses per rodeo, and with a trailer for six, they’ve got the outfit full.
Cinch wrapped up the season this fall at the North Platte high school rodeo in September. Boots wasn’t there, so it was just father and son in the arena, and Cinch did well. Not only did he pick up a few cowboys, but he was able to get the hack rein, the back cinches and the flank straps off bucking horses. “He’s been watching,” Lance said. “You always get on them to pay attention. I think he actually has been.”
Cinch also competes in high school rodeo, tie-down roping and heading for Hunter Heath of Minden, Neb. It doesn’t give him much time to goof off at rodeos, but he doesn’t mind. And his horses are usually warmed up, because he picks up off his roping horses. He may ride saddle broncs some day, but not yet. His dad would like his boys to grow a bit before they get on bucking horses. And Cinch may yet change his mind. Instead of one adrenaline rush at a rodeo with one ride, he gets a whole bunch of them, helping many bareback and saddle bronc riders safely to the ground. “I kind of like picking up more than I would riding them,” he said.
JACK OF ALL TRADES
The Heikel kids know how to work; their parents have given them chores and jobs since they were little. And if they get the rodeo bug, which they might, Lance has advice for his boys. “I told them a long time ago, you need to learn how to shoe horses, pick up broncs, and float teeth. If you’re going to rodeo for a living, and the rodeo isn’t working out, you can still make a living.”
Cinch got his start roping bulls in the practice pen and at rodeos, and Riggin is doing the same. He wants to pick up, as well, Lance said. “He’ll be right behind Cinch,” he said. “He eats it up.” Riggin got kicked in the leg this summer while picking up in the practice pen, and “that opened his eyes,” Lance said. “He figured out it’s not all fun and games. It can be tough on you, but that’s part of being a cowboy.”
Cinch is not the first high school kid that has picked up for Boots, whose stock contracting company provides the bucking horses for some of the Nebraska high school rodeos. Cody Moon, from Taylor, Neb., picked up for Boots in 2013.
Cinch is a natural. “He’s a quiet kid,” Boots said. “He’s reading those horses, letting them come to him, and he’s not trying to do too much. The first time the kid picked up, he acted like he’d picked up a hundred times.”
Lance and Marti’s boys are good hands: sometimes he and the boys compete at ranch rodeos, and at the Arcadia, Neb., ranch rodeo a few years ago, Cinch won Top Hand Award and Riggin won Top Horse. Cinch is on the football team at Pleasanton High School, and has been on the honor roll.
And Cinch has big plans for his future. He’d like to have a ranch some day, and pick up at some “big rodeos, maybe the NFR.”
But for now, there are plenty of local rodeos to keep the guys — and their horses — busy.
— Nicolaus is a freelance writer from Blue Hill, Neb., and a Great Plains girl at heart. She can be reached at Nicolaus@gtmc.net.