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Killer ride in 100th Greeley Stampede short go

Hardy Braden and Killer Bee team up to set an arena record in Greeley’s saddle bronc competition

The moment was perfect.

It was the final round of rodeo action at the 100th Greeley Stampede. It was a ride aboard Killer Bee, one of the most famous bucking broncs in rodeo history. Saddle bronc competitor Hardy Braden’s mom and dad were on hand working the rodeo — dad was a pickup man and mom was a timer — and the 8,500-seat arena was near capacity with an energetic crowd.

Add those together and the sum was pure excitement.



“I was nervous that is for sure,” said Braden about learning he was tabbed to ride Killer Bee in Greeley’s short go. “She is definitely a bucker, probably the hardest horse to ride going down the road in this day and time and has been for quite a few years.”

When the gate swung wide, Killer Bee burst out with her trademark massive jumps and Braden hung on without spurring just to stay aboard. For the first two jumps, he was bunched to the front of the saddle and nearly on her neck as she kicked the sky. It wasn’t looking good for the Oklahoma cowboy.



True to form, the big, strong famous bucking mare, Killer Bee, came out of the chute with massive vertical kicks that put saddle bronc rider Hardy Braden off balance. While most competitors tend to get bucked off soon after these moves by the mare, Braden weathered the first two jumps and then found his form and rhythm. Once they synced up, the duo went on to complete a Greeley Stampede record setting ride of 89.50 points and a 2022 Greeley Stampede title for Braden in front of a loud short go crowd (June 30).

“Shoot, the way it started, his first two jumps, I didn’t know if he was going to make the whistle or not,” said Rhett Beutler of Beutler and Son Rodeo Company. The Beutlers have been supplying stock to the Greeley Stampede since 1982 and Killer Bee is part of their herd. “A lot of times, when guys get behind on those first two jumps, she ends up bucking them off.”

BIG RODEO, BIG RIDE

But the 100th Greeley Stampede was big, and so was the ride. After the second jump, Braden squared in the saddle and synced up with the massive mare. After that, it was a dialed in explosive ride for one huge jump after another.

It was at the third jump aboard Killer Bee when saddle bronc rider Hardy Braden finally got in sync with the famous bucking mare and the duo began impressing the judges on their way to a Greeley Stampede arena record of 89.5 points.

“That is kind of her main deal,” said Braden. “If you can get past those first two couple of jumps, then the rest is kind of — I don’t want to say it is easy, because none of it is easy — she has a little more rhythm and timing to her after the first couple of jumps. She is the kind of horse that when you do draw her and if you do get her rode, you are more than likely going to win first on her. It was awesome.”

Not only did staying aboard Killer Bee help Braden win first place in the short go and take home the saddle bronc title for winning the average, but the 89.50-point score was a new Greeley Stampede arena record, beating the previous record of 88 points set by both Wade Sundell in 2018 and Ryder Wright in 2019.

Oklahoma saddle bronc rider Hardy Braden drew what was announced as "the most famous bucking horse of all time" in Killer Bee from Beutler and Son Rodeo Company, and the duo put on a big show that culminated in an arena record 89.50 points and the overall title at the 100th Greeley Stampede (June 30).

“Gosh, that is kind of the deal with Killer Bee,” said Beutler about the record breaking score and Braden winning the title after the successful ride on the big mare. “That is kind of how it works out. She is one of a kind.”

“It is quite something, actually,” said a humble Braden when informed his ride aboard Killer Bee topped the previous arena record. “I am kind of at a loss. It was the 100th anniversary, what better way to do that, then get an arena record and win the 100th?”

It would seem like nothing could be better, but Braden and Killer Bee’s winning ride was even more special for the Oklahoma cowboy.

“To top it off, my mom and dad were there,” he said about his big moment. “My dad was picking up and my mom was a timer so, that makes it even more special.”

Greeley Stampede officials also thought it was pretty special.

“Having an arena record broken for the 100th, especially at the finals, is a great way to add to the excitement of the historic event and finish off the series,” said Kevin McFarling, marketing coordinator for the Greeley Stampede. “Being with such an amazing horse is even better! Killer Bee has a long history at the Greeley Stampede, so to include her in the history books is perfect.”

Sixteen-year-old Killer Bee is a multiple winner of PRCA Horse of the Year's in both the bareback and saddle bronc events. Almost impossible to stay aboard — it is said "you either get bucked off or you are 90 points" — the famous, athletic mare was allowed to roam the Greeley arena and soak up the crowd's attention after having helped saddle bronc rider Hardy Braden set a Greeley Stampede arena record with an 89.50-point score in the 100th Greeley Stampede's short go on June 30, 2022. The previous arena record of 88 points was held by both Wade Sundell (2018) and Ryder Wright (2019).

Can it get any better?

“Man, we will try to make it better next year and try to beat it, but it is going to be hard to do,” said Beutler as he looked ahead to 2023. “It is just the way it worked out for the 100th; just the match-ups you had and the high score rides and the spectacular buck offs. The stars don’t align like that all the time no matter how hard you try.”

It was the perfect moment for a killer ride.

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