At just 13 years of age, Haze Bruce of Stephenville, Texas, is having big success in the roping industry. From wins at major ropings like the 2023 USTRC Cinch National Finals of Team Roping, to cracking out and seeing wins at the Texas Best Rope Horse Futurity and the Oil Can Classic.
He’s roped behind the big dogs like reigning PRCA World Champion Header Kaleb Driggers and five-time NFR header Tyler Wade, and he spends sunup to sundown with a premier rope horse trainer that’s taught him everything he knows—his dad, Zane Bruce.
Haze is a homeschooled seventh grader and, when morning comes, he makes the two of them breakfast as his dad plans the day out and checks in with owners of some of the horses in his training program. Then, the day full of riding horses and roping begins.
Zane is known for producing top-notch rope horses, both in the show world and on the rodeo front. Instilling in his son the work ethic to be able to hold his own competing against the top guys in the world at such a young age, though, may just take the cake.
“It’s such a blessing,” TinaMarie, Haze’s mom, said. “The opportunity that we have been able to give him is incredible. Most kids his age have not been able to ride as many horses as he has or have the number of runs on live steers that he has.”
Learning to rope came as natural as learning to walk for Haze. And as early.
“I have a video of him learning to walk and swing his rope at the same time,” TinaMarie said. “He would bring his rope back to me and, for about a week, I rebuilt it for him. And then I said, ‘You know what? You throw too many loops. You have to figure this out.’ So, I just taught him how to coil up his rope.”
Before he was 2, TinaMarie says, Haze got a handle on walking, swinging his rope, coiling it back up and roping. No dogs or cats were safe. He spent most of his time as a child watching his dad train heel horses, and those hours spent watching Zane, even at the baby-stage, taught Haze well.
“I would put him in his carrier, and I would strap it in in the back of the Gator when I would pull the roping dummy for Zane while he was training heel horses,” TinaMarie said. “That was Haze’s happy place; he absolutely loved that. He would just watch and watch and watch. And I think the way Haze ropes, especially on the heel side, emulates Zane so much, and maybe that’s why.”
Haze teamed up with Kaleb Driggers to take home the Intermediate Derby Heeling at the 2023 Texas Best Rope Horse Futurity in Graham on April 14. He was riding his primary mount—5-year-old bay gelding Smart Rey Movin, owned by Jeff Hilton.
“He’s got a lot of buttons, that’s for sure,” Haze said. “He’s pretty easy, though. You just have to watch where your feet are and ride him around the end of it, so he doesn’t cut in. I’ve been the only one to ride him lately, so I’m getting him figured out pretty good.”
Safe to say. Haze roped a leg in the short round to cost him a higher finish in the Open Derby portion, but with a score of 902.33 on four head, he was good enough to win the intermediate.
“It was really good,” Haze said. “I was clean on all of them except the short round steer. I was like seventh high call in the Open part of it and, if I would’ve made a clean run, I would’ve placed in the Open, but I didn’t. But I still won the Intermediate.”
USTRC National Finals
Then, on April 23, Haze travelled to Fort Worth for the USTRC Cinch National Finals of Team Roping, where he roped behind Tyler Wade to win the Yeti #15.5 Shootout. The pair went 28.74 seconds on four head to win $35,000.
“The first one, we were a little late,” Haze explained. “He was pretty strong. We caught him down there at the end. The second one, we drew a good steer, and we made up some time on him. The third one, he was really tough to heel because he hopped so fast, but I caught him still. We were high call in the short round, and [Tyler] caught our steer around the neck and made him easy as could be to heel.”
Oil Can Classic
Haze’s winning streak didn’t end there. Just a week later, on April 30, he won the Limited Open Heeling at the American Rope Horse Futurity Association Oil Can Classic in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Despite roping a leg in two of his runs, Haze won $2,160 with a score of 656.19, again riding Smart Rey Movin.
“It was ok,” Haze said. “I roped two legs, and I made a clean run on my third one and was like fifth out of the six limited people that made it back to the third round. I was the only one to catch clean, so everybody else messed up. That’s the way I won the limited over there.”
When it comes to jackpots versus shows and futurities, Haze approaches each a little differently.
“At the jackpots, I think about just getting up there, being patient around the corner and, if a good shot’s there, take it,” the young teen said. “If it’s not, go until it is there and you know you have it roped. At the shows, just get up there, stay around them and set your horse up for it. With the division I qualify in, it’s pretty much just catch three or four and you’ll do good. I do my best to catch two feet and ride my horse good.”
Above all else, his parents have taught him not to stress the pressure, given he is a youngster often roping against the best in the world.
“I just try to do my job and stay clean,” Haze said. “Not to let having a lot of pressure mess you up.
“It just makes you do better,” he continued, talking about roping against the industry’s bests. “If you mess up, you figure that out as you go.”
Next, Haze, heads to the Texas Junior High State Finals May 20–27 in Gonzales. The two-time Region X team roping and boys breakaway champ will be competing in both his titled events. Some might say he has an edge on the competition when it comes to mindset, considering the seasoning he’s had outside of the junior rodeo level.
“Everybody else, they don’t go a whole lot or go to as many jackpots as I normally do, so when I get to the junior rodeos, it’s pretty much just another run for me,” Haze said.