Gabe LeDoux started the kind of winter cowboys dream of. After winning the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, he quickly jumped into the top five of the world standings. Then, at RodeoHouston, a freak accident occurred when the hazing horse cut in front of LeDoux as he was throwing his steer and stepped on him—breaking bones in his left foot. He’d be out for two months.
While out, he watched his great start dwindle slowly out of the top 15. Upon his return, he won enough to stay in the top 20, but between the rust and the lack of big rodeos, May didn’t give him the opportunity to catch up.
"When I healed up enough to start practicing, it was really rough," he said. "I just had to slowly build my confidence and my timing back up. I feel good rodeoing now."
Then came Reno. LeDoux threw three steers in 12.0 seconds and won $13,624—second only in money won among champions to the team ropers.
At first, LeDoux’s run didn’t appear to be enough to take over the top spot. He came into the short round as the high call, but Luke Branquinho—third fast back—threw his steer in 4.1 seconds to go to 12.3 on three. In a round full of dog falls and hung legs, that looked like it would stand up—especially considering the credentials of the man who set the mark.
Then, second high man back, Dean Gorsuch, missed his steer for a no time. As LeDoux backed into the box on a horse he mounted out on from Dean Gorsuch and Del Kraupie named Pump Jack, he knew he had to throw his steer in 4.4 to win. Then, the start got a little rocky.
"I had a pretty good steer, he didn’t start as good as I thought he would so I had to pull through the barrier, but I ended up getting a good start," he said. "Then I had to run him a little further. The steer was great, he handled fast and he was a great steer."
Of all the steers in the short go, LeDoux’s handled fastest and he was able to get a flag at 4.2 seconds despite being a little further down the pen.
"Everybody always wants to win Reno," he said. "It’s one of the biggest ones of the summer we go to, there’s a lot of money right here. We’re going to go to a lot of rodeos this next month, so it’s good to start with a win."
The money earned put him right back where he started the season: sixth in the world standings.