Christian Hernandez of George West, 7, made history recently when he was named Live Oak County Rodeo Parade Association Champion … a distinction generally reserved for high school seniors. In this photo taken in March 2013, a 6-year-old Christian had just been named the 2013 Buck Days Pro Rodeo Muttin’ Bustin’ Champion. He shares his moment of triumph with 2013 Miss Texas Rodeo Stephanie Revels.
By BEN TINSLEY
GEORGE WEST — At the tender age of 7, young cowboy Christian Hernandez has more than earned his spurs in the world of Texas rodeo.
Last month, when it was discovered there were no high school seniors in competition for the 2014 Live Oak County Rodeo Parade Association championship and scholarship, judges instead awarded Christian for his excellent performance in the sport of rodeo.
He received a Montana Silversmith buckle presented to him by Back Flippin’ Johnny, Rodeo Clown, at the Live Oak County Rodeo on March 14.
Christian, who famously wears a black felt cowboy hat with a turkey vulture feather he found a few years ago, has no problem vocalizing why he intends to remain a rodeo cowboy for the immediate future.
“Because it’s awesome,” he said.
In 2013, at age 6, Christian became “Buc Days Pro Rodeo Champion” in Corpus Christi–pausing for a moment of reflection in a photo taken with 2013 Miss Texas Rodeo Stephanie Revels.
His already-impressive resume includes wins in several area rodeos–including the Tilden CPRA Mutton Bustin’ for the 2013 and 2014.
This month he won second place in the 2014 Buc Days Ranch Rodeo in Robstown.
Christian’s mother, Bridget Hernandez, said her son started craving rodeo at the age of 3. He was enthusiastic about it, so she decided to start him in Live Oak County.
“I’ll admit, every time he goes out there, my heart beats a little faster and drops, but he knows what he’s doing, and he knows how to do it,” she said. ” … He’s loud, spontaneous rambunctious, all of those things you can think of in one. He’s not scared of a lot of things–like rodeo. Rodeo has stuck with him, like a passion. Something he loves to do.”
Christian’s March victory with LOCPRA came because of his performance and impressive “can do” attitude, his mother said.
“I was really surprised when it happened,” she said. “I was shocked but honored at the same time. This was one of those ‘Don’t cry in front of Christian, you’ll embarrass him.’ It was one of those breathtaking, ‘Oh my god, this is really happening,’ types of moment.
Christian’s father, Gabriel Hernandez, meanwhile, said he couldn’t be prouder of his son.
“Every time he rides, we hug each other,” he said. “I’m really speechless whenever he competes. I can’t stop talking about him to everybody I meet. I’m so proud of the way we raised him. Everybody who knows me anywhere stops to congratulate me about him regularly.”
Christian, who is the grandson of local bull riding aficionado Victor Ybanez, really wants to follow in his footsteps, his mother says.
He is the grandson of Victor and Sherry Ybanez and Erasmo and Tomie Hernandez of Harlingen.
“He really wants to be a bull rider like his grandpa–that is the thing for him,” she said.
Christian is a bit of a middle child who lives on three and a half acres in George West with his parents, an older stepbrother who is almost 18, a 12 year old brother and a 5-year-old sister.
“People ask where we take Christian to practice, and they are really amazed when I send them a photo of what he practices on,” his mother said. “It’s four posts with strings and rope and an old white barrel. That’s it. We created it for the kids to jump around on, and he really took to it.”
It was using this unusual and impromptu rodeo training gear that Christian developed his sheep-riding mantra: “Squeeze your legs, wrap your arms around, and tilt your head.'”
Most kids say “please” a lot and beg to play video games. Christian is a bit different. More focused. And likewise, in the ring, he isn’t overly dramatic, his mother said.
His rodeo clothing and gear is by-the-book. He commonly wears chaps and a vest and carries a rodeo bag that he never goes anywhere without.
“If you ask him what kind of pants he wears, he’ll say ‘cowboy pants,'” his mother said.
Christian is a bit shy when pressed for an answer by, say, a reporter. But he’ll be the first to tell you he’s having the time of his life in the ring.
“It’s really fun,” he said.
Ben Tinsley is a reporter for The Progress newspaper in Three Rivers, Tx. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com or by phone at 361-786-3022. Tinsley can also be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/BenTinsley or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ben.tinsley.12.