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Before the cattle arrive, booths are set up or large crowds pour into the second largest event in South Dakota, there is already a steady flow of horses and showmen competing in various equine events.

Horse competitions at the Black Hills Stock Show like the South Dakota Cutting Horse Association Show, Mountain States American Quarter Horse Association Winter Classic, and the National Reining Cow Horse Association All-Around Show take place the week before the official start date of the BHSS. These events bring in horsemen and women of all kinds from across the country. Even with the vast differences in some of these events, the riders it attracts are all there for the same reason—to compete, have fun, and win.

Clint Schultz has been competing in cutting for seven years. He’s already won the $15,000 amateur and $10,000 limited rider in that short time. He said his main goal is to stay consistent in his performance.

“I just want to do a good job. I want to get through the run for my horses, and sometimes that’s hard to do,” he said. Schultz gained his start in cutting when he originally set out to promote a stud horse and sent him to a trainer.

“I ended up sitting on the back of one of these horses, and it was over with. I just fell in love with it.” Schultz said with a smile. His favorite part of the sport is the camaraderie between everyone involved- riders, trainers, and owners.

One of those people is cutting horse trainer Bob Jansen. He’s been in the industry for over 20 years, and has attended the BHSS a handful of times.

“I think this is a great horse show. Each year we’ve been out here, it keeps getting bigger,” Jansen said.

Cutting is curated to replicate the interaction between the horse and cattle, which is Jansen’s favorite part. As a seasoned horseman in the cutting horse industry, his advice to beginners is to ‘go after it’.

“Find a horse trainer and get some lessons. Figure out where your abilities are, and go have a blast because it’s the best thing you can do on horseback,” Jansen said.

The SDCHA show ran from Jan. 16 – 18, while the Winter Classic AQHA show began on Jan. 18.

Another seasoned trainer partaking in the week’s events is Justin Lawrence of Alzada, MT. He’s been a cow horse trainer for around 20 years, most of which he’s been attending and competing at the AQHA Winter Classic. He’s made the finals at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit futurity nine times, and last year alone he earned 5th place at the World’s Greatest Horseman and won the national title at the AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse Championships in Guthrie, OK. He began in the showing industry when a client asked if he could train a young filly in the cow horse events.

“I started training horses when I was 12. At that time you don’t realize what it all entails. What I would name hardships now, I didn’t know I was going through at the time. You just have to persevere and build up a good clientele. It’s a long process, getting out every day working to better myself. Sometimes you’ll lose sight of that when you’re young.”

Lawrence is showing horses in the reined cow horse events and the versatility competition. “This show is kind of a warm up for the year. These horses have been off since October, so we’re legging them up. You don’t have to show too hard here, so it’s a good show to see where your horses are before you go to the bigger events.”

The seasoned trainers, eager competitors and every horse showman in between can become involved in the stock show events. Although it takes dedication, hard work, and tenacity, Schultz encourages everyone to try it.

“My advice is to just hang in there no matter how tough it is, because you’ll get better. It gets easier. If you have a little bit of stage fright, you’ll be alright because everyone in there is there to help you. Give it a try and you’ll love it, it’s a great sport.” F

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