Black Hills Stock Show presents horse events in many shapes and sizes |

Black Hills Stock Show presents horse events in many shapes and sizes

Kirk Hall competes in the NRCHA event in a previous year. Scootem-N-Shootem | Courtesy photos

Events that occur at the end of the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo like the Xtreme Bull Ridings and the professional rodeos may gain the most attention from audiences and media, but the equine events leading up to the Stock Show are no less full of talent and excitement. The equine professionals showing at the James Kjerstad Event Center throughout the next week are some of the greatest in the business, and a vast array of equine disciplines are scheduled throughout the Black Hills Stock Show, none less impressive than the other. All exhibit the athleticism and versatility of the Quarter Horse, often with big prize money up for grabs.  

“It’s just a phenomenal place to show,” says Susie Reed, the secretary of the South Dakota Cutting Horse Association show. The BHSS boasts one of the largest cuttings in the state, the perfect opportunity for competitors to showcase their talented cow horses. Many also compete in other shows throughout the week, including the American Quarter Horse show, reined cow horse and versatility ranch horse competitions. “It’s nice to have the cutting here and go onto other events. It flows so smoothly because of the way the BHSS has set it up,” says Reed.   

Their cutting draws competitors from seven surrounding states, with several nationally recognized riders. The club’s president, Matt Lopez, was recently honored as the SDQHA Legacy Cutting Trainer. Longtime South Dakota competitor, Kathy Strain, was just inducted to the National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame, as well as longtime trainer, JP Bell.  

At press time, some of the horse events had already concluded, including Ranch Sorting Jan. 14, and cutting hosted by the South Dakota Cutting Horse Association, January 16-18.

Once the club cutting wraps up, then begins the Equibrand AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse Competition and Ranching Heritage Challenge, running from Thu. Jan.19th-Fri. Jan., 20. A relatively new discipline, this event showcases the ability of the Quarter Horse to adapt to new terrain and challenges. It is also an opportunity for long standing ranch breeding programs to see how their progeny measure up in competition.  

Saturday morning kicks off with the National Reined Cow Horse Association show, which features three exciting components: reining, herd work, and fence work. Then, the six-day long American Quarter Horse Associations show begins, consisting of 54 different events in which trainers and owners show their top-notch equine athletes for triple the points in one show. Disciplines vary from halter classes to roping events to reining and western pleasure, and the show runs from the 21-26.  

The judged event puts particular emphasis on correct training, so the event attracts world-class rope horse trainers such as JD Yates of Pueblo, Colorado. “It’s a great facility to rope in. They try to do a great job for us,” he says. “The horse show is one of the better ones all year long.” Yates’ resumé includes a whopping 21 qualifications to the National Finals Rodeo and one average title. Nowadays, he prefers to stay home more and focus on training tomorrow’s equine champions. However, his son, Trey (also an NFR average champion), usually enters the AQHA show, the futurity, and the prorodeo while at the Black Hills Stock Show. Trainers that are gunning for the World’s Greatest Horseman will bring their horses from all over the nation to Rapid City in preparation, including Brad Lund and Luke Jones–a testament to the quality of competitors. Yates, who has been attending BHSS for decades in one facet or another, says, “There’s a lot of good people in South Dakota. I’ve made a lot of friends and I enjoy going up there.” Yates will also be competing Sunday the 22nd and Tuesday the 24th during the Best of the West Rope Horse Futurity, which is a judged team roping and tie-down roping competition for horses under the age of six.  

Kirk Hall competes in the NRCHA event in a previous year. Scootem-N-Shootem | Courtesy photos

By Fri. Jan. 27th, all events will have wrapped up to make way for the Farm Credit Services of America Horse Sale, which is the central event in the James Kjerstad for two days. Many horses will be available for viewing throughout the shows, and all are available to see during the previews. Hutchison Western Stallion Row is also available for prospective breeders to peruse, with several stallions that have been shown throughout the week on live display.  

The Merck Stray Gathering will be held after the horse sale on Saturday, starting at 7 p.m. This popular event consists of four cowboys/cowgirls working together to tie down two steers as quickly as possible. Live music by Chelsee Dee and Company begins at 9 p.m.  

On Sunday Jan. 29th, a jackpot team roping begins at 10 am, consisting of an Open, a 13.5, 10.5, and an 8.5 numbered roping, according to Wrangler numbers.  

For full event details, see

For the full rodeo schedule, go to Sutton Rodeo.

Don Tisdal competes in the AQHA roping at a past Black Hills Stock Show. Scootem-N-Shootem | Courtesy photo