Horse Expo rides again |

Horse Expo rides again

Curt Pate is a western-style clinician that brings reined cow horse and ranching experience to the plate. Photos courtesy Linda Torgerson

The Black Hills Horse Expo is back. The expo, which ceased to exist after 2006, is coming back in a huge way. The James Kjerstad Event Center in Rapid City will be packed with enormous amounts of equine action from Oct. 20-22.

The Black Hills Horse Expo’s original inception was in 2003. Linda Torgerson, the current manager, also was a part of the first expo.

“The first year we had it, it was a fundraiser for the Northern Hills Court Appointed Special Advocate Program in Spearfish. I was the director at the time. We had two major fundraisers that we did for that program, and we were looking for a third one,” she said.

She attended several major horse expos across the country, and it inspired her. “I thought, ‘Why isn’t there something like this in the Black Hills?’”

“It just seemed like it never died. People were still asking, 10 years later, ‘Why aren’t we doing that expo again?’” Linda Torgerson, Black Hills Horse Expo manager

It hit the ground running after 2002.

“It developed very quickly. I left CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates Program) in 2005 to take on another project and the Expo just kind of withered after that,” Torgerson said.

After continuing one more year – this one without Torgerson – the event faded away, until this year.

However, the local equine enthusiasts never forgot about the major event.

“It just seemed like it never died,” Torgerson said. “People were still asking, 10 years later, ‘Why aren’t we doing that expo again?’”

Torgerson recently retired from Social Services, and she is the impetus behind the Black Hills Horse Expo being reborn from the ashes.

The renewed event is expected to present a variety of breeds, disciplines and vendors, along with new experiences for all.

“It’s basically a three-ring circus plus a Kids’ Korral, plus stallion showcase and breed avenue,” Torgerson said.

Other features include the Colt Starting Challenge, clinician Curt Pate, a Criollo horse imported from Uruguay and the Liberty Stampede.

The Colt Starting Challenge is just one stop on the trail for the Colt Starting Challenge USA. They have many events throughout the nation and provide judges for each event. Contestants gather points to qualify for nationals, held in conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo.

“It’s six unbroken horses, six trainers that have specific rules to follow,” Torgerson said. “They call it national horsemanship. They can’t do anything that inhibits the horse in any way. They have to develop a bond and trust with that horse. They need to make sure they treat the horse gently. After the first two hours, they’ll actually be on their horse. So they go very quickly with the training process. The grand finale is an obstacle course that each trainer will ride the horse through and that is guaranteed to be very exciting.”

Curt Pate is a western-style clinician that brings reined cow horse and ranching experience to the plate. His wife, Tammy, also will be instructing. She incorporates yoga into her horsemanship programs, and encourages women in their roles on the ranch and in life.

Unique breeds of horses include a pair of Criollos and a Dutch Harness stallion. The Criollo stallion, recently imported from the country of Uruguay, is only one of a handful of the breed in the United States. He will be on Stallion Row Showcase at the Expo, and the owner will also bring a mare for Breed Avenue. Criollos are similar in size to quarter horses, but are known for their hardiness and longevity. They are native to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

A Dutch Harness Horse, common among eastern Amish colonies, can be found on Stallion’s Row as well. The stallion, Fishers Dream, will also appear in the Liberty Stampede. “It’s probably something most people in this area have never seen before. There aren’t a lot in the area. They’re just spectacular.”

Both the Liberty Stampede and Costume Cavalcade classes are two classes that anyone may enter. The Liberty Stampede, a unique event, features a single horse turned loose in the arena. A pre-selected song, that represents the horse’s personality, plays while the horse freestyles in the arena. The Black Hills Horse Expo will have classes for geldings, mares and stallions. The Costume Cavalcade will include all participants in the arena at once, while they compete for categories of comical, creative and historical. Unique trophies, resembling each category’s characteristics, will be given out.

A Kids’ Korral, complete with stick horses, coloring books and prizes, ensures there will be activities for all ages.

One special opportunity for a fundraiser was given to a local organization, the Suncatchers Riding Academy. Torgerson explains, “They secured the Saturday evening show spot. So basically they are taking over the arena on Saturday night and they are doing their thing. They are getting 100 percent of the proceeds from that night,” Torgerson said.

David Davis, from southern Indiana, will be performing roman riding, tandem riding and trick riding Friday night during the Expo, and he is not the only one coming from out-of-state. Torgerson expects vendors from eight states to fill the Event Center.

“It’s really amazing how far they’re coming from,” she said. “It won’t all be western and it won’t all be tack.” The “Shop ‘Til You Drop” trade show will be going on throughout the weekend.

Though Torgerson is bringing in lots of variety, she continues to appreciate the western lifestyle of the Black Hills area. “We have a lot of talent here in this area. We have a lot of really good breeders and nice horses in this area. So the fact that we’re bringing in a lot of outside things is not to say we don’t appreciate what we have here. It’s more a matter of ‘You can see this any day, so let’s bring you some things that you don’t see every day.’ We want to offer that variety and diversity.”

Torgerson also is not forgetting the origins of the Black Hills Horse Expo. “CASA is the one that started this. This wouldn’t have ever happened if CASA wasn’t a part of it, so we want to give back to those organizations.” The Expo plans on giving back to the non-profit organizations that helped get the event started.

There are few opportunities in the area to witness so much diversity at once.

“Everything is in one building, which is wonderful,” Torgerson said. “We want it to be available for everyone.”

The cost to get in each day is just $12, and youth prices are available along with value packages for the weekend.

If you would like to enter the Costume Cavalcade, Liberty Stampede or want more information on the event, visit their website at

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