Justin & Kelcie Lawrence prepare horses for 2012 BHSS competition
For Justin and Kelcie Lawrence, the Black Hills Stock Show (BHSS) is an opportunity to qualify several horses for the AQHA World Show without having to travel far. The couple, who make their home in Alzada, MT, train horses for several clients and a few of their own. Justin mostly competes in working cowhorse events like snaffle bit, reined cowhorse, reining, working ranch horse, and cutting events. Kelcie also enjoys competing in the working cowhorse competitions. The couple has brought horses to compete at the BHSS for a number of years.
Traveling to Rapid City from their Montana home is much closer than traveling to another world-qualifying show in Texas, Kelcie says of why the couple competes at the BHSS.
“Since Justin trains horses for the public and many of our clients want their horses to qualify for the World, it is much easier for us to travel to the BHSS and qualify a lot of our client’s horses for the World, than travel 1,400 miles to Texas and only be able to take a few,” Kelcie says. “Justin primarily competes in the AQHA shows, reined cowhorse, reining and cutting events at the BHSS. In 2003, he won the ranch horse competition. It is very competitive at the stock show, but he has done quite well in all the events.”
Justin has been interested in training horses since he was a child.
“I started riding outside colts and trained my first horse by the time I was 12,” he explains. “I always felt like there was so much pride involved in riding a good horse. I still feel that way, which is why I still train horses.
“I am pretty much self-taught. I have participated in some clinics, and then I start competing to gain more experience. I have been training horses for over 20 years now, and I feel like I am getting a lot closer to where I want to be,” he continues.
Since Justin’s family owns a ranch, finding cows that need to be worked is not a problem.
“We run a small bunch of mother cows so the horses I train are used to working outside. My favorite events to compete in are the snaffle bit futurity or the reined cowhorse because the horse has to be so versatile,” Justin says. “They basically have to be tri-athletes. It makes them a great using horse that is capable of doing anything and everything on the ranch.”
Justin trains 15-20 horses at a time for several clients who live nearby and in neighboring states. Although most of the horses are trained to be competitive in reined cowhorse events, Justin also trains horses for other events like cutting. Most of the horses are started at the beginning of their two-year-old year. If they are ready for competition, Justin will start showing them in the fall of their three-year-old year. Some of his client’s horses stay in training and competition with Justin for up to five years.
“We travel to a lot of shows throughout the year,” Kelcie says. Many of the shows are for futurity horses, which are horses just getting started in their careers.
The couple is also exploring the possibility of buying and training more of their own colts.
“We go to Fort Worth and buy three yearlings down there each year. Justin trains them, and then we go to Reno, Nevada in the fall and sell them as broke two-year-olds,” Kelcie explains. “We usually sell two of them there, and one private treaty. Justin usually has them pretty well broke by the time they are sold. They can cut, rein, and even go down the fence. They seem to sell really well there.”
“I really enjoy purchasing the yearlings and training them,” Justin adds. “I am thinking of doing more of that in the future because it allows me to stay closer to home and help out on the ranch. I can just compete in nearby events.”
Although Justin has accomplished a lot over the last 20 years, one prize still eludes him.
“I’ve made the Finals in Reno in the snaffle bit competition seven times,” he explains. “Three hundred of the best competitive three-year-olds compete in that futurity. I’ve also competed in the cutting horse futurity in Forth Worth and placed in the second round. What I would really like to do someday is be able to ride a horse good enough to win one of those futurities.”
Editor’s note: Contact Justin Lawrence at 406-828-4044.