Rodeo Rapid City dedicates day to saddle bronc riders |

Rodeo Rapid City dedicates day to saddle bronc riders

A cowboy jumps off after the eight second buzzer during the saddle bronc riding at the 2018 event. Three saddle bronc riding events take place on Jan. 30 in Rapid City: the Saddle Bronc Futurity at 10 am, the Bucking Horse Sale at 1 pm, and the PRCA Xtreme Saddle Bronc Match at 7:3 pm. Photo by RodeoReady
Clay Guardipee

Horsing around at BHSS

By Tristen Polensky

Editorial Intern

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

Competitions 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 Jan. 18.

Another seasoned trainer partaking in the week’s events is Justin Lawrence of Alzada, Montana. 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 he earned fifth place at the World’s Greatest Horseman and won the national title at the AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse Championships in Guthrie, Oklahoma. 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.”

“This is saddle bronc country.”

One day of Rodeo Rapid City is dedicated to saddle bronc riders.

Wednesday, Jan. 30 features three different saddle bronc riding events: the Saddle Bronc Futurity, held at 10 am, the KBHB Bucking Horse Sale, at 1 pm, and the PRCA Xtreme Bronc Match, at 7:30 pm. All events take place in the Barnett Arena.

This is the third year for the Futurity, which features thirty bronc riders matched up against thirty five-year-old bucking horses. Fifteen stock contractors from four states and a Canada province each provide two horses. Each cowboy makes one ride, and the top three scores go on to compete in the evening’s PRCA Xtreme Bronc Match.

The horses must be five years old and younger, and are scored, with the top three scored horses splitting the $15,000 purse. Winners are determined from the two scores from the two horses added together.

It’s a chance for stock contractors to see how their horses will do in a rodeo-type setting, said Steve Sutton, organizer of the event and part of the Sutton Rodeo Co. “It’s a good way for them to see how their horses might perform with good cowboys,” he said. The “big names” of the PRCA saddle bronc riding world, as well as South Dakota favorites, are entered: three of the Wright brothers from Utah, Louie Brunson, Interior, Cole Elshere, Faith, and Ty Manke, Rapid City, “and all of the good young South Dakota bronc riders,” Sutton said.

The afternoon sale is a long-standing tradition at Rodeo Rapid City; the Suttons have held the sale for 33 years. For sale are forty head of Sutton Rodeo Co. ranch raised, five-year-old bucking horses. Of the forty head, several are mares from good bloodlines, bred to good studs, he said. “There are some awful good bucking horses in there,” Sutton said. “Some for every level of every operation. I’ve taken them to high school and college rodeos. There will be some of the best practice horses you’ll ever need to teach a kid how to ride a bucking horse, and hopefully you can come and buy an NFR (National Finals Rodeo) horse, too. Chuckulator (the famous Sutton bucking horse) bucked in this sale before he went on to become the 2012 Saddle Bronc Horse of the Year.”

In the evening, fans can enjoy the second annual PRCA Xtreme Bronc Match. Thirty cowboys will match up against the best horses in the rodeo world. The format for the bronc match is that every cowboy rides once, with $10,000 up for grabs; the top three ride a second time, with $1,000 going to the winner.

The world’s best bronc riders will be there, Sutton said: world champions Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M.; Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa; Zeke Thurston, Big Valley, Alb., and Ryder Wright, Milford, Utah. Fourteen of the contestants are Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifiers, and plenty of South Dakota cowboys like JJ Elshere (Hereford), Jade Blackwell (hometown), Manke, Dawson Jandreau (Kennebec), and Taygen Schuelke (Newell) pepper the list.

Eight stock contractors will bring saddle broncs: Bailey Pro Rodeo, Baldwin, N.D.; Burch Rodeo, Gillette, Wyo.; Fettig Rodeo Broncs, Dickinson, N.D.; New Frontier Rodeo, Gypsum, Kan.; New West Rodeo, Browning, Mont.; Sankey Pro Rodeo, Joliet, Mont.; Summit Pro Rodeo, Centennial, Wyo.; and the Suttons. With that number of stock contractors, each will bring his or her best horses. “They’re bringing their A-team,” Sutton said.

Twenty-seven cowboys are entered for the Xtreme Broncs; the three highest scores from the morning’s futurity will earn a place in the evening’s Bronc Match.

For Faith, S.D.’s Cole Elshere, it gives him a chance at the money up for the Xtreme Bronc Match. Because he sat out much of last year due to an ACL injury and surgery, he didn’t finish the rodeo year in the top standings in the world or the circuit, so he couldn’t enter the Match. “It makes it a big incentive to enter the futurity,” he said. “There’s a lot of money added to the Bronc Match, and it counts towards the world standings, and that’s what everybody’s looking forward to.”

Elshere, who is 29 years old, is currently ranked tenth in the world standings. He plans on competing at 100 rodeos this year, while being at the ranch with his wife, Kyndra, and parents Andy and Donella, when he can. “I’ll have to take calving off to be home and help out. Other than that, I’ll go to as many (rodeos) as I can.”

To him, the best bronc riders in the world are from South Dakota, in part because “the best broncs in the world, a lot of them are raised in South Dakota. So there’s a lot of opportunity to ride,” he said. “The communities really enjoy it, so they’re all great about volunteering, helping people practice, and helping kids get started.”

Sutton, whose great-grandfather Edwin and grandfather James, trailed horses 100 miles to Redfield to put them on rail cars, says there were good horses back then and there are good ones now, “there just might be more of them now,” he said. “You’re talking to someone who has raised them for a lot of years. The superstar doesn’t show up every day.”

But the fans will show up for the superstars. “South Dakota is famous for bronc riding, and people who love bronc riding will be there. This is bronc country.”

Rodeo personnel for the Xtreme Bronc Match include announcer Wayne Brooks, barrelman and clown Justin Rumford, and the Young Living Percheron Hitch.

An event for the ladies also takes place on Jan. 30. “Girls in Spurs Ladies Night Out” takes place from 3:30-6 pm on Jan. 30. The night includes food, desserts, cocktails, a runway fashion show, salon services, special event vendors, and prize drawings. Tickets are $20 and are sold at the Rodeo Zone Tradeshow. Admission to the Girls in Spurs is free with the purchase of an Xtreme Bronc match ticket.

Tickets for the futurity, sale and Xtreme Bronc Match can be purchased at, 1-888-GOT-MINE, at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center box office, the Outdoor Rec at EAFB, or the Silverado in Deadwood, S.D.

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