2021 Black Hills Stock Show Horse People of the Year: Warren & Mayola West
It was through a horse trade that Warren and Mayola West first met, and the trade must have been a good one, considering that was in 1979. Since then, the couple has worked together raising their family to be good horsemen and women, breeding and training good horses and together, running cattle on their ranches in New Underwood and Marcus, South Dakota. In similar fashion, it came as no surprise that together, Warren and Mayola earned the title of 2021 Horse Person of the Year for the Black Hills Stock Show.
Both Warren and Mayola entered into their marriage with stallions and broodmares. Together, Mayolas love for Paint Horses and Warren’s appreciation for good Quarter Horses created a horse breeding program that combined Quarter Horse conformation with Paint Horse color. When Mayola left the Belle Fourche River Ranch where she grew up, her two-horse trailer had a paint stallion on the left side and a milk cow on the right.
“In the Paint Horse Association, they have of course been influenced by the Quarter Horse blood at times, you know one might give up color for conformation, but we didn’t do that,” Mayola says. “We kept our Quarter Horse conformation but insisted that our Paint Horses meet the same criteria and I think that helped us.”
They learned for a breeding program to keep up with the industry, you need to continually improve your quality of stallions and broodmares, and being involved in the Black Hills Stock Show and on Stallion Row for so many years gave them front lines information on what the industry was looking for.
“We’ve seen so many changes over the years we’ve been in the business, but they’ve all been good changes,” Mayola says. “You must listen to the public and watch what they want and need, you can’t stay with one old program and think that it’s going to carry you forever, because it won’t.”
One of the most important aspects of their breeding program, to Mayola, was the broodmares. Not only were their papers and colors desirable, but each one was broke to ride, and something that Mayola liked to ride, before she was put in the broodmare band.
“If I didn’t like the way a mare rode, she wasn’t bred in my program,” Mayola says. “They were all saddle horses first, and after 50 or 60 years, that pays you back. If I didn’t like riding them, I simply wouldn’t allow them to be bred, to reproduce something that I did not like myself.”
The program started with foundation bred Quarter Horses in the beginning, eventually Mayola says that had to add a bit of running blood to keep up with the barrel racers, but it was when they started to add the working cow horse bloodlines that Mayola says they really hit the jackpot.
“I wish I would have realized that part of it, or I would have done that a lot earlier,” she says. “It became really important to me, breeding a horse that would watch a cow automatically, I mean it was like a border collie watching a sheep move.”
Never having owned a four-wheeler, Warren and Mayola used horses for everything on the ranch and having horses who were bred to help with every day ranch work was an immense help. As Mayola began to take a step back from barrel racing, she and Warren started to get more and more involved in team sortings and reined cow horse competitions. In 2010, Mayola and her partner, Gae Selting won the Open Two-Man Sort at the AQHA Region 2 Championship Show in Rapid City at Central States Fairgrounds. Mayola was riding one of their stallions, Taris Hero.
Together, the Warren and Mayola were some of the beginning organizers for the South Dakota Reined Cow Horse Association in the early 2000s with Warren serving as one of the directors for several years. Warren also served on the board of directors of the South Dakota Paint Horse Club for several years and together, they showed in many paint horse futurities and rode their stallions in performance classes. They were both show managers for the South Dakota Paint Horse Show at the Central States Fair for many years. Mayola judged the queen contest for the South Dakota State High School Rodeo and the Custer County 4-H Rodeo Queen contests for several years. Most recently, she was one of the judges for the Black Hills Stock Show Queen contest in 2019.
One of the highlights of their lives together was working on the movie, Dances With Wolves, as wranglers for the herd of Indian ponies where they rode with Kevin Costner daily.
“Riding with Kevin Costner, he was just another horseman, lots of times riding bareback with us to base camp at night,” Mayola says. “Sometimes he would be bareback, leading a couple of horses with him.”
They were also among those who brought the first ranch horse competitions to the Black Hills Stock Show while serving on the stock show’s horse committee. The competition became so popular and successful, that several different fairs have approached them about patterning their own ranch horse competition after what originated at the Black Hills Stock Show, but Warren and Mayola are most proud that they can say three generations of horsemen and women in their family have competed in the ranch horse competition, themselves, their son and two grandchildren.
“There is always team roping and various activities for the going-down-the-road type cowboy, but the ranchers a lot of times get left behind,” Warren says. “That’s the original reason we started the ranch horse competition was to showcase some of the ranchers in the area.”
Ten years ago, when they turned 65, Warren and Mayola decided it was time to take a step back from breeding and starting young horses, and in more recent years, they have passed on the cattle side of the ranch to their son, but they have continued to buy and sell many through the Black Hills Stock Show horse sale because nothing is going to keep the 75-year-old couple out of the saddle.
“We’ve done a lot of trail riding with friends even through this pandemic,” Mayola says. “And of course, on the ranch we ride when the kids are working their cattle.”
They have a few horses left that they raised, and a few more horses around the ranch who have carried Warren and Mayola many miles, and are now retired and enjoying the good life.
It has been many years since that first horse trade that brought Warren and Mayola together and since then, the couple has worked together to build a quality horse program and served on many boards for the betterment of the South Dakota horse industry. They have raised their children to be horsemen and they have kept the family ranch that has been in their family for over 100 years going strong, and both are equally deserving of receiving the 2021 Horse People of the Year Award.
“We have worked hand in hand,” Warren says. “I have a lot of respect for what she says and I really respected the fact that we were able to work together so well. We want to thank everybody involved in it and we’re sure happy to be a part of the Black Hills Stock Show, it’s been a part of our lives for ongoing 60 years so we are just very proud to be a part of it.”
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