SOUTH DAKOTA HORSE
The role of the horse in society has evolved greatly over the past fifty years. They have gone from an integral part of most livelihoods, from farming, military, and general transportation to exceptionally expensive hobbies. As their usefulness as working members of society dwindles, they are finding new jobs as pets and athletes. However, horses are a much, much larger investment than a dog or other pet that can live inside, so they still need to “earn their keep” so to speak. Some horses are still used around farms and ranches, others are trail horses extraordinaire, and some have started to compete. Every single discipline and form of equine competition is founded on some way in which horses were used for everyday life at one point in time, and in most areas, the forms of competition most prevalent are the ones that are most similar to how horses were used.
South Dakota’s choice in equine expression is predominantly rodeos. Other areas, where the organized military was more prominent, have a closer relationship with dressage, showjumping, and eventing as these sports were the ones used to keep the military horses fit, agile, and responsive and athletic enough to perform advanced maneuvers on a battlefield. The foundation of dressage ripples through all English disciplines, but the importance of it for the horse resounds through every equine sport.
It was once said to me that dressage is the beauty of a broke horse, and that is a statement I could not agree with more. I only wish I would have come up with such a concise description myself. Whether you call it disengaging the hindquarters or renvers/travers, side passing or leg yielding, all horsemen will agree that regardless of the discipline horses need to travel supple, relaxed, and responsive to all aids. Horses need to be ridden in a way to optimize lifelong soundness, with their back engaged and stepping under themselves.
The equine competition scene in South Dakota revolves almost exclusively around timed western events and AQHA or Arabian breed shows, but the English scene is alive and growing thanks to several predominantly English schooling shows (most notably Westridge Equestrian Center’s Hope Reins schooling dressage and hunter series), with even more in the works to start up.
The Sioux Empire Fair hosts a hunter/jumper schooling show on the first weekend of the fair each year, and barns local to Sioux Falls, South Dakota have brought in many dressage and jumping opportunities in the form of clinics throughout the years.
West River South Dakota is keeping English competition alive thanks to the Black Hills Equestrian Association’s efforts and several shows hosted by Rockin R Arena. East River South Dakota’s English riding culture is lacking schooling horse trials. Eventing (or a “three-phase”, or “horse trials”) is the discipline that most of the thrill-seeking timed event riders are most interested in for cross-training because of the cross-country jumping phase. Eventing is comparable to triathlon for horses:
Cross-country has the highest space requirement due to how expansive the cross country course can get. Some venues skirt around that by offering a combined trial - only dressage and showjumping phases.
Schooling shows are very much the lifeblood of developing interest in new disciplines, especially in areas where they are less popular. Rated and sanctioned shows frequently have time and financial commitments that far exceeds what many beginners are willing to give. Competitors can expect to see class fees of around $10 or $15, an office fee, and a stabling fee if necessary. These days can easily be kept under $50 if stabling is not required. Additionally, though, competitors need to consider the advantages of having a coach with them to provide assistance throughout the show.
Several states surrounding South Dakota have quite prominent winter schooling series to help keep everyone going in the upper Midwest “offseason.” The Nebraska Hunter Jumper Schooling Show Circuit has monthly two-day shows, with the April show taking place during the International Omaha show, which gives up-and-coming riders a taste of riding in the big leagues. The Central States Dressage and Eventing Association hosts shows at North Run Farm in Stillwater, Minnesota offers two schooling shows each month: one dressage show, and one hunter show. Iowa also offers events through the Powder River Ranch complex in Cumming, Iowa.
Regardless of how or what you ride, it's gearing up to be a fun show season - looking forward to seeing you out there!