SOUTH DAKOTA HORSE
Part 2 of 2 in our coverage of South Dakota barrel racing
By Jesselyn Seaton
For those that want to show off their barrel racing skills, South Dakota has various rodeo associations for all age groups and levels of riders. For adults, both state and regional rodeo associations put on amateur and professional rodeos throughout the year that pay out money and awards. In the sport of rodeo, anyone is allowed to participate at the amateur level. You do not need to pre-qualify. However, the level of talent at amateur rodeos is usually quite high, as it is considered by many to be a stepping-stone to the professional level.
To compete at the professional level in a rodeo event, an athlete must apply for a permit and earn a certain amount of money from professional-level events to be issued a membership card. For barrel racers, being a professional can mean many hours on the road travelling between rodeos not only in South Dakota, but in surrounding states as well. The country’s top-level barrel racers that you see on TV at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) each December have traveled countless miles across the entire country to earn enough money to qualify for the finals. Only the top fifteen ladies in the country make it to the NFR!
Although rodeo is exciting and fun, and it presents a lot of travel opportunities, following the rodeo circuit can be expensive and time consuming. For those barrel racers wanting to stay close to home, there are numerous organizations throughout South Dakota that hold jackpot barrel races. Participating in a jackpot race is different than competing at a rodeo. Jackpots are typically just for barrel racers – no bull riding, calf roping, or other rodeo events. Anyone can participate – no need to be a member of an organization or to pre-qualify for open jackpots. Participants can simply show up with their horse and pay the entry fee. Typically, there are no other events held at barrel racing jackpots. However, once in a while, pole bending is added as an extra jackpot event.
Unlike rodeo, a jackpot is a full day of non-stop barrel racing. Literally hundreds of horse and rider teams can compete at a jackpot in one day! A jackpot will usually hold a separate race for peewee or youth riders, followed by an open race in which all age groups compete against each other. This is different from most rodeo organizations where only certain age groups or levels of riders are allowed to compete.
The placement and payout system of jackpot barrel racing is also very different from that of rodeo. At a rodeo, only the few fastest barrel racers get a paycheck. At a jackpot, a placement format called “4D” or “5D” is used. This system divides the barrel racers into time divisions after all of the runs are completed with the top riders in each division awarded payouts. There is typically a half-second difference between each division.
The rider that is closest to the best time in each division without going under wins the division and paycheck. Also, riders who place in a division may receive a payout, depending on the number of entries for that day. This placing system makes it possible for lower-level or younger riders, and slower horses to have a chance at winning cash.
Wherever you live in the great state of South Dakota, you probably aren’t far from a jackpot, a rodeo, or a group of horse enthusiasts who are passionate about seeing the sport of barrel racing thrive. Come out and watch a local barrel race or rodeo event near you. Though we may have our competition faces on, we would love to visit with anyone about this great sport.
Support South Dakota’s growing horse industry. If you happen to see me at a jackpot event this summer, come on over to my trailer and say hello. I’ve always got horses that need extra brushing!