S.D. Horse Fair Horseman’s Challenge Contest: Will a man ever win?

Farm Forum

As the S.D. Horse Fair gets ready to hosts the third year of the Horseman’s Challenge Contest March 15-17, the co-chairs of the contest, Jo Waldner and Gene Carr wonder, “Will a man or non-South Dakotan ever win?” The fans of the contest’s top-notch horses and riders are wondering the same thing because for the past two years, women from South Dakota have secured the highest total points from the contest judges and have taken home the title of the “South Dakota Horse Fair’s Great American Horseperson” from the March event.

In 2011 Kim Fordham-Lien of Aberdeen won the top placing and was honored to be named the “South Dakota Horse Fair’s Great American Horseperson.” She returned in 2012 to take reserve, riding her horse Dualena San as yet another female rider, Juli Brown of Winner, S.D., took home the first place honor riding her AQHA horse, Guns On Deck. As the top placing registered American Quarter Horse in 2012, Juli received additional prize money from the S.D. Quarter Horse Association. Last year third placed Brandon Wieland, Sheffield, Iowa, was the highest placing male rider, on Flying Hearts Tuffy for owner Frank Krokow, Sheffield, Iowa, and fourth place was earned by Tracy Cutler of Stratford, with her horse, Ima Larkin Too. Carly Wettlaufer, Ramona, S.D., rode Ima Zip Code Too/Sonic, the highest placing Appaloosa in the contest and took home the added money from CON Appaloosa Club.

Kim Fordham-Lien, the contest’s first winner, grew up around horses and has been riding off-and-on her whole life. With her horse, Dualena San, she likes to to participate in cattle-related events, such as reining, working cow horse, cutting, and ranch horse pleasure competitions. She was recently named the South Dakota Quarter Horse Association’s 2012 Open All-Around Champion riding Dualena San and the 2012 Amateur All-Around Champion riding Artful Sunsation, owned by her mother Linda Fordham.

When asked how many horses she owns, Fordham-Lien replied, “Enough to keep me out of trouble.” She also owns and operates Jason’s Truck and Auto Body in Aberdeen, and she works part-time at LBL Cattle Company. In short, Fordham-Lien is a very busy person, and it says quite a bit about her passion for horsemanship that she finds the time to train and compete so successfully. She said her favorite thing about riding was that “you learn life lessons, and you get out of it what you put into it.” Obviously, she puts quite a lot into it.

Fordham-Lien said of the Horseman’s Challenge competition, “It’s a really well-run event that features horses that are extremely versatile.” Throughout the S.D. Horse Fair weekend, the judge will evaluate high quality horsemanship skills as the riders complete various required tasks. Ranch Horsemanship starts 6 p.m. Friday, March 15, Ranch Cutting begins at 3 p.m. Saturday, and Western Trail Class takes place at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Fordham-Lien said round one of the competition tests a rider’s transitions and ability to follow a set pattern. Round two involves cutting an animal out of a herd and then penning the animal, and round three is an obstacle course that features a roping dummy. The judge takes a combined score from the three events and uses that to determine a winner.

Though she may not compete this year (she might compete in a National Reining Horse Association competition instead), Fordham-Lien speaks of the Horseman’s Challenge with obvious excitement. “It’s very exciting when you’re out there, and the whole crowd is screaming and yelling for you,” she said.

Although the women have outscored the men, the top placings often come down to the finer points of the required tasks, making the scoring very close. Fordham-Lien said, “The horsewomen that have shown up have been extremely talented and have talented horses.” The crowd will need to hold their breath until Sunday, March 17, to see whether a male or female prevails to earn the “South Dakota Horse Fair’s Great American Horseperson” honor. Prize money, bragging rights and a beautiful jacket are at stake.

So far, the fair has received entries from five states: South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming. There are still some openings, so if you feel you and your horse are ready, enter the Horseman’s Challenge contest. It offers top-notch competition and is a great learning opportunity. Only 27 horses and riders are allowed to complete. Those interested must act quickly and enter now by mailing their information and fee to the