Harley Larson working a cow [Photo: Brose Photography]
The Dakota 50/50 Annual sale, futurity/maturity show and open barrel race event took place this past October 14-16 at the North Dakota Winter Show building in Valley City, North Dakota. Members came from Canada, Minnesota, North and South Dakota.
The mission and thought behind the Dakota 50/50 have always been to promote quality performance horses that are good moving, solid minded, athletic horses that have the capability to work and look exceptional while performing. All keeping in mind the horse’s physical and mental potential.
“This show does a lot for the breeding programs. It gives horses a solid foundation and as trainers, it makes all of us get stronger and evolve as horsemen while showcasing the 50/50 horses in their events. The horses from here really end up being ambassadors for the event. With their solid foundations as two-year-olds in the show pen, I’ve seen them go on, stay broke and be very competitive in a lot of areas of competition,” said Wade Benson, 2022 Dakota 50/50 Futurity Grand Champion from West Fargo.
“All members seem to become family very quickly. Buyers, contestants, and spectators feel a welcomeness, and that’s what we try and maintain. The 50/50 has a family culture about it,” explained Samantha Coates, event manger and catalog chair from Crosby.
The Dakota 50/50 came to be in the early 2000s. Darrel Gustafson, St. John, and Greg Stewart, Bottineau, spearheaded the idea for their horse breeding programs, attempting to come up with a way to create an opportunity for breeders to highlight their programs in the region. They said they also wanted to provide an event for competitors to showcase their skills.
After contacting several breeders in north central North Dakota, making calls and sending letters, an overwhelming response came in. With the support of those horse enthusiasts, the Dakota 50/50 was formed. A catalog horse sale and futurity show event, featuring members of the Dakota 50/50 and their horses came to be and is flourishing two decades later.
Gustafson continues to serve on organizational committees with the support of his wife, Janine, who has been active in sponsorship and orgranzing the trade show and Mane event held during the Dakota 50/50.
Les Merck, Minot, 2022 Maturity Grand Champion, said that his friend was one of the founders and he bought his first colt through the sale 15 years ago. “I thought this might be a good deal, it was a rough showing the first year, but I stuck with it and through the years, it has really helped me learn more, work harder, go to more clinics and seek more horsemenship skills to be able to win these shows,” explained Merck.
Fifty percent of the profits from the catalog colt sale goes to the consigner and the other fifty percent goes to the futurity/maturity pot. “Buyers of these horses like knowing that their horses have a place to come back to and compete,” explained Janine Gustafson, St. John.
The only way to sell a colt in the sale is to be a member in good standing. “It is an elite and exclusive sale. Any colt purchased through the sale is eligible to compete in the 2-year-old futurity and the maturity for 3 to 6-year-old horses,” said Coates. “This year was our best sale on record.”
The Dakota 50/50 is also bringing forth the attention of youth riders.”This is making kids want to come learn and how to work a cow. It has helped my personal horse program become better because it’s enlightening the youth, making better riders which makes better horseman and in turn, better horses,” added Benson.
Gustafson attributes the twenty years of longevity and success to doing a good job of staying focused as a committee as well as the members. She also mentioned the commitment of the members and their mutual understanding of the purpose. They remained exclusively a futurity and sale event for ten years, and then added the maturity only when the event was ready for it.
“We diversified into three separate events based on the success of the futurity and added the maturity and open barrel race. Only tweaking fine details and executing the events as perfectly as we can. The weekend and our plates our full. The future mission is simple, to keep the quality at the high standard that has been set for our sale, the event, and the horses,” explained Gustafson.
“An event like the Dakota 50/50 gives people the opportunity to really improve as horsemen if they want to be successful. You can only do so much at home, but horsemen and horses are made other places as well,” said Merck. “The better competition makes you work harder at home, ultimately.”
The maturity consists of the limited working cow, trail, reining, rail, and conformation classes. An open 4-d barrel race was added to the venue in 2016 and has a side-pot for Dakota 50/50 purchased horses.
“To be prepared to be succesful at a show this like this doesn’t just happen,” explained Merck. He said that hauling throughout the year to other venues and putting yourself and horses out there in the ring amongst some tough competition is what gets you ready to win.
“A lot of people see these horses so broke and young, but for them to get to this point and stay maintained mentaly and physically, took a lot of consistent hard work at home that no one sees.” Merck added, “Improving ourselves as horsemen, really, is making horses better in general as well as the breeding, and this event has set the bar to keep doing just that.”
For more information and results, visit: www.dakota5050.com
Tisa Peek is a long time horse trainer, competitor in barrel racing and team roping, and writer about the equine. Rodeo and horses run deep in her roots. JT Family Equine is where she calls home, south of Bismarck, ND. Tisa, along with her husband, Jon, and boys, Blu and River, train horses, host horse camps for youth, and provide riding lessons.