Before semi-trucks hauled untold tons of goods across America’s interstates, massive draft horses pulled wagons across dirt roads and rutted paths to feed a burgeoning nation’s ever-expanding borders and people.
At the upcoming Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo, a team of draft horses whose ancestry traces back to those pre-tractor-trailer days, the Young Living Percherons, will be on display for anyone wanting to peer into the past. Standing six feet tall and weighing around 2,000 pounds, the Percherons — a French breed of draft horse —attending this year’s show aren’t just for looks, though.
They’ll also get some work in, meandering around the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center’s Barnett Arena’s floor during breaks in Rodeo Rapid City events to drag a large, white, replica freight wagon with trainer Jason Goodman in tow. Goodman and his horses Tuff, Huey, Cyclone, Rocket, Bode, Bud and Ice, are traveling from Mona, Utah and the Young Living Lavender Farm. The six horse hitch team, ages seven to 11 years old, is sponsored by Young Living Essential Oils, a multi-level marketing company that sells essential oils and sends the Percheron team around the country to rodeo events and stock shows to market its company.
“Whenever you needed more muscle to either pull something or haul something, you went to a work horse, Goodman said of the Percheron breed’s history in a Journal interview.
The show, Goodman said, lasts about three to five minutes as the six horse hitch does laps, figure eights, and around the Barnett Arena rodeo floor. A docking maneuver where the team backs the wagon up, mimicking what a team would do when approaching a loading dock, is also part of the show, as is a move where the wagon remains stationary as the horses sidestep, tracing a concentric circle as though the horses were a windshield wiper. Goodman said the Barnett Arena floor area is the smallest, by square foot, of any venue he and the Percheron team perform in during the year, presenting its own unique set of challenges. The team travels and performs up to 175 days per year.
“It’s like driving a semi-tractor trailer in a parking lot,” he said of the experience. To ensure the show goes smoothly, Goodman trains the team in Utah daily to practice the moves and keep the horses in good physical condition.
“They have to be in shape and they have to know the plays,” he said.
When the horses aren’t out strutting their stuff during Rodeo Rapid City show breaks, they’ll be on display each day in the “Rodeo Zone” inside the Ice Arena during the trade show’s regular hours from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Goodman said he enjoys talking with the people who come up to him and his team to visit, ask questions and gaze at the geldings as much as anything during the two-week-long event.
“Traveling and meeting the people,” he said of his favorite part of the job.