Become a Showdown Trainer

APPLY TO COMPETE / show your skills and make an impact

Change the future of an adoptable horse, show your skills to our large community, and make a huge impact for horses in the Dakotas! Learn more and apply today for an early May pickup. The finale event will be August 24-25, 2024 in Yankton, SD!

Apply by April 1, 2024

ABOUT / what to expect

We're excited you are considering competing in the Dakota Showdown! Here is what you can expect.

Applications will be reviewed by the selection committee from April 1- 5, 2024. Zoom interviews will be conducted from April 6-10 and trainers will be notified on April 15, 2024, if they have been selected. If a selected trainer decides not to compete, alternate trainers will be contacted and offered a spot.

We are expecting to have at least 6 horses in two divisions - Foundation and Showcase. Divisions may be larger depending on horse and trainer availability. Trainers can be 16 and up; however, trainers under 18 need to have a mentor and a strong application.  Trainers may compete in multiple divisions but only with one horse per division.

Chosen trainers will be given access to photos and bios of potential Showdown horses. The horses are located near Scotland, South Dakota, and the pickup range is from May 4 to May 16, 2024. If possible, we may be holding a selection event where all trainers will meet the horses and select their horses. This will be discussed with selected trainers.

A Showdown representative and photographer will be visiting the horses in July (currently planned between July 5-7, 2024) to observe the progress and obtain official photos and videos. Trainers will need to be available. 

Trainers will be expected to highlight their horse on social medial and/or provide regular (at least bi-weekly) updates which will be shared on the Dakota Showdown and rescues' social media to encourage interest. The more people know about your horse, the better chance they will be adopted!

Trainers will need to submit a video of basic skills one week prior to the Showdown finale for initial judging, and will compete in person over trail obstacles and in an exhibition.

Trainers will compete for a ribbons, a prize package, and will receive 50% of the adoption fee if the horse is adopted at the Showdown or in the 30 days following the Showdown.

All costs of care for the horse(s) in your care can be tax deductible where defined by law. 

DIVISIONS / choose wisely

The Foundation Division will feature horses who are missing a solid foundation of handling that makes them adoptable for the average person. They may be minimally handled but gentle, or have more extensive ground work (or even riding) but large holes or difficult personalities. A few examples of potential horses in this division are:

  • a friendly but minimally handled young horse that is a blank slate for training
  • an older horse who has had handling but presents a challenge with basic skills such as farrier or loading
  • a horse that has a good grasp on most basic skills but is reactive and spooky

Foundation horses will be judged on their basic skills, with the goal being a horse that nearly any level of adopter can handle on the ground. Foundation horses that are 3+ years old can be started under saddle if training progresses well but there will be minimal points for riding, and no points given if the basic skills Foundation is lacking or skipped. Foundation skills include:

  • Being catchable in a field, easy to halter, and leads calmly and quietly
  • stands quietly for grooming and clipping
  • Easily gives all four feet for cleaning and stands well for trimming
  • Stands quietly for vet work including deworming, vaccines, blood draws, easily enters and stands quiet in stocks and accepts touch everywhere
  • Walks quietly onto a trailer with a minimum of hesitation
  • Lunges quietly with solid verbal cues for walk/trot/canter/whoa. Reverses directions on command
  • Accepts blankets/fly sheets/fly masks and tack
  • Stands quietly by a mounting block 
  • Has confidence going through obstacles on a  lead, can be sent over and around items
  • Accepts new items with confidence and a minimum of spook

While riding is not the focus of this division, ponying and confidence building will make the horses in this division much more adoptable, and if they are excelling at all of the above may be started under saddle. 

The Showcase Division horses will be aged 3-15 that have generally good personalities and training up to a green broke level under saddle upon entering the competition. They may have some issues that need to be addressed but will generally be ready to work under saddle within the first couple of weeks of training. A few examples of potential horses in this division are:

  • a 3-yr-old horse with an easy going personality and solid manners who have not yet been started with lunging or under saddle
  • a 5-10 year old horse with good manners, decent ground work and some saddle training who may have a history of bucking or other holes in their training, but are too advanced for the Foundation division
  • a 12-yr-old horse who has a good personality and solid ground skills, with a history of riding but hasn't been ridden in several years

Showcase horses should meet all the basic Foundation skills requirement of a Foundation level horse as well as be solidly working under saddle at the walk/trot/canter for an intermediate level rider. Showcase level skills include:

  • All Foundation level skills such that any level of adopter can handle the horse on the ground
  • Easily accepts tack/bits and stands quietly for mounting on both sides
  • Stands until asked to move and has a solid and easy walk and whoa
  • Should be solid at the walk/trot and can be still learning control at the canter/lope. Should be rideable by an intermediate to advanced level rider. Still considered green but should just need time under saddle
  • Stands quietly for dismounting and untacking

Showcase horses will be judged equally on the Foundation skills and Riding skills (50/50).

We will be potentially adding a third non-competitive division for 2024, which may be a pony division, baby division, or other division suitable for youth or non-trainer participants. Keep an eye on this space for details!

APPLY NOW / deadline May 24, 2023

TESTIMONIALS / See What People Say About Us

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by FThemes

ANSWERS / everything you need to know

Yes! A trainer can compete in multiple divisions if there are enough horses. 

The Showdown horses will be available for adoption to pre-approved adopters through an auction process at the Finale on August 25, 2024. Adopters will be expected to sign our standard adoption contract and abide by the contract.

Trainers will receive 50% of the adoption fee if their horse is adopted at the event or in the initial 30 days after the event unless the horse fails it's initial trial period with it's adopter.

All adopters are given a 30-day trial period and are given a refund of their adoption fee if the horse is not a good fit and is returned to the rescue. If the horse fails its trial period due to any reason other than training problems, the 30-day period will be extended to allow the horse time to find a new home. If the horse experiences significant issues with its adopter such as bucking, unable to be trimmed, or other issues related to training, and those same issues can be replicated upon return at the rescue, the 30-day period will not be extended and the trainer will be ineligible for an adoption fee split of any kind.

If the horse is not adopted at the event or in the initial 30 days following the event and has met all the requirements of their division with a score of 75% the full points available, the trainer will receive 25% of any future adoption fee for a period of one-year following the Showdown Finale, with a maximum amount of $500. This includes if a Foundation horse enters the Showdown as Showcase horse the following year.


If a horse is not adopted at the event, trainers are encouraged to continue training their horse or any other unadopted horse in the Showdown and will receive a share of the adoption fees. If interes