C magazine

Youth rodeo builds community spirit

Family poses on the rodeo grounds, wearing cowboy hats and jeans

For H&M codirectors Katie and Billy Martin, left, and their sons Tyler, back right, Traylin, right, and Trypp, center, rodeo is a family affair.

Sep 15, 2022

By Megan Gosch

For Billy and Katie Martin, rodeo isn’t just a beloved Western tradition — it’s a core community builder in a region where the closest neighbor lives 40 miles down the road and organized team sports are sparse.

As codirectors of the H&M Youth Rodeo Series in Howes, S.D., the Martins — along with Eric and Chasity Jones and countless volunteers — have built a family-focused program where local youth can train, gain life lessons about responsibility and perseverance, and support one another along the way. 

With the help of volunteers, the program has grown from six to more than 100 participants of all ages and skill levels. Budding ropers and riders trek to the H&M Youth Rodeo Arena to learn the technical skills of the sport, gather with friends and neighbors, and test their mettle through summer competitions. Some have gone on to compete at the collegiate and professional levels.

Teenager sits on top of goat that’s on the ground, typing its legs together with a rope
From roping and riding to goat tying, H&M Youth Rodeo participants learn the ins and outs of rodeo.

“Before H&M, there was nowhere around here for the kids to learn and compete outside of 4-H, and even then they had to be at least 8 years old to join,” says Katie. “Our youngest rider is 13 months old and some of our kids drive hundreds of miles to be here. Sure, they can practice at home, but we wanted to create a space where these kids could challenge themselves and each other and build camaraderie. That’s what H&M is all about.”

A tight-knit community keeps the program in motion, Billy says. “Water trucks, cattle, fencing, the land we use — it’s all donated,” he says. “And when people are not volunteering, they’re here to cheer on all the kids, not just their own. Rodeo brings us together as a family.”

CBH Cooperative in Sturgis, S.D., has been a dedicated sponsor and donor since the program’s humble beginnings. CBH recently partnered with the Cenex® brand to award H&M a $25,000 Hometown Pride grant to support the series.

The funds will help renovate the arena’s return alley, back pens, fencing, terrain and more. Upgrades will also be made to the sound system, bleachers and community pavilion where the community gathers for potlucks throughout the season.

“Everything donated goes back into the kids or the facility, so to be able to fix up this facility means more than words can say,” says Billy. “It’s a burden lifted to give our program a brighter future.” “These improvements will give kids a chance to connect and compete for decades to come. You just can’t put a price on that,” says Katie.”