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Rodeo Skills Put to Work on this Todd County Ranch

Lura Roti
Wayne Frederick’s ancestors have raised horses and cattle on the family’s Todd County ranch since the late 1870s ";s:

Connection to the land and horses runs deep on a Todd County Ranch where Wayne Fredrick’s ancestors have been riding the range and raising cattle for going on eight generations. SDPB’s Lura Roti has this story.

“My people have always been people of the horse. From the beginning.”

Since the late 1870s, Tom Frederick’s ancestors have cared for horses, livestock and their family on the rolling hills and prairie of the Rosebud Reservation where a grandmother claimed her allotment many generations ago. When Tom handed over the ranch his son, Wayne became the seventh generation to care for the land.

“It’s a big responsibility because culturally the seventh generation either comes together or falls apart. I have a lot to live up to.”

Together with his wife, Alex Romero, and their children, Summer and Cedar, the family implements regenerative agriculture practices to improve the rangeland that supports their grassfed cattle operation.

“We do a lot of different rotational practices, strategic water placement and its really benefited, because in five years, when tribe did grass studies, we actually went up in carrying capacity. So, that proved what we were doing was working.”

A healthy, abundant grass supply is important, Alex explains.

“Grassfed is 100 percent range, even in the winter. Over the past 10 years we have evolved these cows to graze.”

The family’s grassfed beef is marketed locally under the brand name, “Rez Raised.” And it’s a way the family shares their pride of place.

“For us being here on the reservation and raising a good product of meat and what we do with that meat we give back to the community. …That’s just a way for us to show, it’s not bad here. It’s beautiful. It’s a good place. It’s just a mindset people need to get over.”

Like generations before them, the family continues to use horses to work their cattle. And the skills they put to work on the ranch, they also enjoy in the rodeo arena.

“Rodeo is based off the skills you use on the ranch every day. So, like calf roping, we use that when we are tagging calves. Team roping, how do you get a wild steer or cow you can’t you get, if we are out here and we can’t get a trailer in there, how can we get it out? Everyone has to know how to head and heel. And bronc riding goes with colt breaking, colt riding. The skills went from the ranch, doing the work, to doing something fun. You know, let’s prove our skills. Who is the best?”

Alex has been rodeoing since childhood, a passion she has passed on to her daughter, Summer who says the ranch horses love the sport as much as she does.

“She definitely enjoys it. She enjoys running barrels and poles a lot. You can see it. It’s in her heart.”

“It’s also a break for them, they are not just my performance horses, they are ranch horses as well. So, they do a lot of working cows, and moving cows, and roping out here. So, their rodeos are like their vacation.

A 2021 graduate of Todd County High School, this is Summer’s last High School Rodeo season. She missed the 2020 rodeo season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because of my little brother, he was born with a heart murmur, and I didn’t want to put him at risk of getting it. Because if he got it, I didn’t know if he would die or not, and that is something I cannot risk for anything – not even rodeo.”

In the fall, Summer will be leaving her family’s ranch to attend Colorado State University. So, for now, she is taking advantage of every opportunity to spend extra time horseback.

“There is just something so mind clearing when you are riding by yourself out on this land. You can really feel the connection between you and your horse and the land when you are riding.”

Summer plans to become a large animal veterinarian and hopes to one day return to work on the Rosebud Reservation.