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Meet the Member Reece Ullerich
story by Lily Weinacht
“It’s just the life lessons rodeo teaches you and the people around you—there’s some adversity you have to deal with throughout life and rodeo really teaches you to take that adversity and turn it into something good and to keep working hard,” says Reece Ullerich. “And I really enjoy the competition and being around the people of the sport, and working with the horses and cattle.” Working through the challenges of the season served the 18-year-old from Humboldt, South Dakota, well when he won the state title in reined cow horse this summer astride his mare Moe. “That kind of came as a surprise to me. I was going into state really hoping to make a few solid runs to make Nationals for the fourth year in a row,” Reece explains. “I just put down a really solid run in the first round and ended up winning the second round, and I stayed steady for the short round. That was really all I could do because my mare is hard to show so I was dealing with her quirks.” While Reece won the short round, he finished second in the average and didn’t allow himself to celebrate the year-end win until the following day when he found out for sure.
Along with the reined cow horse, Reece qualified for the NHSFR in tie-down roping for the first time. Though his runs at Nationals didn’t go as he hoped, he loved the opportunity to finish his senior year by qualifying in two events. In 2018, he finished in the top 20 in the nation in reined cow horse. Those events are his favorites, but not just because of his success in them. “The reined cow horse has really made me a better horseman, and I love the competition and all the aspects that go into tie-down, and how many moving parts there are and how they have to go right.”
Reece picked up reined cow horse as a freshman to improve his horsemanship, and rode a palomino mare, Pistol, for the first two years, thanks to the generosity of Pistol’s owner, Kaycee Jones. “My parents, Mark and Melissa, have given me the best opportunity anybody in my situation can have, and I want to thank Frank Kenzy and Jamie Olson for helping me get my cow horse ready. My brother, Jace, does a lot to help me take care of my horses, and he headed steers for me the last two years of high school rodeo. And I want to thank my grandparents, Dean and Connie Ullerich and Guy and Kathy Mackner, for driving the miles and coming to each of the Nationals with me and being able to share those experiences.”
In addition to rodeo, Reece’s high school sports included basketball, which he was the team captain of, and track, in which he was a two-time state champion in the medley and 4×800 relays. He graduated from West Central High School and is attending South Dakota State University this fall on a rodeo scholarship. His first rodeo is in early September, and he’s competing in tie-down roping and team roping. “High school rodeo has definitely prepared me for this next step just with the competition in South Dakota. There’s such a great opportunity for a multitude of kids to compete, and that has prepared me leading up to this level,” says Reece. He and his brother are the first generation of their family to rodeo, and Reece also competed in 4-H and Little Britches rodeos growing up.
He’s taking his roping horses Squid and Raz to college. “For college rodeo, I have a goal set to rope all my calves and see where the points fall, and try to make the finals my freshman year. And for my studies, I have a goal set for getting into vet school that fifth year and becoming a veterinarian. I’d like to work with performance horses and get them to where they can perform and win again.”