Mandan Rodeo Days is well known for drawing the best cowboys and cowgirls. A big part of that is the best stock they can mount.
Chad Berger and Dakota Rodeo Company take care of the animal side of rodeos that thousands of spectators have seen over the past three days.
“It’s become one of the biggest rodeos in the country on July 4,” Berger said. “A big rodeo like this, no stock contractor in the world could put on himself. I have to make sure every rider has a good horse, so I have stock coming from Texas, Canada, from South Dakota, and I’m probably forgetting a few others.
“I have horses that come from Spain to Maine, to make sure it’s a high quality rodeo.”
The annual Mandan Rodeo is in Berger’s blood.
“I’ve been affiliated with the Mandan Rodeo since I was about six years old,” Berger said. “I rode Mandan for many years, and now I’m back to supply stock. I was born here and I’m going to die here.”
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Berger and Dakota Rodeo Company, which Berger runs alongside Joe Simon, has been the primary contractor for Mandan’s Rodeo Days for nearly a decade.
“It takes about 120 horses and about 70 bulls’ heads,” he said. “Mandan becomes one of the biggest rodeos in the country on July 4th, they have been building it for a long time.”
Although Berger provides the bulls, he needs help with the horses.
“Mandan Rodeo pays me to bring stock, that’s my job,” Berger said. “You have to have a lot of (horses) to run a rodeo like this. The 4th of July is also the hardest time because there are so many rodeos, so I have to pay a premium to get the right bucking horses to Mandan.”
The horses themselves are the reason it takes so much for a single rodeo.
“Almost every horse here is beaten once,” Berger said. “There are a few militants, seasoned horses that can take two (hits), so we hustle them on the second and fourth to give them a day off.
“But there’s only about eight to ten, the other 90 get beaten up once, then rest for a week or two and go again.”
Berger compares horses with other athletes on how they should be treated in order to keep the best horses as long as possible.
“They need to be treated like athletes,” Berger said. “You can upset them too much and they will get hurt and give up. There is not a contractor alive who will abuse an animal. The only way these animals work for you is if you work for them, and you have to take good care of them. care of them.
“Every one of these guys here thinks more about animals than anything else.”
Despite the difficulties in bringing in horses at this time of year, Berger still has bigger dreams for the future of rodeo in the Bismarck-Mandan region.
“Mandan will get bigger and better,” Berger said. “My dream is to have a 10-day rodeo, to have celebrations with everyone here, to make people want to come to Mandan all day and spend money here.
“Those guys at the rodeo club, I believe they have that vision, so look for bigger and better things in Mandan.”
This continued growth will coincide with the construction of new rodeo facilities right next to the current grounds of Dacotah Speedway.
“It will be a state-of-the-art arena,” Berger said. “There will be covered stands on both sides of the arena. People won’t have to worry about the weather and staying home with a covered stand. I’m so proud that they made it.”
“We’ll have people from across the country wanting to see the new arena and see the rodeo and look for great things.”