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Lakefield teen competes in Junior Rodeo's National Finals

Sadie Hotzler travels to rodeos around the country.

Sadie Hotzler, of rural Lakefield, competes in barrel racing.
Sadie Hotzler, of rural Lakefield, competes in barrel racing.
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LAKEFIELD — The Clear Lake area between Jackson and Lakefield is not exactly a rodeo hotbed.

But Sadie Hotzler and a few of her young friends are changing that with a sizzling summer success story.

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Sadie, 13, recently won a barrel racing state championship and earned a trip to the Junior Rodeo Association’s National Finals in Perry, Georgia, where she finished 23rd out of 161 talented racers. She also finished 56th of 165 in pole bending, which combines speed and horsemanship and requires quicker turns than barrel racing. Sadie finished second in the state of Minnesota in that event.

Sadie, who will be a seventh grader in the fall, couldn’t envision building such a rodeo reputation when she was a little girl.

“No, not really,” she said with a smile. “I started riding when I was 6 and got a horse that really helped me. I just really liked it.

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“It’s just really fun. You can travel all over because of rodeo.”

True enough. A week after running barrels and pole bending in Georgia, the Hotzler family was headed to Guthrie, Okla., and the National Little Britches Rodeo Finals Rodeo. She’s also competed in huge events in Texas and Las Vegas in the last year.

Sadie Hotzler with her rodeo championship buckles.
Sadie Hotzler with her rodeo championship buckles.
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Sadie wasn’t the only young rodeo star from the Jackson area competing in Georgia. Josie Dvorak, 14, finished 34th in pole bending and 61st in barrel racing. Meanwhile, Jessica Dvorak, 12, was 51st in barrel racing, 99th in goat tying (the youth variation of calf, or tie-down, roping) and 101st in pole bending.

The Hotzler family has always loved horses. Sadie’s mother, Shelly, grew up in Buffalo and for years attended the rodeo there, which is Minnesota’s oldest PRCA event. Sadie’s father, Terry, grew up in Windom. The Hotzlers own two Clydesdales and have participated in demonstrations that showcase the powerful pulling horses.

When Sadie was 8, she was given a mare named “Gracie.” Then two years later the family picked up a barrel racing horse called “Jake,” a big Paint.

Two years ago a little mare named “Kenna” was obtained.

“They have just clicked and taken off,” Shelly said.

The family has both indoor and outdoor arenas now at Clear Lake. So Sadie has plenty of opportunity to practice — and work.

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“There’s a lot of chores,” Sadie laughed.

The horse business is a hobby for the Hotzlers. Shelly was a teacher, softball coach and finally an athletic director for two decades in the Jackson County Central school district. Her husband, Terry, owns H&D Underground, which specializes in underground utility and internet services.

Owner Brent Pavelko has spent significant time renovating the interior, using an eclectic mix of materials and decor relating to Lakefield and the surrounding region itself.

Shelly, a three-sport athlete while growing up in Buffalo, was a highly successful coach at JCC. She led the Huskies to three state softball tournaments, winning a pair of championships.

Now she’s more interested in roping and riding. And so is her daughter.

“I really like pole bending,” Sadie said.

Both riding events require precision and quick thinking. What does Sadie think about before each important run?

“I just try to breathe,” she said with a smile.

Sadie and the Dvorak sisters are proteges of Steve Sparks, a Ceylon man who is heavily involved in Martin County Fair horse programs and organizes ranch rodeos.

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The Jackson Saddle Club is connected with Region 4 of the Minnesota Junior Rodeo Association. There are events in places like Hugo, Pine River, Greenbush and Granite Falls.

But nothing really close to Jackson.

“That’s why we go all over the place,” Shelly said.

"In 65-plus years of life, pretty much my only interest in horsehide has been hitting it."

Driving can be stressful, but that’s nothing compared to watching her daughter on horseback.

“Parenting is a little tougher than coaching,” Shelly laughed.

She’s enjoying this new part of her life.

“I sure am,” Shelly said. “I did a lot in 20 years (with the softball program) and it was OK to try something different.”

Thanks to Sadie and her horses, the change has been a lot more than just OK.

“Oh gosh,” Shelly said. “We’re having a ball.”

Scott Mansch may be reached at smansch5rockets@gmail.com.

Scott Mansch, who in a crowded Viking tavern has been known to say “Go Pack Go” at times in complete disregard for his health, can be reached at smansch5rockets@gmail.com
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