Photo by Kate Bradley Byars.

Nestled in the rolling hills of the South Dakota Badlands, Sampson Family Ranch produces beef cattle, registered Longhorns and some of the best bloodlines in the barrel racing industry.

Two large mule deer jumped out of chest-high yellow clover and ran across the driveway, sprinting away down a long, winding draw that stretched far into the rugged backdrop of the South Dakota Badlands. It’s one of many locations on the Sampson Family Ranch that looks to be the setting for Hollywood’s next blockbuster Western film. The family of four’s official mailing address is Interior, South Dakota, but in reality, TK, Lainee, Cooper, and Kace Sampson are a long way from anything resembling a town. A visitor to the ranch is likely to see all kinds of wildlife as they traverse the gravel road that winds back several miles through mystical hills imbued with subtle hues of pink, blue and purple. The family’s ranch headquarters lies nestled in a vale surrounded by rolling hills. The cozy ranch house sits atop a gentle swell overlooking a stall barn, five-horse walker and cedar-pole roping arena below.

The equine facility is tidy and thoughtfully built, designed from the distinctly practical perspective of ranchers who appreciate good equipment, nice horses and functional corrals. After all, this is a working ranch where the cattle pay the bills and the horses are called upon for ranch work each and every day. Since Lainee and TK married in 2009, producing versatile ranch horses that also excel in the arena has been a top priority for the Sampsons. They both had the opportunity to grow up in western South Dakota raising great cattle and horses, and their wish is to continue that tradition with their sons, Cooper, 9, and Kace, 7. Their ranching operation is quite diverse, including beef cattle, registered Texas Longhorns, Quarter Horses, and professionally guided hunts.

Sampsons moving a Texas Longhorn herd.
The Sampsons run beef cattle as well as a Texas Longhorn herd that originated as a wedding gift from Lainee Sampson’s parents. Photo by Kate Bradley Byars.

Barrel Racing in Her Blood

Lainee grew up on a family ranch near Wall, South Dakota. Her parents, Greg and Lori Shearer, raised horses for as long as Lainee can remember, choosing to focus on the versatile Doc Bruce bloodline. The all-around horses her parents raised took Lainee and her siblings to numerous wins in goat-tying, breakaway roping and barrel racing. Lainee was a 1999 South Dakota high school rodeo all-around champion and four-time National High School Finals Rodeo qualifier. Lori Shearer and her friend Deb Myers often traveled together to circuit and amateur rodeos. Myers ran Frenchmans Guy and Lori ran a Doc Bruce gelding named “Crickett.” The Shearers brought mares to Frenchmans Guy early on, and their belief in his abilities as a sire was justified through the success of their children winning on his colts.

Lainee’s maternal grandparents owned the great mare Willys Rockin, and when crossed on Frenchmans Guy she gave them three special full sisters—barrel racing legend SX Frenchmans Vanila, futurity standout French Fancy Face, and money earner Rock On Rita. While SX Frenchmans Vanila eventually sold to new owners in Brazil, Lainee’s grandparents elected to keep the remaining full sisters for their granddaughters to ride in high school and college rodeo. A few years ago, Lainee and TK were given the opportunity to add French Fancy Face to their broodmare band. They currently have three Irish Pay offspring out of the special mare and are expecting a fourth in 2020.

Lainee Sampson has ridden some of the best bloodlines in barrel racing.
Lainee Sampson began training barrel horses as early as junior high and has ridden some of the best bloodlines in the business. Photo by Kate Bradley Byars.

Growing up on the backs of the industry’s best barrel horses taught Lainee what was required to make an elite barrel horse. She trained her first futurity colt when she was in eighth grade, a Frenchmans Guy son dubbed “Little Grey.” Her next futurity mount was Frenchmans Guy daughter SX Frenchmans Mocha, whom she trained while she was a junior in high school. She took a break from futurity competition while she attended college at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, where she competed on the rodeo team. Lainee earned great success in college rodeo, winning the Central Plains region in goat-tying as a sophomore and winning the breakaway roping, barrel racing and all-around regional titles as a senior. She’s also a four-time College National Finals Rodeo qualifier and a five-time Badlands Circuit Finals qualifier.

Versatility is required of the humans on the Sampson Family Ranch just as much as the horses. Today, Lainee continues her family’s winning tradition by training, competing and winning on their home-raised Irish Pay colts.

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