In the Spotlight

“Life is too short not to try everything” is South Dakota competitor Kim Fordham-Lien’s outlook on life and horse showing.

By Alexis Bennett, AQHA publications and online communications intern
The American Quarter Horse Journal
November 18, 2013

Kim Fordham-Lien and Dualena San photo by Laurie Errington of Scootemandshootem Photography

Amateur competitor Kim Fordham-Lien circles up on Dualena San in a working cow horse class. (Photo by Laurie Errington of Scootemandshootem Photography)

It’s fair to say that for Kim Fordham-Lein, dedication, hard-work and a willingness to try anything began as a young horsewoman and carried over as life skills.

These traits have become the foundation of her success in every arena that Kim enters, and it all started in the show pen.  

But the horsewoman from Aberdeen, South Dakota, didn’t always have horses.

In fact, she says that one night, while walking outside as a little girl, she saw a shooting star and made a wish. As many little girls do, Kim wished that she would some day have a horse.

Then the dream came true.

“I know it sounds silly, but I always tell everyone that that night is when it all started,” Kim tells the Journal with a laugh.

Her dream wasn’t too far-fetched, considering that her family’s roots with horses ran deeper than shooting stars.

“My dad was into halter horses, and when we started riding, he always made sure that we had a horse. He kept upgrading us as we progressed.”

Kim and her two younger sisters began in 4-H, as many do, as soon as they were eligible at 8 years old.

Kim’s parents hauled her and her sisters to shows all over South Dakota, and sometimes in less-than-ideal conditions.

“The arenas were outdoors and the shows were all over,” Kim recalls. “Now, it’s a lot different. People are indoors more. That’s not how we started.”

That was also when Kim began her habit of taking on new adventures in any event that she could get involved with.

She says her motto is “Moderation is key.” But, anyone who knows Kim knows this is a joke.

“Take a big bite, and chew like crazy,” is a more fitting slogan for Kim’s go-getter lifestyle.

She thinks this versatile perspective started with her dad, who thought that if someone was willing to put in the effort to get ready for an event and drive to a show, then they might as well enter everything they could qualify for.

“We were just so blessed that Dad just continually supported us and kept improving horses. I’ve always had a plethora of multi-talented horses.”

Of course, Kim attributes her well-roundedness to this perspective.

Kim has competed in just about everything from reining to working cow horse, plus halter and rail and pattern classes. She qualified for the 2013 AQHA World Championship Show with her stallion, Dualena San, in amateur aged stallions, amateur reining and amateur ranch pleasure, plus performance halter stallions and ranch pleasure. But Kim won’t be making the trip to Oklahoma City this November.

“The timing just didn’t work out this year, but hopefully next season,” Kim says.

Last year, Kim won the South Dakota Quarter Horse Association all-around award in the open and amateur divisions on two separate horses and in two different disciplines. She competed as an open competitor in reining, working cow horse and ranch pleasure with Dualena San (Dual Lena San-Docs Foxy Suzy Cue by Shannon Bonanza JR) and as an amateur in pattern classes and hunt seat with Artful Sunsation (Artful Investment-Tuff Jammin Te by Sunsational Shadow).

This year, Kim won the SDQHA open all-around title and was reserve in the amateur division with Dualena San, whom she had purchased as a 5-year-old un-started stallion. Now 9 years old, the brown stallion is really starting to come into his own.

Despite her success, Kim says she is still in the goal-setting stage of her show career. Her fellow competitors and supporters encourage her to take showing more seriously, but she says that she is more focused on developing her skill.

Since her original experience was not in the cow-horse arena, Kim is taking time to work with Levi Grimes of West River, South Dakota, to develop herself and her equine teammate.

In addition to her success as an equestrian, Kim also competed as a collegiate athlete. She ran track and field at South Dakota State University and was inducted into the Jackrabbits’ athletic hall of fame October 26, 2013. Kim has also dabbled in triathlons and completed a few elite races.

While at SDSU, Kim completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mass communications and gained experience as a university teaching assistant. She now manages an auto collision body repair shop that she and her husband started.

In her few minutes of spare time, Kim helps as a TV personality for a small local news station.

“I didn’t major in media broadcasting in college, but they asked me to help, so I did.”

Her eclectic interests even make her laugh.

“Life is too short not to try everything,” Kim says. “If it sounds interesting, then do it.”

Kim’s adventurous spirit and encouraging words are uplifting. To both those nearest to her and those farther away who have the fortunate opportunity to come into contact with her, Kim is an inspiring and influential horsewoman.

The American Quarter Horse Journal loves to feature the hard-working AQHA exhibitor, and In the Spotlight is the Journal’s fun new way to do so. Do you know a hard-working AQHA competitor who deserves some time in the limelight? Email AQHA Internet Editor Tara Matsler at tmatsler@aqha.org to submit story ideas, then visit www.aqha.com/inthespotlight to view more In the Spotlight stories.