A Bold Beginning

One of our first horses, (Mike) a black Shire with a white stripe on his face and four white feet, gained my attention in a big way one evening when Alan was working with him.

Mike and his younger brother, Pat, came to us from a Shire breeder, Harlan McCoy, near Pierre, South Dakota. On the wide open prairies of this central South Dakota ranch, Harlan had let his horses run wild and free a good share of the time. These two geldings, just one and two years old, were likely part mustang, but there was no way to know for certain.

Harlan had reached an age where he wasn’t able to work horses any longer and sold out. We acquired Mike and Pat from a good horse-trading friend, Praben Lee. When we brought the horses home the truck driver warned Alan: “Don’t ever let that oldest one out of the barn or you’re probably never going to see him again.” Mike was pretty wild.

Despite the concern, the geldings were well mannered in the barn and Alan was soon working on leading and gentling them before he was ready to introduce them to a harness.

In the corral, Alan used a lead rope and coaxed Mike to follow him and respond to the slightest tug on his halter. After a few stiff steps to loosen a taut lead rope, Mike reared back and started striking at Alan with his front feet. This action is common when horses are trying to protect themselves from a predator or some kind of danger. A horse like Mike could easily kill a coyote, cougar, dog, or a person with those powerful legs and feet.

I know that now, but at the time the sight of that big black horse aiming to pounce on my husband was a bit shocking and totally unexpected on my part. Fortunately, Mike was never able to connect one of those powerful hooves with any part of Alan. And after many days and hours of patient work, Mike became of the gentlest and most willing horses we ever owned.

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