I started this with the intention of sharing my horses story. Boy was I wrong. It ended up being about us, our journey and story together. It tells how God has worked in our life. I was hoping Smoke’s story would inspire or touch at least one person. Now I am hoping our story will inspire people to believe and not loose faith. I want to say thank you to my friend Rita for inspiring me to write this. I also wanted to thank a horse named Snickers and his friend Annie for sharing their story with the world. God has used these great horses the people from Western Days Ministries to inspire me to and serve God. I hope you enjoy, God Bless.
Twelve years ago this year a horse was born that would change my life forever, and I didn’t even know it. He was a grulla quarter horse named “Look of a Legend’ or “Schat” for short. I was sent a message through Facebook and knew my wife at the time would not turn down a free horse, especially one that was registered. So I decided to take on another “project horse” not really knowing anything about this horse.
On the three hour drive home I thought about what to name him. I decided on Smoke On The Water. “Smoke” for short. I got home about two in the morning and turned him out to pasture with the other horses. The next day I got Smoke out and realized I had my work cut out for me. Smoke was very high headed and very hot. He did try hitting me with his head when I was riding him, and he was mean and very pushy on the ground with no regards to anybody. He pushed me around and bit me many times. He had my whole arm in his mouth on several occasions. One night when I was feeding the horses, I was just about to open the gate to exit the feedlot, when I turned around and there was Smoke. He looked at me than my foot;. He did that about 3 or 4 times and than stepped on my foot and pushed me over. Smoke than looked at me than my chest and did that about 3 times. He than stepped on my chest and twisted his foot. I herd a loud crack and felt a lot of pain. I panicked, rolled out and came up swinging. I was in defensive mode. He finally backed away. I ended up with a cracked sternum.
After that I worked on building a bond with Smoke the rest of the winter. I did ask for Smoke’s forgiveness. It took me a lot of very frustrating rides on him to start to figure him out. He was always high headed and wanting to go. So, I let him go one day. We ran for about 3 or 4 miles until Smoke slowed down. When Smoke was slowing down I could see a beautiful smile on his face. He was truly happy. I later found out Smoke was never allowed to go above a walk in “training” or at all in eight years. I just recently found out he was shown in western showman ship when he was 5 years old. The young lady that showed him was always kind to him and treated him right. It wasn’t until he was put into training the next 3 years when his story changed. Smoke was a very small 5 year old. He was put into 2 different trainers over the next two-and-a-half years. Where the owner spent thousands of dollars trying to make him into something he’s not. He was hit in the knees when he wouldn’t stand to be trimmed. He also has rope burn on his back right leg from being tied up to trim his feet. They tried to use the fear method and all it did was turn Smoke into a train wreck. That first year we overcame a lot!
I’m a firm believer in having an all around horse, just for the fact I cant afford a lot of horses. I needed Smoke to be able to work cattle and to be used for my son to ride as well. So he needed to learn how to neck rein. That was a task in its self. I taught Smoke two different kinds of neck reigning. Up high is for working and going fast and down low is to go slow and for kids riding him. I also had to teach Smoke how to move off of leg pressure. Once all of this was done it was time to learn how to rope. This didn’t go very well at all. I finally had enough one day and pulled my old cow horse Molly out (Who I retired the previous fall.) I could see smoke come into the feedlot to watch us, but he hung back. When I started to build a loop and roping he drew closer to the arena. I kept watching him out of the corner of my eye. He watched us closer and closer almost studying us. When I was done I looked at Smoke and he nodded his head and trotted off to the back pasture. I thanked Molly and turned her out. The very next day Smoke acted like he has been roped off of all of his life. I’ve never seen anything like it. By that fall we were roping and dragging pretty decent together.
I ended up getting a divorce and that spring we left my farm. The first day at the new place Smoke and I moved to, a big Percheron did a double leg kick at me. I didn’t have time to move but Smoke threw himself between us and took the full kick for me. Thankfully he didn’t get hurt and was just sore. We had to move 2 other times in the next two months. The last place I lived I boarded with a lady, she invited me to go to church. I was really scared and nervous to go. But I went. It was the first time I had ever been to a church and could relax. The people were great and I was able to really focus on the message. I started to look forward to going.
Before we moved I had started using smoke for dragging bulls and barrel racing. Smoke loves working bulls almost more than anything in the world. The one thing Smoke loves more than working bulls is his kid, my son Ty.
Ty lived down south with his mom and I decided I wanted to be closer to him. I made the move to the Wayland area. Smoke does anything for Ty. I know it was hard for Ty and Smoke not seeing each other for 3 months until I moved to Wayland.
When I moved down here I didn’t have a place to live a job or a home for smoke. Because of this I only had one choice on where to keep him. The only good thing was that they had cattle there that we worked all the time.
A lot of things ended up happening in my personal life and I didn’t set foot at that ranch for a month. I had a friend groom him and love on him for me. I would sit on the side of the highway and just watch him. When I went and got him I parked across the street at a friends house and had another friend go and get him for me so I didn’t have to set foot on the property. When I met them in the road he had his head down and looked depressed. When I said his name with tears down my face he took a deep breath and wrapped his head around me. He walked a little taller with a pep in his step when he got in the trailer. I hauled him to where he is now.
We’ve had a lot of ups and downs together. While we were out riding one day that summer, – they just laid gravel on the road – and a truck decided to floor-it when they passed us throwing gravel at us and almost knocking me off of Smoke. Smoke started backing away from it and almost ended up going in a ditch backwards. Luckily a van that was right behind us blocked the road until I could regain control of Smoke. The following week we were out riding again and the same truck did the same thing again except for going the other way. After that, I couldn’t ride Smoke on the road anymore with out him freaking out or getting really hot. We could be in the hay field 400 yards away from the road and he would freak out and act crazy when he looked over and saw that spot in the road.
There was a time in there that I couldn’t drive because of medical reasons. It was very hard for me to get to the farm to take care of him. Basically to feed him and that was it. I lost the bond that I had with him. I had a very hard time riding him because he was so hot. The only time he acted normal was with Ty. Ty could ride him anytime and he would be fine. I was at an all time low and told him the only reason I didn’t sell him was because of Ty.
Then came the day when everything was going wrong and I broke down crying on my knees and told Smoke that I hated him. I just sat there on my knees crying. Smoke stood there and then came up to me and wrapped his head around me. I just melted into Smoke and asked for his forgiveness. I stood up and said, “Lets do this a different way.” I told him we were going to put God first. Since then we have crossed a huge mountain. We have been road riding and can walk quietly past that one spot in the road. I ride with Ty and his pony and other horses. Then one evening I decided to see if I could crack a whip off of him. I was very nervous because all I had was are longe whip. I had to remind myself to put God first and it will be ok.
“The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
So I grabbed the whip and got on Smoke.
Through Christ all things are possible. When I doubted, God showed me He is the ultimate Horseman. Smoke pretty much just stood there.
We also did something I didn’t think we could do, but it was Gods will that we do it. This past summer we loaded my saddle bag full of Western Days flyers and road 8 miles one way to Wayland. We took Division all the way there. (Division is a major road that people treat more like a highway.) We rode through subdivisions and the park talking about Western Days. And for the first time in my life I found myself sharing God’s word by myself.
We rode through downtown Wayland to my churches office. We got caught in a thunderstorm at the stop light down town. The tall buildings echoed and the thunder and made the lightening sound a lot worse. When we were at the stop light a semi turned towards us and it made me feel like I was getting boxed in I couldn’t imagined how it made Smoke feel. But he handled it fine.
As I look back at it now, I realize it was God saying “Look I got this” just have faith. Since those days Smoke and I have had the privilege of dragging bulls and being a part of Western Days Ministries events in both Allegan and Adrian. My pastor has also done a video on us for church, using our testimony and sharing my story after I was baptized.
There are so many things I could keep writing but I will just say this. God is great, very forgiving and never quits on you, so don’t ever quit on him. As for Smoke and me? Our story has just begun, but with God riding next to us it will be a great ride.
Aaron Mulka and Smoke