Don Johnson was a man who enjoyed the
entire horse pulling scene; the idea; the horses; the training and conditioning;
the people associated with the contests, and the tendency of horse people coming
together through horse pulling. Don pulled horses for 60 years and mixed
the pulling in with farming. The two activities are compatible, after all.
One watcher commented, “Don preferred a
big team of horses. He especially liked big front ends on them. He
also liked to hook on the load and have the horses walk off with it with hardly
a word. Don always believed that the pulling contest was actually all worked
out with the horses before they ever arrived at the contest.”
Don was also involved with 4-H over the
years. He was consistent from year to year, taking pride in turning out a
well fitted and good handling pair of horses. Horse pullers are not alone,
they pull their families into the industry with them, their spouses, children,
and grandchildren, and on and on. Don Johnson was that way.
In the 1960s Don received a plaque from
the MHBA for pulling the biggest load, entering the most contests, receiving the
most horsemanship awards, and winning the most first places. In 1969 Don
won the National Championship in Saginaw (MI). While Don pulled both
lightweight horses and heavyweights, it was the big teams that really had a hold
of his heart.
While winning some 169 trophies during
his horsepulling career, what he really valued was the human relationships that
evolved from it. He always believed that if horses were properly worked,
handled and conditioned, they could pull if they wanted to. Getting the
horses to want to pull was always what Don worked toward.
Don was nominated for the Michigan Draft
Horse Pulling Hall of Fame by the Michigan Horsepulling Boat Association.
Click on photos to enlarge
Photos courtesy of Cecil E. Darnell