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2005 Inductee

Don Johnson

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

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