By Katie Frank

Dragging around a large rubber tire with ease, you would never guess the big bay gelding had been in the Thoroughbred rehabilitation program for a mere two months. Malibu Mystery, fondly called “Malibu,” is a 7-year-old gelding by Malibu Moon and out of Tia Lea by Songandaprayer. After 49 starts and $72,150 in earnings, it was time for Malibu to find a new job in life, and Dale Simanton scooped up the horse for his unique program.

Simanton co-owns and operates Gate to Great Thoroughbreds, a training program for off-the-track horses in Newell, South Dakota. Through word of mouth or after seeing a bum race on TV, he calls on the horses that usually don’t stir up attention. He sees life in these horses, a life that doesn’t entail a backstretch or jockeys, but instead open range and cowboys.

When he inquires about a horse, he says he runs through a brief but important list of questions, such as previous injuries and health problems. “When I asked how tall [Malibu] was, the guy said, ‘Oh, about 15.9,’” Simanton laughs. “After hearing that I figured it wouldn’t do any good to ask what color he was!”

Not long after that call, Malibu arrived at the ranch where he was turned out and allowed to recuperate and just be a horse.

“When I turned him out, he ran the fence and ran the fence until he forgot what he was running for,” says Simanton.

It’s clear that what Simanton instills in his horses works. Malibu hauls the tire around for the first time without a fuss, then he stands patiently as Simanton talks more about his program.  

“Maybe next spring, I’ll get to dragging calves on him,” he says. “If the fire doesn’t scare him, there won’t be anything that bothers him. To really appreciate it, you have to see what some of these horses act like when they get here.”

Read more about Dale Simanton’s program in the January issue of Western Horseman.

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