Grandpa Smoke, the magnificent Nokota® stallion known as "Papa," died early on January 17th, 2014 just a few months shy of his twentieth birthday. While he never left Linton, North Dakota, Nokota® fans around the world knew him through images on the Conservancy website, in publications, and on merchandise. He was stunning: a perfectly balanced fifteen hand dun overo with a dorsal stripe down his back, dark "tiger stripes" above his knees and silky white feathering on the back of his legs. But it was his proud carriage that made him so photogenic - he always held his head high, drawing attention to his delicate black-rimmed ears, his heavy, copper-streaked mane and his kind but vigilant eye, which was often half hidden by his long forelock. At a trot or canter he floated over the ground, arching his neck and tucking in his head. Sadly, only a few years after becoming a herd stallion he suffered a sudden loss of sight and with it, much of his freedom. But he maintained his dignity to the end. Even then, and even in photographs, it was clear that Papa was a special horse.
The passing of Papa Smoke also marks the end of an era. He was one of the first foundation stallions bred by Leo Kuntz, and his parents were both born wild in the badlands. His sire was War Chief, a dominant but quiet blue roan stallion, and his dam was a grey mare descended from Midnight, a small, Spanish looking black stallion who eluded all efforts to capture him. Midnight and his band were the only park horses who had the "dun factor," and Papa's ability to pass this on to his offspring made him especially valuable.
This is a moment to pause and reflect on our shared mission to ensure a future for the Nokota® horses. Thanks to the Kuntz brothers and to the generosity of people touched by Nokotas® and their story, Papa Smoke lived comfortably and contributed to future generations of these special horses. But time is passing, and we still have much to do. I hope you will join me today in making a special donation to the Nokota® Horse Conservancy in honor of the unique and beloved Papa Smoke.
Senior Vice President
Nokota® Horse Conservancy