It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Old West or the 21st century, nothing raises the hackles of Wyomingites faster than a horse thief.
That’s what Virgil and Peggy Peterson fear happened to registered stallion of theirs valued at $25,000 that went missing from their Flying V Ranch in Fort Bridger recently.
They’re offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the return of Shadow Hawke, a blue roan that stands 15 hands tall and weighs about 1,200 pounds. His unique markings include the ranch’s “Y” brand and a small scar or discoloration on the left side of his tail.
While they don’t know for sure Shadow Hawke was stolen, that’s their fear because he would be easily identifiable by their neighbors.
“There is no way that horse is just hanging out in someone’s backyard here locally,” Peggy Peterson told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “He’s too easy to recognize and people in the community would know it was ours. I don’t think he’s in the vicinity.”
She said her husband saw the horse the night before he disappeared while doing his nightly rounds at about 9 p.m. on Jan. 10. The next morning the family reported the horse missing.
Looking For Leads
Local officials said they have been unable to find any leads in the investigation and are not sure whether the horse was stolen.
“For all intents and purposes, it appears that it was stolen, but so far there we have nothing that definitively say, ‘Yes, it was stolen,’’” Uinta County Undersheriff Trevor Rasmussen said. “At this time, we are just trying to find a lead that will allow us to confirm or deny.
The barn where the stallion was housed is close to homes located on the property; however, the night the horse went missing a major storm had moved into the area. This would have made it impossible for anyone inside to hear someone tampering with the barn or the horse, he said.
The road is about 150 feet from the barn, also making it easily accessible for anyone moving the horse.
“Up there on that bench where the Petersons live can get some substantial storms, and the night the horse disappeared it was right when that big storm rolled in.” Rasmussen said. “The winds were 55 mph, so no one inside would have heard a thing outside.
“So, it was perfect timing if someone was going to steal a horse.”
As for suspects, the Petersons said they have no idea who might have taken their horse.
However, there is an arena located on their land that is available to the public. They also offer multiple horse clinics throughout the year. While most of the attendees and users are local, Peggy Peterson said there are some from out of town. Anyone visiting the ranch would have seen Shadow Hawke.
The horse is valued at around $25,000 and is registered with the American Quarter Horse Association, which keeps a record of Shadow’s DNA on file.
This would make it impossible for anyone to try and register him or any of his offspring, as the DNA would pull up on the database. However, the horse could potentially be used on a ranch without being registered if he is not transported.
“He’s valued as a stallion, but his temperament would make him desirable to ranchers,” Rasmussen said. “And unless the rancher was going to transport him, in which case the horse has to be registered and branded, the rancher wouldn’t have to worry about registering him.”
Additionally, the brand Shadow wears would be difficult to try and change, Rasmussen added. While there are some brands that are easier to cover up, Shadow’s brand resembles the one used by the Dutton family on the set of the “Yellowstone” TV series, making it harder to work with.
“You’d have to have someone very creative that would be able to change that,” Rasmussen said.
Besides local law enforcement and brand inspectors working the case, the Petersons have hired a private posse group trained in locating missing horses.
Peggy Peterson said the family is heartbroken and just want to see Shadow Hawke returned unharmed.
“We’re pretty sad and sure would like to get him back,” she said. “We have some mares we’d like to get started breeding too. I just really hope they find him.”
Anyone with information should call the Uinta County Sheriff’s Office at 307-783-1003 or the Petersons at 307-782-3145 or 307-747-2002. The family has requested no texts.