After a clean start out of the gate, the steer veered in front of Moonshine, causing a horrific collision which took horse, steer and bulldogger Todd Suhn crashing to the arena dirt. A horn went through Moonshine’s side and punctured his heart.
The horse was able to leave the arena on his own power, but died shortly thereafter. Suhn and the steer were unharmed.
“Moonshine was without a doubt the best steer wrestling horse I have ever had,” Melvin said. “He was the kind of horse that you just dream about; honest and he just loved his job.”
It was a view widely shared by bulldoggers at the top level of the sport. Casey Martin and Suhn rode Moonshine at last December’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and in Denver. Martin entered the final round Jan. 27 leading the two-head average after making two runs on Moonshine in 7.8 seconds and held on for the victory.
The eight-year-old horse had helped PRCA cowboys to nearly $300,000 in earnings in just three years.
I’ve ridden a lot of horses in my career,” said Suhn, a 16-time Wrangler NFR qualifier, “and most of them I’ve trained myself. Moonshine was definitely one of the best. I’ve run thousands of steers and never seen anything like this happen in my life. My heart goes out to Dru and Brittany (Melvin). I know how much Moonshine meant to them.”
Moonshine is being transported back to the Melvins’ family ranch in Hebron, Neb., where he will be buried. He was the first horse the couple owned together and was included in their engagement photos because he was considered so much a part of the family.