Possible scene of the crime—Flying D Equine Manager Greg Pole casts a shadow as he snaps pictures of where he believes MJ the horse was shot, just off West Williams Road in Gallatin Gateway. The Montana Attorney General’s office said, depending on how the facts come together in MJ’s case, a person suspected of killing a “commonly domesticated hoofed animal” could be fined $50,000 and sent to prison for as many as 10 years.

Cash reward for horse killer

Ted Turner’s horse MJ shot on Christmas Eve

It was the night before Christmas and all along the fence line near the junction of Gateway South Road and West Williams Road, around 30 horses gathered to feed. Then a shot rang out sometime after staff at the Flying D Ranch made its second daily routine check of the horse herd. 

With a bang, one horse was hit. His name was MJ and he was a black and white paint, just hitting his prime at 10 years old. MJ ran, trotted or stumbled around 400 yards away from the fence line and collapsed as snow fell. When ranch staff found him on Christmas morning, they could tell he’d been shot through the lungs. 

“I knew he was lung shot because he had blood in his nose and his mouth,” said the Flying D’s Equine Manager Greg Pole. “It’s very upsetting that someone would do this to a horse.”

Judging by where MJ was likely feeding, the timing of daily check ins and the entry wound on MJ’s corpse, Pole believes he’s pieced together the details of MJ’s last moments of life. Pole said the perpetrator might have shot more horses had MJ stood still. 

“But they bolted,” said Pole. “Where he ended up was in the back side of the pasture down by the river. Where he was, was not where we were feeding him.”

The Flying D’s handyman brought out an excavator and buried MJ where he drew his last breath, a bullet still lodged inside his body. 

“This is human evil,” said Pole. “This is just evil for someone to do this to an innocent animal. It shakes you up. Kill somebody’s horse in Montana? I think there’s going to be some outrage, you just don’t do something like that.”

The Flying D notified the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, but said, “Until they get a lead, somehow, somebody has to talk. Somebody else knows about it.”

That’s why Pole put up a $1,000 reward out of his own pocket. When a makeshift wanted poster started circulating on social media, Pole said two donors called from out of state and tripled the reward to $3,000. 

Ted Turner and his family did not spend Christmas at the Flying D, and that’s for the best, because Pole said MJ was Turner’s granddaughter’s new favorite horse. 

“How do you tell that to a 15-year-old girl? How does that affect somebody?” wondered Pole. “I haven’t even told Ted Turner. It will just devastate him.”

But Pole said he wants to spread the word out in the community in order to shake loose information possibly leading to a suspect or suspects.
In the meantime, anyone commuting between the Gallatin Valley and Big Sky will notice the Flying D’s horses have been moved to a safer pasture just off Highway 191 to the right as you cross Spanish Creek headed south. Pole said these new wintering grounds are not ideal, but the location makes it more difficult for anyone to shoot at the horses. 

With all the drifting snow in that area, said Pole, “I’m already having problems trying to feed out there.”

Anyone with information about the Christmas Eve shooting of MJ the horse is encouraged to call Pole directly at (406) 539-9885. 

 

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