Marcie Kahl [Photo: Bailey King]
Marcie Kahl was born and raised south of Bismarck, North Dakota, on the edge of Standing Rock Reservation. She says her Native American spirit runs deep. Originally naming her horse breeding business Warponies, she later changed it to honor the Lakota battle cry, Hoka Hey, Inc.
Years ago Kahl left the reservation to attend Dakota Wesleyan University, where she studied social work. After graduation she came home to work with students requiring special education through several schools. Kahl eventually expanded her horizons working for the Division of Juvenile Services with delinquent youth, specializing with emotionally disturbed children. After roughly seven years, she went back to working with the school districts for another five years.
“I was really interested in working with special needs kids. We have a son with Batten Disease,” said Kahl. “Advocating for him by trying to get the resources he needed really got me interested in helping other special needs children and education.”
Batten Disease is a fatal disorder affecting the nervous system in children. Kahl’s son, Zachary, passed away from the disease just before his 10th birthday.
“He’s my hero,” said Kahl. “He is the coolest human I met in my whole life. He never had a bad day and was always smiling.”
Marcie Kahl has now retired from social work and spends her time breeding and raising horses with her iconic handprint freeze brand atop their right hip. She focuses on breeding by artificial insemination, which has paid into incentives, such as the Pink Buckle and Ruby Buckle futurities.
Kahl’s program has produced quality horses for many years, and some are now hitting the big stage. Molly Otto won a round at the Calgary Stampede aboard SBC Stone Cold Stinson, nicknamed “Rocky.” Otto has trained and jockeyed futurity horses for many years, though recently has focused on professional rodeoing and qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 2021.
“It’s exciting to get one you raised into the hands of somebody like that,” said Kahl. “I’m just thrilled with her and Rocky; I expect to see them at the Thomas and Mack here in the next few years.”
Although Kahl breeds her Hoka Hey horses for the barrel pen, her horses have also proven themselves on the ranch. Garrett Oland has started several Hoka Hey horses and says he looks forward to new colts with various bloodlines each year.
“I have to brag on Hoka Hey,” said Garrett Oland. “To have a 6-year-old out of a breeding program of their size go win a round in Calgary is impressive. There’s no telling how much more Rocky and Molly will achieve.”
Sending young horses to those who can use them on ranches and develop skills in other areas before they touch the pattern can help them excel once they get there.
“Everyone I’ve rode has had a lot of natural rate, stop, and turn, which we don’t always expect from the running bred stuff,” said Oland. “I think they do a really nice job there at picking what to breed to. Her colts are so well-rounded, they can do it all and are out of top sires in the industry.”
There is something else that makes Kahl’s different from the rest. She adds the letters SBC in front of her horses’ registered names. She explained they are her nephew’s initials. “Stephen Baxter Cribben was killed seven years ago in Logar, Afghanistan. He was in the special forces, a green beret. We took it upon ourselves to honor Stephen, to keep his name alive by adding his initials every time we named a colt.”
Cribben started his career in the Army in 2002, making his way to Sergeant First Class. He first served as a military police officer. He was with the 716thMilitary Police Battalion and deployed to multiple countries starting with Korea and was in Egypt three times. He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during the global war on terror. Cribben was laid to rest in 2017 at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado.
Kahl says she hopes to see more of her horses succeed in the barrel pen, on the ranch, or wherever they end up. Her social work, fueled by her love for children with special needs, circles back to her Lakota roots with her love for horses.
Hoka Hey loosely translates to “Let’s go, men,” although it can refer to one willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the tribe.
Kahl’s love for her family and Cribben’s ultimate sacrifice for our country are sure to live on through the legacy of her horses for generations to come.
Andrea Hanson has wandered the Midwest since she left northern Minnesota to compete in barrel racing, goat tying, and breakaway at college rodeos in Kansas and Oklahoma. After not having a traditional step into the rodeo world herself, she strives to meet others in the community to share their stories, troubles, and triumphs.