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Sheldak Ranch Appaloosas

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On this date in 2000 the Bismarck Tribune announced that some of the best Appaloosa horses in the world could be found in North Dakota. One of the premier horse magazines, Western Horseman, had just published a profile on the Sheldak Ranch, where prize winning Appaloosas were bred. This was the first time the famous magazine had profiled an Appaloosa ranch. The breed was developed by the Nez Perce Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, and is distinctive for its spots, usually just on the rump.

Sheldak Ranch had humble beginnings. Dave and Kim Utke met at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in Fargo in 1959 at a Quarter Horse show. The couple married in 1963, and dreamed of raising horses. After getting to know an Appaloosa horse in 1968, they fell in love with the breed and decided to raise and sell them.

Dave and Kim bought an old ranch and fixed it up themselves. Following the advice of oil tycoon Carl Miles, Dave and Kim took out bank loans to purchase the best Appaloosa mares and stallions they could find. The risky venture paid off, and soon they were breeding some of the best Appaloosas in the world.

Sheldak horses have won national and world championships in many Western and English riding styles, such as halter, pleasure, trial, roping, reining, cutting, hunter, and dressage.

Kim and Dave devoted everything to operating their 1,000-acre ranch and hired no outside help. Kim, a skilled photographer, took pictures of each foal for their website. They typically sold 25 to 30 foals a year at an average price of $2,500. And the buyers weren’t only from the United States. Sheldak Appaloosas can be found in Canada, Mexico, Chile, Panama, Australia, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Ecuador, South Africa, Spain, and Venezuela. Besides running the ranch, Dave and Kim are also involved in local government, soil conservation, community service, and equine research. As of 2021 the ranch is still in operation and selling those champion Appaloosas.

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa


“Appaloosa Horses: History and Care,”, accessed December 8, 2021.

Author Unknown, “High Praise: Sheldon, N.D., Couple Named Horseman and Horsewoman of the Year,” Agweek Farmers’ Forum, December 2, 2016, pg. 1, 9.

Author Unknown, “In Love with Appaloosas,” Mills Farm Life, Summer 2006, pg. 4-5.

Author Unknown, “Sheldon Appaloosa Horse Ranch Considered one of the World’s Best,” The Bismarck Tribune, January 10, 2000, pg. 9.

Magnum, A.J., “Sheldak Ranch: This North Dakota Appaloosa Operation Has Carved its Own Niche, Relying on Proven Bloodlines,” Western Horseman, January, 2000, pg. 84-92.

Schmidt, Helmut, “Ranch One of Tom 5 Horse Farms in US,” Farmers’ Forum, February 3, 2012, pg. 1.

Sheldak Ranch website:

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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