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Just What the Doctor Ordered: Horse Helps Heart Attack Survivor Heal

At 54, Mike Clark was the picture of clean health. As a UPS driver, Clark was very active and in good shape. However, as show season began to get more intense in the late Spring of 2018, Mike’s health declined and he began to feel not quite right.

At the beginning of June, Mike had a heart attack while watching his granddaughter at a miniature horse show. This led to a quadruple bypass…no small surgery.

For most people, open heart surgery and a heart attack would mean time off from horse showing and lots of rest. However, Mike Clark is not most people. When doctors told him that the best rehabilitation for his heart would be exercising by walking, he had a perfect idea.

Mike wanted to get in the show pen again, and he wanted horses to be a part of his rehabilitation. He needed to find a new partner after retiring his gelding, Im Undeniably Cool. Mike’s wife, Kimberly had the perfect horse in mind; 2013 mare JMK Double D Cherie or “Dede” by JMK Bodacious, who had been put on the back burner.

The palomino mare was given to the Clarks by a family friend as a yearling. At the time, Dede had only been shown a handful of times, so at first, Kimberly was cautious pairing Mike and Dede together. Dede, a 15’3 hand, 1,500 pound palomino mare, was gentle and slowly walked next to Mike, almost like she knew her job was to be there for him. Dede proved to be the best workout partner and friend. Mike walked Dede and they used a halter horse fitting program to get both of them in shape. Dede was just what the doctor ordered.

“This horse is the best thing to ever happen to my husband,” said Kimberly. After only two months, Mike was already back to work and back in the show pen again. His doctors were amazed at the speed of his recovery. “Dede’s just perfect. She knows her job and she loves it and that’s everything to me. She’s an awesome horse, and she is always there for whatever I need,” said Mike.

Dede is now a barn favorite and is often used for beginners first learning how to set up and show in the halter classes. “She is an extraordinary horse. I would put my granddaughter on the end of the line with Dede and I know I can’t say that about the majority of halter horses,” said Clark.

Dede and Clark needed each other. Mike needed another reason to work hard in rehabilitation and a shoulder to lean on and Dede needed someone to take a chance on her and put in the time and effort to get her in the show pen. The thought of getting back in the arena kept Mike going through tough rehabilitation days.

The pair showed exclusively in Florida in 2018, accomplishing multiple grand and reserve champion titles, as well as Circuit Champion titles. Dede also received her open Superior title and won the 2018 Open and Aged Mares Highpoint in Florida.

The duo will continue their show career in Florida this year, but they have also qualified for the 2019 Palomino Horse Breeders Association World Championship Show which will be in Tunica, Mississippi. This will be both Mike and Dede’s first trip to the show, but his heart and health are more than ready. Mike is going into his first world show with ambitious goals, but if anyone can put in the hard work to win and beat steep odds, it’s this team.

When asked his goals for the 2019 PHBA World Show, Mike simply said, “We want to win.”

GoHorseShow wishes Mike and Dede good luck at the 2019 PHBA World Show.

A Native Coloradan, Emma Widener attends West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas. Emma is working on a bachelor’s degree in agriculture media and communications. She grew up showing AQHA and Pony of the Americas Club in the all-around events.