MIDNIGHT: THE HORSE WHO COULDN’T BE RIDDEN
In 1916, a stocky colt of mixed parentage was born on Jim McNab’s Cottonwood Ranch in Alberta, Canada. The coal-black horse was named Midnight, and he would eventually be known as one of the greatest bucking horses of all time.
From the start, it was evident Midnight would never be a ranch horse thanks to his proclivity for throwing riders. Capitalizing on his horse’s talent for dismounting cowboys, McNab entered Midnight in local rodeos, and he soon dominated the circuit. Though gentle on the ground, Midnight was a four-legged tornado when turned from the chutes and he quickly gained a reputation as a horse no one could ride—though the best tried.
As Midnight campaigned at rodeos across Canada and the United States— receiving marquee billing and crowds worthy of rock stars—the sport’s greatest riders vied for the chance to be the first cowboy to cover the renegade horse. The likes of Earl Thode, Paddy Ryon and Eddie Woods were all bested by the black bronc. Most riders could only hang on for two or three seconds—until 1930, when world champion bronc rider Pete Knight gave Midnight a run for his money.
At the 1930 Cheyenne Frontier Days, Knight was offered $50 (though some say $100) to give an exhibition ride on Midnight. The two had been paired before, and Knight was eager for a rematch with his old adversary.
It was a ride that made history, with fans standing in their seats and screaming in support of both the cowboy and the horse. In the end, Midnight emerged the victor. Knight had only managed to ride the horse for seven seconds, the longest anyone had managed to stay on.
In 1933, Midnight made his last U.S. appearance at Cheyenne Frontier Days. During his long career, he was never successfully ridden. Though claims have been made otherwise, no one is on record as having officially ridden him.
Today, Midnight is buried at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. His gravestone bears the following epitaph:
Underneath this sod lies a great bucking hoss. There never lived a cowboy he couldn’t toss. His name was Midnight his coat was black as coal. If there’s a hoss heaven, please God, rest his soul.
In 1979, Midnight was posthumously inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.