A 2nd auction of Leachman horses is set near Poplar

2013-04-02T21:00:00Z 2014-08-25T07:44:37Z A 2nd auction of Leachman horses is set near PoplarBy JAN FALSTAD jfalstad@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Two years ago, the Crow Tribe auctioned off more than 800 of James Leachman's horses on a ranch east of Billings. A similar scene will play out Wednesday on the Fort Peck Reservation.

According to a legal ad in the Fort Peck Journal, the 1 p.m. sale at the Holen Ranch, about eight miles west of Poplar, will include 131 Leachman horses: 53 mares, 12 colts and fillies and 66 studs or geldings, which are neutered stallions.

On Tuesday, Richard Dean Holen, his son, James Dean Holen, and three brand inspectors rode through snow and water checking horse brands and paperwork as required before a sale.

In February 2012, Leachman had no place to take his horses, Richard Holen said. So, he and his son, James Dean Holen, brought them to their Poplar ranch to care for them for several months.

When Leachman and his son, Seth Leachman, didn’t pay the bill, Holen said he and his son reluctantly sued in Fort Peck Tribal Court. Because the horses are being held on tribal land, the tribe has jurisdiction.

Last November, the tribal court granted the Holens a $544,510 judgment against the Leachmans for their costs.

“It’s a very bad deal. Jim Leachman was a hell of a man and things, but we had to do this to get compensated,” Richard Holen said. “We tried to give them back to him. He wouldn’t come get them.”

On March 19, a tribal judge granted the Holens permission to auction off the horses to collect on the debt. Richard Holen’s wife and their son are enrolled tribal members.

Richard Holen was convicted of rustling 39 head of cattle in September 2008 from neighboring ranchers. He served 10 months at the Montana State Prison, another eight months at a regional facility in Glendive and will be on probation until March 2049, according to the Montana Department of Corrections.

The tribal court order didn’t specify that the horses be sold in one lot. But the legal ad states the horses will be sold together, a condition the Holens apparently wanted.

Richard Holen said his son will likely be the buyer.

“When we own them, we can sell them as we want to,” he said. “We’re going to sell them to people who will take care of them because they are very good horses.”

Eastern Montana district inspector Bill Blankenship of Glendive said all the horses, except for the youngest on the Holen ranch, carry Leachman’s Hairpin brand.

“I’d say they look like they’ve came through a long winter,” Blankenship said.

Some horses were trucked to Poplar from a feedlot near Park City, he said. None had the plastic leg bands that resulted in the death of some of Leachman's horses near Billings, Blankenship said.

Unlike the Fort Peck reservation sale, with apparently one buyer, horse enthusiasts from around the U.S. and Canada flocked to the Crow auction in April 2011, paying a total of $380,365 for 804 quarter horses.

The Crow Tribe conducted perhaps the largest modern-day horse roundup and two-day auction after the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs seized the Leachman horses for trespassing on tribal lands.

At the auction, Seth Leachman bid on 60 or 70 of his father’s horses and James Leachman paid the bill of about $35,000, according to Yellowstone County Sheriff Lt. Kent O’Donnell. Some of the horses being sold at the Poplar auction apparently were among those Seth bought back.

O'Donnell had supervised feeding the Leachman horses, some of them starving, at the Home Place ranch through the winter of 2010-2011.

Leachman gradually lost his grazing lands after a neighbor bought the Home Place ranch during a 2010 sheriff’s sale. Last week, the Crow Tribe paid the federal government $989,400 to buy back the 1,933-acre Hairpin Cavvy Ranch, once owned by Leachman, about five miles southeast of Billings.

In early December, a Yellowstone County Justice Court jury found James Leachman guilty of abusing his horses by placing plastic identification bands on their legs that eventually resulted in several deaths. He was sentenced to five years in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility, with all but 120 days suspended, and a $5,000 fine.

Leachman, acting as his own attorney, has appealed the verdict in Yellowstone District Court.

The reappearance of his horses in northeastern Montana is part of this Montana livestock saga, said John Grainger, head of brand enforcement for the Department of Livestock in Helena.

“It’s like a rabbit in a hat. You think you’re done and then they show up near Poplar,” he said.


Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(19) Comments

  1. Lifesgood
    Report Abuse
    Lifesgood - April 04, 2013 2:47 am
    Tribal Judges... They can do what ever they want in their court. It's definitely not a place for anyone who is not Tribal. You can go to Mexico and get the same kinda trial except you just don't ever return home. LOL "Oh well" you want a horse call Richard.
  2. TeresaML
    Report Abuse
    TeresaML - April 03, 2013 10:27 pm
    Nope, the so called "tribal judge" makes three (3) con men in on the deal.
  3. TeresaML
    Report Abuse
    TeresaML - April 03, 2013 9:44 pm
    Or four. Along with several fish.
  4. TeresaML
    Report Abuse
    TeresaML - April 03, 2013 9:24 pm
    No worries, cattle ranchers that were stolen from, Richard will pay you back with starving horses that wonder onto your property next winter. I hope you all will claim them, feed them, make them into good ranch horses and then sue the living carp out of him.
  5. TeresaML
    Report Abuse
    TeresaML - April 03, 2013 9:12 pm
    It sounds like Richard and his son just stole 131 good horses, got away with it and still think that they are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars. Well, I guess that beats stealing cattle for a living.
  6. TeresaML
    Report Abuse
    TeresaML - April 03, 2013 8:54 pm
    The cattle thief says, "I tried to give those horses back." Sure he did. And pigs can fly. A tribal judge then adds about a half million to the deal. Bet that tribal "judge", the third crook in this deal, has a new horse or 10 on his property before next week even begins.
  7. Lifesgood
    Report Abuse
    Lifesgood - April 03, 2013 7:24 pm
    So Richard just wrote himself a check..Native lands..you crack me up!
  8. Lifesgood
    Report Abuse
    Lifesgood - April 03, 2013 7:22 pm
    Who did he pay it to himself....
  9. native lands
    Report Abuse
    native lands - April 03, 2013 5:44 pm
    just found out out richard and his son bought the horses for $100,000.00. now just where does he plan on keeping them. the only land that he owns is the dirt between his toes. look out cattle ranchers hay stacks just might disapear in the middle of the night.
  10. curlin
    Report Abuse
    curlin - April 03, 2013 3:53 pm
    Richard Holen = Bad News!!!
  11. Rancher59042
    Report Abuse
    Rancher59042 - April 03, 2013 1:05 pm
    the $544,510.00 in claimed expense is a crock. Just think two (2) con men in business....sounds like government work.
  12. native lands
    Report Abuse
    native lands - April 03, 2013 11:21 am
    Maybe now the owners of the cattle that Richard Holen was stealing from can get the restitution that richard was ordered to pay back to them. I beleave there was six differant cattle ranchers. Richard is also a convicted drug dealer. why is it that these type of crocks always finds differant ways to cheat productive people. try getting a desent job.
  13. debv
    Report Abuse
    debv - April 03, 2013 10:57 am
    Thanks Billings Gazette - but WHEN is this Auction!???
  14. TeresaML
    Report Abuse
    TeresaML - April 03, 2013 9:47 am
    Lefty, that's exactly what I thought. At that price, people would be better off feeding elephants.
  15. sagebush
    Report Abuse
    sagebush - April 03, 2013 9:40 am
    Are not these the same horses the Crow's stole, errr, I mean confiscated, a few months ago ?
  16. lefty the cowboy
    Report Abuse
    lefty the cowboy - April 03, 2013 9:18 am
    There is a big difference from horses coming in off pasture in the spring a little thin and wooly, and racks of bones with plastic bands painfully cutting off circulation to a leg. Besides, these people agreed to take the horses, unlike all the people impacted by 800+ horses spreading out across the rez looking for something to eat.
  17. lefty the cowboy
    Report Abuse
    lefty the cowboy - April 03, 2013 9:15 am
    At auction, these horses might bring $75,000, quite a way from $544,510. I also cannot see how they could have accrued this kind of expense in this time. If their management resulted in over a half million in expenses in such a short time, they should stay out of the horse business... which makes me wonder why they want the ponies. Maybe it is in the telling, but something smells funny.
  18. Voltaire
    Report Abuse
    Voltaire - April 03, 2013 7:57 am
    “I’d say they look like they’ve came through a long winter,” Blankenship said
    Wasn't this the same issue that they had with Leachman, and didn't they charge him for this very same reason?
  19. Surgar Creek
    Report Abuse
    Surgar Creek - April 03, 2013 3:56 am
    Interesting story! Two convicts doing business together! How in the heck can Mr. Holen incurr $544,510 expenses against 131 horses in nine months? ($4156.56/horse) I smell a rat, or two, or three!!??

Comment policy

We provide this forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the day's news. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and abuse are not. You must be logged into a personal account on Facebook to comment (FAQ). Readers are responsible for their comments and abuse of this privilege will not be tolerated. We reserve the right, without warning or notification, to remove comments and block users we determine violate our Terms of Service. Comments reflect the opinions of the author - not those of The Billings Gazette or its parent company.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

More from the Gazette

18-year-old relishes job as reading clerk for Montana Legislature

18-year-old relishes job as reading clerk for Montana Legislature

9 hours ago Photos


Woman sentenced for DUI No. 6

Woman sentenced for DUI No. 6

9 hours ago(0)

Snow and freezing temps expected Tuesday

14 hours ago(0)
Globetrotters hijinks delight Metra fans

Globetrotters hijinks delight Metra fans

15 hours ago Photos


Man in custody after police chase on 27th Street, I-90

Man in custody after police chase on 27th Street, I-90

March 01, 2015 5:13 pm Photos



Snow and cold expected Monday night

March 01, 2015 10:30 am(0)

Follow The Billings Gazette

Popular Stories

Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals & Offers

Featured Businesses