In­spired Rider

Horse & Rider - - CONTENTS -

AS I scroll through years of horse mem­o­ries, some shine es­pe­cially bright. My (Char­lene’s) first horse, an Ap­paloosa named Buck­wheat, blazes like a me­teor, eas­ily out­shin­ing the plan­ets of past horses. He changed my life and char­tered for us an ad­ven­tur­ous fu­ture that nei­ther of us had en­vi­sioned.

Meet­ing Buck­wheat

Be­fore I got Buck­wheat, I was rid­ing my neigh­bor’s horse. One day that horse and I had a dis­agree­ment, and he reared up and went over on me. The night­mar­ish ac­ci­dent left me ner­vous about rid­ing. I wanted to “cow­girl up,” but pre­ferred to do it on a safe, calm horse—prefer­ably of my own. We saw an ad for Buck­wheat in the news­pa­per where he was de­scribed as “bombproof.” That’s what I needed.

Buck­wheat’s seller, Darcy, of­fered to bring him over to our home so we could check him out. If ever a horse could send out vibes of calm­ness and safety, it was him. He was a snowy-white, 10-year-old foun­da­tion Ap­paloosa with a long black tail and a short, un­ruly black mane. His dig­ni­fied face caught my at­ten­tion. He had black eye­brows; kind eyes; and a thought­ful, in­tel­li­gent ex­pres­sion. When he looked at me, we clicked. From that mo­ment he be­came the most sig­nif­i­cant, im­por­tant horse in my life.

Darcy, who also hap­pened to be a car sales­man, rode him around our place bare­back, with only a hal­ter and lead rope. He of­fered to leave Buck­wheat with us for a week to see if we liked him. Be­fore leav­ing, he looked at me very solemnly and told me that this horse would never run away with me or hurt me. And I be­lieved him.

Buck­wheat’s Past

Darcy was an avid hunter and out­doors­man. He was re­plac­ing his horses with mules be­cause he thought they’d be hardier on long hunt­ing trips. Buck­wheat had been through some incredible ex­pe­ri­ences, one of which was the Con­ti­nen­tal Di­vide trail. Darcy had rid­den him all the way from Mex­ico to Canada.

But Buck­wheat didn’t start life out as the per­fect horse. Darcy bought Buck­wheat when he was 5 years old from a woman who de­scribed him as in­cor­ri­gi­ble. When he didn’t want to do what his rider wanted, he’d rear, toss his rider, then go search­ing for some good grass. But Darcy wasn’t eas­ily

in­tim­i­dated. Spoiled Buck­wheat was in for five years of hard rid­ing, dur­ing which time he proved him­self to be calm, de­pend­able, and to­tally fear­less.

Darcy and Buck­wheat rode in nu­mer­ous wilder­nesses and had many ad­ven­tures. They crossed rag­ing rivers and even, ac­ci­den­tally, scooted down a very steep avalanche chute. My fa­vorite story was when Darcy and his hunt­ing buddy went out scout­ing for game and left Buck­wheat and an­other horse hob­bled so they could graze around camp. Af­ter a cou­ple hours, Darcy re­turned to hunt­ing camp to dis­cover that Buck­wheat was nowhere to be seen. He and his friend searched the out­skirts of camp to no avail. Dis­cour­aged, they re­turned to camp where they heard the un­mis­tak­able sound of snor­ing. In­side their tent, still hob­bled, but ly­ing on a sleep­ing bag, was Buck­wheat, lost in a world of dreams.

Our Life With Buck­wheat

With two other horses and Buck­wheat as our flag­ship, we launched many horse ad­ven­tures. We felt like we could go any­where and do any­thing be­cause we had such a safe horse to lead us. We rode in pa­rades, group rides, and ex­plored many wilder­nesses. We packed into the Cana­dian Rock­ies, into val­leys that hadn’t been ex­plored or mapped by non-na­tives un­til the 1920s. We rode into the most re­mote place in the Con­ti­nen­tal United States in terms of be­ing at a cen­tral point the far­thest dis­tance from any road. My horse never once failed me, al­ways calm, sure­footed, and safe.

In ad­di­tion to open­ing the door to horse ad­ven­tures, my beloved horse opened an un­ex­pected door for me, one of im­proved phys­i­cal well-be-

Kent and Char­lene Krone are equine pho­to­jour­nal­ists, eques­trian ad­ven­tur­ers, and avid trail rid­ers who travel up to eight months per year with their smooth-gaited Ten­nessee Walk­ing Horses. When they’re not on the road, the Krones re­lax and ride on their Mon­tana ranch.

ing. Be­fore get­ting Buck­wheat, I was half-heart­edly fight­ing a los­ing bat­tle with weight. Be­cause my horse was work­ing so hard haul­ing me around, I made up my mind to lend a help­ing hand. I lost 40 pounds for that horse and have kept it off ever since.

As years gal­loped by, arthri­tis be­gan nag­ging Buck­wheat’s legs, and his hard, down­hill clump­ing was tak­ing a toll on my ag­ing back. We loaned Buck­wheat to a good fam­ily that made a won­der­ful home for him. The fam­ily in­cluded a horse-lov­ing, pre-teen girl. Buck­wheat was cur­ried and fussed over, and in re­turn, he car­ried the lit­tle girl and her friends safely around the nearby trails.

We re­ceived reg­u­lar re­ports on Buck­wheat’s ac­tiv­i­ties with his new fam­ily. It didn’t sur­prise us that he was help­ing chil­dren at sum­mer camps or be­ing rid­den bare­back in the pas­ture. But we were sur­prised to learn that he’d be­friended a goose!

Dur­ing the fall, Cana­dian geese flew past the lit­tle ranch in Wash­ing­ton state where Buck­wheat lived hap­pily with his new fam­ily. One morn­ing, his care­taker went to feed Buck­wheat and spied a small, Cana­dian goose in his stall. She gave Buck­wheat his grain, then stood in shocked si­lence. Buck­wheat shared his grain with the goose. Shar­ing food is not some­thing this horse does. It was the be­gin­ning of a short, but uniquely beau­ti­ful, re­la­tion­ship. For the next eight months, Buck­wheat and Goose were in­sep­a­ra­ble com­pan­ions. Wherever Buck­wheat walked, Goose wad­dled. When Buck­wheat can­tered, Goose flew along­side him. They slept to­gether and ate to­gether. When spring ar­rived, the north­ward, mi­grat­ing geese lured Goose back but not be­fore we had an op­por­tu­nity to video and pho­to­graph the un­usual friend­ship.

His Last Ride

We bor­rowed Buck­wheat for our cousin to use on an or­ga­nized Ore­gon trail ride. Sadly, it was Buck­wheat’s last rid­ing ad­ven­ture. I was with him when he died from colic, not far from the Ap­paloosa’s an­ces­tral home­land. The pain of los­ing a beloved horse was excruciating but it is pro­por­tion­ate to how good a horse he was: the bet­ter the horse, the greater the pain of los­ing him. Dur­ing his life­time, he touched many lives and gave gifts of con­fi­dence to those who needed it. In ad­di­tion, he gave me the most pre­cious gift a horse can give: a love for rid­ing, a gift that will last my life­time.

Char­lene Krone rid­ing Buck­wheat while pack­ing into the Cana­dian Wilder­ness.

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