When one chapter ends, another one begins. After years of being Horse&Rider’s in-the-saddle guides, Kent and Charlene are taking a step back to enjoy the next chapter of their story.
Well, folks, after nearly 25 years of writing articles, first for The Trail Rider Magazine and then Horse&Rider Magazine, we have reached the end of our trail. This will be our last regular article, and we will be off spending more time riding than writing. However, you may see an article from time to time if a special adventure awaits. We’re going to miss this chapter in our lives, but we have another one waiting to be started.
Over the years, it has been a privilege and an honor to write articles for our readers. You have inspired us with your stories, motivated us with your enthusiasm, and rewarded us with your smiles and automatic friendship. As photojournalists, our goals have been to share horse traveling ideas, inspire folks to create their own adventures, support the Backcountry Horsemen of America, and help keep trails open to horses.
Horses have been a magical part of our lives. Because of them, we have seen and experienced places we have previously only dreamed about. Over the years we have ridden across the Midwest, all around the West and Southwest, in southwestern Canada, in national parks, ridden in parades, and through many wilderness areas. Still … one of our favorite activities? To ride into a small Western town, tie the horses up in front of a saloon, grab a cold beer, and then enjoy the interactions between our horses and passersby. The delightful smiles Cody and Jake get are priceless!
Where It All Began
Our interest in horses started at a young age. When Kent was a teenager in North Idaho, he had an old, reliable, Quarter Horse. He ordered a saddle for $99 from a Sears Catalog. Kent didn’t know what he was doing, and the saddle was the wrong size for him. He used it for many years anyway. Charlene grew up in Ohio. She read many Zane Grey novels, thus fueling her desire to explore the West. What better way than on horseback!
Years later, we got together and moved to a ranch in western Montana. We discussed the possibility of getting horses. We figured they would stay in the pasture, and we would get them out as needed, perhaps for a ride to a mountain lake. Little did we realize that the horses would take over our lives. We took them with us on all our travels. Now they had become family.
Writing and Riding
Eventually we thought of writing about some of our horse adventures. One evening we were at home, sitting in the hot tub, enjoying a glass of wine, when Kent confided to Charlene, “You know, my horse is my second-best friend. You’re my first best friend!” That moment blossomed into our first article, “My Horse Is My Second-Best Friend.” And, it went from there to more than 100 published articles, book chapters, and hundreds of photos used in magazines, calendars, postcards, and books.
Adventures with Horses
We were fortunate to begin our horse adventures with some reliable, steadfast, safe horses. Buckwheat, Buddy, and Freddy took us on our first solo pack trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area in Montana. This was our first summer with horses; neither one of us had done a pack trip before. We planned to figure it out as we went along.
Fortunately for us, with his previous owner, Buckwheat had traversed the entire Continental Divide trail. He was a wilderness veteran. Charlene rode Buckwheat, Kent rode Buddy, and Freddy was the pack horse. We did an 11-day pack trip in the wilderness without mishap, but learned REI dehydrated meals taste terrible when you eat them day after day! Interestingly, the man we bought Buckwheat from bet his wife $10 we would not make it out of the wilderness. But we did and went on to do more than 20 solo pack trips.
Packing into the wilderness has been our favorite, and most rewarding, thing we have ever done with horses. It’s almost a spiritual experience. You save the horses because you know the way out, and they save you because they take you out. It’s a perfect mutualistic, bonding relationship. Those trips left us with lasting memories for the rest of our lives. We will never forget waking to a cold dawn with frost on the ground, getting the horses out to graze, starting a fire, wrapping cold hands around a hot cup of coffee, and watching the world come alive as morning light filters across camp. We would often think of what John Muir joyfully exclaimed, “This is the morning of creation. It’s happening right now all around us!”
With Buckwheat, Buddy, and Freddy, we did several pack trips including two in the Canadian Rockies. These were the most dangerous and difficult trips we made. We rode into valleys that had not been explored by nonnatives until the 1920s, crossed white, glacial, swollen rivers, and traversed over high passes deep in grizzly and wolf country. Looking back, it’s difficult to believe we did it.
Our next horses were Missouri Foxtrotters. Kent had Buddy (he reused the name), Charlene had Scout, and our pack horse was Lily. We enjoyed many pack trips with these horses. Most notably, two to the most remote place in the continental United States in terms of the farthest distance from any road in any direction. This location is just outside of the southeast corner of Yellowstone National Park. On one trip we rode from inside the park to the remote place and back out through the park. On the other pack trip, we rode in from the park and out to south of Cody, Wyoming, where we had our vehicle shuttled for us. This was remarkable country and great fishing.
Trick or Treat?
Kent’s horse, Buddy, was very adept at doing tricks. He knew 15 different tricks, including getting the newspaper out of the newspaper box. He could answer math problems by counting with his hoof. If asked, “What is 5 plus 3?” Buddy’s hoof would strike the ground 8 times. He was a real ham in parades and loved entertaining people. Kent and Buddy put on trick shows at two different dude ranches.
The next horses were also gaited horses, Cowboy and Nate. They are semi-retired; our current herd consists of Cody, a Tennessee Walker and Jake, a Spotted Saddle Horse.
Overall, our horses changed the trajectory of our lives. They have provided us with our finest moments. We have very much enjoyed sharing our horse adventures with you, dear readers. We will continue traveling and riding horses. Who knows, maybe we will see you down the trail. Happiest of trails to you!