We all have goals we’d like to accomplish with our horses. We dream of trail riding through remote backcountry trails, earning top honors in the show pen, or perfecting our horsemanship in the image of the cowboys of the open range. Regardless of our ambitions, planning and learning from others’ experiences can bring us one step closer to achieving our goals.
We’ve asked four riders to share their aspirations and the plans they put in place to achieve them. They also detail what they learned along the way and offer tips to help you achieve your own goals.
Ready to Ramble
Riders: Kent and Charlene Krone, who hail from Dixon, Montana.
Background: Both Kent and Charlene rode as kids. Following high school, they put college and careers before horses, and neither rode for nearly 20 years. In 1995, they decided it was time to get back in the saddle, so they purchased two horses for occasional weekend fishing and camping trips.
“We had no idea this would eventually take over our lives,” Kent laughs.
Today, they own two 11-year-old Missouri Foxtrotters, Cowboy and Nate, and a 5-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse. They travel with the horses about eight months out of the year. Individual trips may last as long as five months. They’ve traveled through wilderness areas in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the Canadian Rockies, spending as many as 11 days in unpopulated, remote areas using backpacker techniques.
“We’ll always remember crawling out of our tiny tent after a terrific storm pummeled us all night long,” Charlene reminisces. “The storm had knocked down nearby tree snags, and there were grizzlies lurking in the valley below. We climbed out of our tent bleary-eyed to a surreal scene of fog lifting from the river, with sunbeams filtering through. We put the horses out to graze and started a fire while we watched the morning evolve.”
Goal: What started as an interest in taking occasional trips morphed into two larger goals. First, Kent and Charlene longed to relocate from Idaho to Montana to build the horse property of their dreams. Second, the couple wanted a living-quarters trailer to make lengthy trips around the country with their horses more homey.
Key learning: When the Krones purchased property in Montana, they bought a bare lot and strategically designed the layout of the entire property to suit their needs.
“We wanted a property we could ride our horses out from,” Kent explains. “So we designed a dry lot to keep the horses close by and to prevent them from overgrazing.”
The barn includes an overhang large enough to park the trailer under to protect it from the weather. They also installed an RV dump and a water tap. They allocated enough space between the barn and the house to turn the trailer and eliminate backing.
“The key is to strategically plan a property that’s horse-friendly and amenable to what you’re trying to do with it,” Charlene says.
Part two of the goal—buying a living-quarters trailer—evolved from the Krones’ desire to spend months at a time riding trails. They knew every inch of the trailer’s size mattered, as many of the trailheads they travel to are small and narrow.
“We chose a living-quarters trailer that wasn’t too long,” Kent says. “It’s 26 feet on the box, with a slide-out that creates additional room.”
Propane tanks, powerful batteries, and a solar panel to maintain battery power make it possible to spend months away from home.
Final outcome: Since buying the living-quarters trailer, the couple has pulled the trailer untold miles—they estimate it’s tens of thousands. When they’re home in Montana, they relish every inch of their property.
“We look forward to continuing to explore this great country on horseback and experiencing its wonder and the beauty of nature with our equine friends,” Charlene says.
Rider: Kim Stone, who hails from Brunswick, Maine.
Background: Kim’s first horse was a Shetland pony she named Ginger Snowflake. Just 4 years old at the time, Kim learned to ride through trial and error. In high school, she worked at a camp where she catch-rode horses no one else wanted to ride, and during college she rode whenever her studies allowed. In 2000, she once again ventured back into horse ownership and began barrel racing at weekend shows. Just two years later she purchased Indy, a young mare.
“Indy had been passed around as a challenging horse with no manners, and she was strong-willed,” Kim recalls. “She’d become dangerous to herself, her handler, and anyone else within a 50-foot radius.”
In the fall of 2008 a friend suggested Kim ride Indy in a Martin Black clinic.
“That started me on an unforgettable journey,” she shares. “What began as a tiny snowball in my hand ended up a gigantic snow-boulder at the bottom of a mountain.”
Kim’s current herd includes five horses: Indy, Tabasco, Tess, Cowboy, and Moxie.
Goal: Kim’s initial goal was to develop a better partnership with Indy. After riding in a Martin Black clinic, she was invited to attend his month-long ranch school in Texas. There her aspirations shifted. She yearned to work as a cowboy, document a beloved lifestyle through her photography, and bring that culture back to the East Coast.
Key learning: Hard work, willingness, and maintaining an open mind made her journey possible.
“The harder I worked, the more they wanted to help me learn,” she says. “Eating and sleeping became secondary to being in the saddle. I’d spend 14-plus hours a day riding that first year.”
She never passed up an opportunity to work, ride, be with cowboys, or just sit in middle of a field horseback. “I got out there every day and tried my best, and I earned more respect doing that than anything else,” she beams.
If it’s something you want to try, Kim suggests going for it. “Ride with the best you can ride with, and decide how much you’re willing to sacrifice to go there,” she advises. “Invest in a minimum of a one-month ranch school if you think you want to live this lifestyle.”
She cautions that it’s not as romantic as it might sound.
“It’s grueling hours, grueling time in saddle, and hard on your body,” she says. “No matter if it’s raining, snowing, sleeting, or 110 degrees, the work must get done.”
Although the other ranch hands teased her about toting her camera everywhere, she earned their trust and had the unique opportunity to experience aspects of ranch life that few others do.
Final outcome: Kim spent five years working as a cowboy, first for Martin Black in Texas, then at the Alvord Ranch in southeastern Oregon. She receives annual invitations to return to the ranch and spends at least two weeks there each year. At her facility in Maine, she regularly hosts clinics so riders on the East Coast can learn to rope and ride like a true cow hand.
Headed to Congress
Rider: CharlieAnne Huffam, who hails from Troy, New York.
Background: CharlieAnne grew up participating in 4-H and open shows with a grade Quarter Horse/Arabian-cross. At 15, she learned about the American Quarter Horse Association, dreaming of someday owning her own Quarter Horse and becoming a member.
During college she took lessons at hunter/jumper facilities and worked part-time at a dressage barn, observing best practices in caring for horses.
Goal: CharlieAnne set high expectations. Her goal included three key initiatives. First, buy a Quarter Horse to compete in sanctioned events. Second, build a barn to keep said horse at home. Third, compete at the All American Quarter Horse Congress, the annual event held in Columbus, Ohio.
Key learning: It took nearly two decades for CharlieAnne to take the first step toward accomplishing her first goal—horse ownership—and staying the course was critical. Initially, she found a horse at a local rescue, but it wasn’t a good fit for her.
“Taking him back was the hardest decision, but I could afford only one horse at the time and knew we wouldn’t be a happy pair in the end,” she laments.
In 2013, she finally found and purchased a good match, the registered Quarter Horse gelding My Te Slo Mr, barn name “Cooper.”
Sticking to priorities was equally important during barn construction.
“I read and re-read Cherry Hill’s Horsekeeping on Small Acreage,” she shares. “The biggest takeaway was identifying what features I really wanted, then not compromising—even if it meant having to wait until I could afford what was most important to me.”
Patience has proven to be a virtue in all aspects of goal-seeking, especially as it relates to showing at Congress, an ongoing aspiration.
Final outcome: In 2016, CharlieAnne accumulated her first set of AQHA points, receiving an Amateur Top-10 Rookie Halter Gelding award. In 2017, “Operation Bring Cooper Home” went from dream to reality when construction of her barn started in April and finished in May. At her first 2017 show she earned reserve high-point in the rookie amateur all-around division. She continues to work toward competing at Congress.
Cow Horse Dreams
Rider: Roxanne Peters, who hails from Auburn, Washington.
Background: For 25 years, Roxanne focused on breeding reining and working cow horses. Many of her foals sold to or went into training with industry veterans. During that time, she wasn’t riding or competing. In 2010, she purchased Make Mine Gray, winning the National Reined Cow Horse Association World Championship Snaffle Bit Futurity’s non-pro limited and non-pro limited 5K divisions with the gelding the following year. Today, she competes in working cow horse, boxing, and ranch riding events with her 10-year-old homebred mare, Mity Independent (“Cricket”), by Topsail Whiz.
Goal: To qualify for the AQHA World Championship Show in boxing and ranch riding, and to compete again at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno, Nevada.
Key learning: In the midst of chasing qualifying points, Roxanne had to rely on the understanding of a new boss. “I was on the job fewer than three weeks when I had to ask for time off for my final horse goal of 2016, competing in Reno,” she explains.
She’d won there before and wanted to do it again on a second horse. Cricket, not yet seasoned for that level of competition, ended up 13th out of 48 horses.
With the job change, Roxanne has had to focus her energy, time, and finances on specific goals. Instead of competing at several regional shows throughout the show season, she chooses two of the top AQHA circuit shows: the Sun Circuit in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the Oregon Summer Classic in Central Point, Oregon. The events draw large enough classes to offer multiple points.
“At the Sun Circuit, I picked up 13 points at one show to get us qualified for the 2017 AQHA World,” she says. “At shows back home in Washington, there are fewer than five competitors in each class, making it difficult to get qualified.”
Larger, week-long shows may sound more expensive, but she says her show bill was actually less than it would’ve been from traveling to multiple regional shows. She also says not only did she qualify faster, she also had an opportunity to compete against and learn from more seasoned competitors. The new job and her aspirations of competing at this level have meant sacrifices. She sold her broodmares and upcoming prospects and leases part of her property to a local Thoroughbred trainer. This arrangement provides her the time and finances needed to pursue her goals.
“I had to downsize the things that were distracting me,” she notes. “Before the job change, I’d ride on weekends, but instead of focusing on my ride, I’d have to worry about getting back to breed a horse, care for those on the property, and maintain my place. With the lease arrangement, I still see mares and beautiful foals, but they’re not mine to care for and my focus is better whenever I go to ride.”
Final outcome: Roxanne has already racked up enough AQHA points to earn Mity Independent’s Register of Merit and Superior awards, and she’s qualified for the 2017 AQHA World Championship Show. She’s set herself a stretch goal of garnering 50 points to earn the mare’s AQHA Superior in boxing.