Laura Knox was only six years old when she first dabbed Eau d’ Equine behind her ears, and now – many years later – her love affair with horses is still going strong.
“My sister Midge, who lives in Michigan, is 16 years older than I am and was riding before I was born. While spending summers and school breaks with her, I learned how to trail ride, and when I was 9, I began showing horses under her tutelage,” explained Laura, a graduate of Western Illinois University, with a Bachelor’s degree in Business and a minor in Quantitative Information Science.
Today, as a seasoned horse trainer, Laura is to be congratulated on her 2008 ranking as 10th Senior Amateur in the nation, based on accumulated points from horse show entries last year. She estimates over the decades that she has won “thousands” of ribbons, in 12 to 15 classes a show, averaging well over 600 classes yearly, saying, “We very rarely do not place.”
Laura buys young horses, trains them, shows them and finally sells her finished equines, striving to pair them with suitable buyers.
“The most rewarding part is seeing the joy my horses give their new owners,” said Laura, who boards her own geldings at a north side stable.
“I’ve kept in contact with nearly everyone I sold a horse to, and they absolutely love their horses. I try to make sure they are a good match for one another. It would be a real shame if neither horse nor owner got along.”
As Laura’s childhood revolved around horses, so too has she passed this love onto her own children. She and her husband Chuck (a geologist for St. Joe Valley Exploration LLC and owner of Knox Decorative Painting) “had a blast” with daughters Stephanie and Colleen when the children were younger.
“We used horses as a fun family activity, which kept the kids away from drugs and has drawn us closer,” reflected Laura. “We feel our girls have been extremely successful in life, which comes back to keeping them busy and giving them something to do to build their self-confidence. It also gave them a sense of belonging and being loved. Stephanie got married recently to Michael Holler, and Colleen is a senior at Huntington University.
“When I first started training on my own, the first few horses I trained for myself and my kids. As the kids got older I would instruct them on what they needed to do to train their own horses, and they did a lot of successful showing in 4-H and other horse shows through the years.”
“Boarding is convenient because I don’t like to be tied down when I want to do something with my family and friends,” said Laura, who excels in the English, Western and jumping disciplines.
“The downside is that not all barn owners share the same views that I do on horse care. You don’t always get a say in what is done with your horses and because of that, I’ve had many trips to the vet for expensive and time-consuming torn legs, sick horses and more. I’ve known horses that have been crippled or killed when turned out with another horse or not cared for properly.
“Unfortunately, too many barn owners are in it for the money, and as a result the horse suffers. Wet stalls, lack of quality and/or quantity of hay and food, not enough turn-out or being turned-out in bad ground conditions or with other horses that are not safe. I’m very fortunate to have found a stable now where the owner truly cares about the horse.”
On the lighter side, the family has shared a ton of – dare we say it? – horse laughs (and a few gasps), over the years. One horse show incident drove home the point that some folks shouldn’t own animals.
“In one class, a kid was hitting his pony with a tree branch, vainly trying to get it to jog,” said Laura. “After several frustrating attempts, the boy’s mother yelled, ‘Just poke him in the eye with the stick!’”
(And we wonder where animal abuse comes from)
Another incident involved a younger Stephanie on a trail ride with her parents. “Steph tried to get Doc, her horse, to cross a wide stream, with a drop-off of 2 feet and a depth of 2 feet of freezing water,” recalled Laura. “Doc, a gorgeous black-and-white Pinto, had never done this before, and jumped instead into the river, unseating Stephanie in the icy water, and the rest of that weekend, everyone we ran into on the trail recognized Doc and asked Steph, ‘Hey, aren’t you the girl who got dumped in the river?’
“Poor 12-year-old Stephanie was mortified…”
Away from the barn, the Knoxes – residents of Old Trail Road for 23 years – take pleasure in Waynedale’s small-town atmosphere and events.
“We always try to make the Memorial Day parade, and enjoy seeing our kids’ preschool teachers from Waynedale United Methodist Church in the procession,” said Laura, who also values interaction with her neighbors and Waynedale businesses.
In family and horses then, Laura Knox has found her joy, and is grateful for her continuing blessings and for what all she can bring to other people’s lives through the horses she lovingly gentles and educates.