Today, our oldest horse turns 30!
Chinook’s Knight Rider joined our family as a youngster and by the time he was just 3 he was established as a wheeler in my Grandad’s eight horse hitch, a position that he held until the hitch retired from parades.
That first year he was in the hitch he travelled to Texas for the World Show, and earned he nickname “Scary” for his constant spooking at really scary things like garbage cans, but he got used to many things during his hundreds of parades and was one of the good ones who never gave any trouble and just did his job.
Which is kind of amazing, as in his old age he is a cantankerous sort!
He loves to sneakily nip your leg if your attention drifts while you’re holding him for the farrier. Every gate on the place has to have the top hinge facing down, or Knight Rider lifts them off the hinges to escape. He’s broken the brace on the fence of his pen twice in two years rubbing on it, and is then very annoyed that his favourite rubbing spot is out of commission until it’s fixed. He HATES being in a stall, which is a challenge because while Knight Rider is a toughie who doesn’t mind the worst winter weather, he also HATES to be away from his friend Zac, who doesn’t do well in the cold and needs a stall. He loves to shove the barn door open with his nose when I go to turn him out, banging it open emphatically to remind me that he didn’t want to be there anyway.
When the horses first moved over here from Grandad and Grandma’s, I played with a bunch of the old blacks from the hitch, asking them if they wanted to go back to driving after years of retirement. I ground drove Knight Rider, and he bucked and took off, nearly getting away on me and leaving me with rope burn on both hands. I listened, and left him to his retirement.
But a couple years ago Mom suggested we try driving him with Zac, as they are such good friends, and it turns out that Knight Rider just thought that ground driving was stupid, but driving in a team properly was a great deal of fun – though he does watch us quite judgmentally while we’re harnessing and hitching and we’re sure we can hear him saying, “That’s not how Grandad did it.” and “You are SO SLOW.”
When my brother John and I decided we wanted to practice driving four, we made full use of Knight Rider’s experience to help us. At first, given his vast career in the position, we put him and Zac on the wheel, but Knight Rider’s enthusiasm had us concerned he was going to go right overtop our more placid leaders, and so we switched them.
Knight Rider is SO happy in the lead, and makes for such an easy to drive team as he is forward and responsive, and just waiting to go, even at my poor imitation of my Grandad’s whistle.
After driving the four quite a few times in the summer of 2020, Mom and I decided we could hook them with just the two of us to take photos for a Christmas card – the weather was good and we didn’t want to miss out by waiting for a day when someone else was available to help us. As anticipated, our very experienced team (with a total age very near 100) were perfect good boys. As I pulled them out, Knight Rider, overjoyed to be driving again after a few months off, crowhopped happily for the first 30 or 40 feet in his position in the right lead, all the festive ribbons we’d put on him bouncing joyfully. It was a wonderful drive. <3
While last summer (2021) we did take a four horse hitch to the Stampede Parade, we decided that Zac and Knight Rider, at 27 and 29, had better stay home, and practiced with some younger horses to take their place. But anytime there was driving going on, or even if it was a nice day for driving, they were standing at the gate whinnying at us, and did get out for some fun drives around home!
We plan to hook them up this weekend, when more of our family can come, for a proper birthday celebration for Knight Rider – he might not like the barn, or his blanket, or all the other things I do to try to spoil him in his old age, but he LOVES to drive with Zac, so that will be a perfect birthday present for him!
Happy 30th Birthday Knight Rider! I hope you’re still here complaining and breaking stuff and driving with joyful abandon for many years to come! <3