Monday, 09 December 2013 15:58

A legend in the world of horses is gone (+video)

Written by GARRY ALLISON, Rocky Mountain Turf Club
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Ken Buxton passed away at age 86 in Lethbridge on December 5, 2013.

If it had four legs and whinnied, you can bet Ken Buxton not only liked it, but likely owned it at one time or another.

Much of Buxton's nearly 70 years around horses revolved around race horses, from sleek thoroughbreds he'd bred, trained and raced, to chuckwagon ponies, Clydesdales, miniature horses and even mules.

Ken, with wife Anne of 63 years, were among the pioneers of horse racing as they traveled to weekend meets at Cardston, Raymond, Magrath, Milo and many other small southern Alberta towns.

It was an era Ken enjoyed and often said the horsemen of that era looked after one another. If someone had no food, then they ate with a fellow horseman.

Anne and Ken remembered a time when they showed up at a race meet in Stettler, and after the entry fees were paid, they had absolutely no money. None at all. But Anne did bring a big bag of radishes, and if they didn't win anything that day those radishes were to be supper.

"Tommy Dorchester got hold of those radishes and he ate the whole works," Ken said with a big laugh." But Ron Glass had given me $20 to bet with, no questions asked. Things are absolutely different now.

"In all our years though, we never raced for a hobby, we ran horses for a business and they paid their own bills . . . we had Bum Money, a grey horse who used to make the ranch payments regularly for us. We feel we didn't make any mistakes along the way, they were just learning experiences!" At times they'd run for $3 on the bush tracks, the winner's share! And even Derby wins only paid $200 in some places back when they started.

As horse race people the Ken and Anne, until the past four or five years, were always looking for that special horse, and even then Ken still had desires to keep racing on the Rocky Mountain Turf Club track at Exhibition Park in Lethbridge.

In 2001 Ken stated with emotion: "This past spring, training with Scott Dahl right here in Lethbridge, was the best ever. Life didn't get any better." As a trainer Ken worked hard to get a horse as good as it could be. But as often as not he'd sell it, enjoying the idea of someone else carrying on with the success of the horse.

But Ken and Anne kept and raced some good horses of their own. Silent Deserter and Be There John are two of their favourites, and Fun Sale was another top horse. Both say Tango King, a native of Lethbridge, was among the best they ever owned.

"I was born in the backseat of a Model A, stuck in the mud hole between Bowden and Innisfail, June 10, 1927," Ken said with a laugh. "The day before my mother had a runaway with a horse and buggy, so maybe that explains everything." From 1944 to 1951 Kenny Buxton got his kicks as an outrider at the Calgary Stampede.

Ken tossed the stoves for chuckwagon drivers like Johnny Swain, Hank Willard and others as the four wagons charged around the barrels at the sound of the horn, with 16 outriders and 16 wagon horses all vying for the coveted position along the rail.

He had to do it for the thrill, it sure wasn't for the money.

"The year we won it all with Hank Willard (1951) we got a $50 bill to show for six nights of racing, and that was top money back then," said Ken with a grin and a shake of his head.

"I did drive myself, but never at Calgary, I never could afford to put together the horses needed to run there." One of his proudest moments was being among the first horsemen to be named to the Rocky Mountain Turf Club Wall of Fame.

Despite more than 65 years in and around horse racing, Ken and Anne Buxton remained in the sport, though the past few years as spectators only.


Read 3578 times Last modified on Monday, 09 December 2013 16:08