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Country in the city

Photos by Jason A. Smith
Madison Hayes, 10, greets a horse named Beau, prior to a riding lesson from rancher, Buck Reynolds. Reynolds said Beau "has a sixth sense about kids."

Photos by Jason A. Smith Madison Hayes, 10, greets a horse named Beau, prior to a riding lesson from rancher, Buck Reynolds. Reynolds said Beau "has a sixth sense about kids."

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Buck Reynolds has maintained a love of horses for years. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he said his passion crystallized when he was in -- of all places -- Tripoli, Libya.

"You could either belong to a scuba club, a golf club, or a horseback riding club, said Reynolds, 68. "I chose to ride horses as my pastime. I wasn't crazy about golf, and I wasn't crazy about scuba diving, but I did love horses, and horseback riding."

Reynolds, along with his two sisters, grew up in Raleigh, N.C. He said the seeds for his love of four-legged creatures were planted in his youth. "We had an uncle who had a farm, which had animals on it," said Reynolds. "That's where we started messing with animals quite a bit."

These days, Reynolds leases 24 acres of property on Rosser Road, off Ga. Highway 81, in McDonough, where he houses 18 horses, about three miles from the McDonough City Square. It's not the expectation of many in a county that, at one time, was among the fastest-growing suburban areas in the nation.

Reynolds' collection of horses stands out on a heavily traveled road that is the prime route from McDonough, to Newton County for two reasons -- they exist, and some are for sale.

The horses are housed in a residential area, about two traffic lights from a commercial development, which includes a strip mall, and an Ace Hardware store.

Reynolds recently sold one of his horses -- an Appaloosa -- and currently has two for sale. One of them, he said, is a 22-year-old horse, Sareea, which is 7/8 Egyptian, and 1/8 Russian Arab horse. He is hopeful he can find someone who will appreciate her, the way he does.

"I haven't ridden her in two or three years, but she's a good ride," he said. "Somebody needs to get with her, and just work with her -- an experienced rider -- and get her used to riding again, and then they could give her to a beginner, if they wanted to. But, I don't have the time to do it right now."

Across the from Reynolds is the Lincoln Ranch, where owners, Henry County State Court Judge Ernest Blount, Jake Brinson, Dr. Phil Paulk, and Ronnie Newton, have six Tennessee Walking Horses on more than 50 acres. The ranch, as well as Reynolds' horses, are sandwiched between two strip malls.

Reynolds said of his more urban-dwelling neighbors that, rather than criticizing him for having animals near them, they have actually welcomed the horses. "A lot of people come and stop to look at the horses," he said. "Some of them feed the horses apples and carrots."

Reynolds said he has, over the years, owned many horses, including a number of award-winners. "At one time, I had 28," he said. "Now, I'm down to 18. I don't ride them enough, and they're too good horses to be sitting around, and not riding them. I need to downsize.

"I used to breed Arabians and Appaloosas, but I don't do it as much anymore," he continued. "But I do give lessons, and train and board some horses."

One of Reynolds' students is 10-year-old Madison Hayes, of McDonough. Thus far, she has endured three riding lessons with a 21-year-old American Spotted Racking Horse, named Beau.

"He's got a sixth sense about kids," said Reynolds. "If they've ridden before, he'll take off. But if they haven't ridden, he won't move at all until I tell him to move."

Hayes, a rising fifth-grader at Ola Elementary School, said her desire to ride Beau comes down to one thing. "I just like it because I want to have fun," she said.

The girl's mother, Melody Hayes, said there was another reason her daughter wanted to learn how to ride a horse. Madison, she said, wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. "She has a program at home where she has to take care of horses, so that struck her interest," the mother said. "I was raised on a farm, and I just encouraged her to live her dream."

Reynolds said teaming Beau up with Madison Hayes has worked well for everyone involved. "A child her age, it takes five or six lessons just to get out of the ring," he said. "After her second lesson ... she took off like a jet. I'm very proud of her. She's going to make a good rider."

While Reynolds has made as much as $2,000 from selling one of his horses, he does not plan on selling Beau. "There's no price tag on that baby. He is one of a kind."

Reynolds and his wife of 20 years, Dawn, also have a farm and two barns on seven acres, located on North Ola Road, in McDonough. There, they own six horses and several ponies, as well as two goats, two donkeys, four dogs, and 22 chickens.

Although he loves to ride the animals, Reynolds said he now prefers to pass along his expertise, and his passion, to others. He has given riding lessons to children since 1997. "I've had them as young as 3 years old ...," said Reynolds. "I've had some adults, too, but it's more fun with kids, anywhere from 8 to 13 years old. I can see their progress, and I can see the smiles on their faces."

Buck and Dawn Reynolds have two children living with them, ages 18 and 16, and an adopted 10-year-old grandchild. The couple, in 2008, also adopted three sisters, who would have otherwise been separated. "They were foster children for three years," he said. "We asked if we could adopt them, and we did adopt them before the end of the year."

The horse owner added that he has also instilled his love of the animals in other groups of people who were in need of companionship. "We've had some handicapped children, and it's really helped them out," he said. "We've had a lot of kids come here who were really timid. They were being bullied at school, and stuff like that. So they ride and get their courage up, and they understand that they can do the same things anybody else can do."