OREGON — In this small Dane County town, Keith Kramer has proven that with enough passion and hard work, anyone can accomplish anything.
His brain child, Triple K Stables, is a boarding facility for horses and has been open since 1970. Along with the farm, Kramer’s story spans decades.
As a child, Kramer lived on a cattle farm in Prairie du Chien with his parents and two older siblings.
“I had a pony I would ride to school some days,” said Kramer, who attended country school as a boy. “But my sister was the one who was really into horses.”
Kramer’s older sister, Elaine Kramer, is one of America’s most famous Roman riders. She performed in 1955 and was later inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in 2005.
“Elaine was flabbergasted when I opened the stables,” Kramer said. “She thought I would never really be around horses, and then she comes home one day from one of her tours and I have the place all set up and ready to go.”
Kramer bought the 80 acres that now make up Triple K when he was 28, with the hopes of creating an affordable boarding space for horses. Working as a truck driver during the day and a bouncer at night, he began renovating the old dairy barn on the property in every bit of spare time he had.
“I started with only eight stalls,” he said. “I only wanted to board a few horses. But as time went on, more and more people asked to board their horses, so I kept adding stalls. I ended up with 50.”
In addition to the 50 stalls, Kramer built an outdoor and indoor arena for riding, as well as lockers for clients’ horse tack.
The horse business quickly evolved. With his truck driving experience, Kramer became a popular option for transporting horses.
“I’ve transported horses all over,” he said. “From Duluth to Phoenix, East Coast to West Coast ... (transportation) became very big. I even had a gentleman request I transport a horse from Alaska to Nicaragua.”
Kramer also grows his own hay. Some years he has so much excess hay that he donates it to those in need.
“North Dakota had a big shortage of hay and crops this past summer,” he said. “I called some folks over there and asked if they’d like some extra hay. I parted with six semi loads.”
Though Kramer’s business was booming, he suffered a number of hardships along the way. His ex-wife left him to raise his two youngest sons and run the farm on his own. In 2008 he needed a kidney transplant, and in 2014 required emergency brain surgery due to a farm-related injury. Then, on June 30, 2014, an F1 tornado touched down outside of town and cut through his farm.
“My house was mostly undamaged,” Kramer said, “but the barns had chunks of their roofs ripped off.”
Miraculously, none of the horses were injured, but the damage hit Kramer’s wallet hard.
“It cost me about $300,000 in damages,” he said. “Three years later, I’m still recovering from that tornado.”
Despite these challenges, Kramer has kept an outstanding work ethic and witty personality alongside his wife, Sue Kramer. In fact, there are days where Kramer barely has time to sleep, sneaking a few winks here and there before marching back to the stables.
“We haven’t gone on a vacation in years where we weren’t towing a horse behind us,” he said. “We work on weekends, holidays, all year-round. Not much opportunity for time off.”
To everyone’s surprise, Kramer has never actually owned his own horse.
“Besides the pony I had as a boy, I’ve never had my own,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve even ridden a horse since ’76. I know that if I get my own horse, my wife will want her own, and then my boys will want their own too, and then I’ll have a whole stable full of my horses instead of other people’s.”
Now, at age 75, Kramer remains dedicated to his work and, regardless of its challenges, has little interest in slowing down.
“I suppose once I hit 80 I’ll start thinking about doing a little less work,” he said.
Kramer also rents out his indoor arena for horse shows every Memorial Day and has hopes for starting competitions in his outdoor arena.