Like Mother, Like Daughter
Though countless little girls dream of glory on horseback, Krone had the single-mindedness, the physical attributes, and the emotional toughness to make her dream come true. Julieanne Louise Krone was born in 1963 near Benton Harbor, Michigan. Her first trainer, champion, and sometimes adversary, was her mother, Judi
Krone, a woman who lived and breathed horses. It was Judi, a former high-school equestrian champion, who put her diapered two-year-old on the back of a palomino and sent the animal trotting off to show a prospective buyer how gentle the horse could be with children. Julie instinctively sat the trot, then took up the reins and guided the horse back to Judi. It was Julie who began living her mother's dream: "Every time she looked out and saw her baby girl gliding bareback across the field, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts, holding nothing but a handful of mane, [Judi] would feel tears filling her eyes," wrote Gary Smith in a lengthy profile of Julie Krone for Sports Illustrated. "Tears of love, tears of jealousy. Her little girl's childhood was the childhood she had read about in all those books, the childhood she should have had, she would have had, if only she hadn't been a girl in a three-story apartment house in Chicago."
Indeed, horses both bonded and divided the Krone family. In one corner was Judi, who let dishes pile up and clothes clutter the house while she spent hours training the family's horses, dreaming of a career in the saddle she herself would never realize. In the other corner was husband Don Krone, a photography and art instructor, who lost himself in his darkroom night after night. "There was love in a house like that, but sometimes you had to cock your head in a different way to see it," as Smith wrote. "No dinners together around a table, no Easter baskets."
Julie Krone grew up fierce and fearless, a riding daredevil who never stopped to consider the consequences. She never cried, even when thrashed by the tempestuous Judi as punishment for fighting. At the same time, Julie's mother painstakingly trained her, corrected her, and encouraged her. At age five, Krone won the Berrien County Youth Fair Horse Show in the under-18 division, besting competitors three times her age. But even then, "Judi would snap at the girl for letting her elbows bounce during the ride, then wait until she was gone and say to Julie's friend.… 'Wasn't she great?'," noted Smith.