Wild Bill’s Rodeo on Nov. 10, 2019 – photo courtesy Sarah Anderson
Alex Penovaroff, one of Hawaii’s finest horsemen, left this world on Friday, December 20, 2019, having lived a rich and colorful life, largely in a manner of his own design. He is credited for his contributions to the betterment of his endeared species, the horse that will live on through generations to come.
In 1999, Alex was a charter founder of Paniolo Preservation Society. And, over the past two decades introduced three signature award programs; Ranch Women of the Far West, Silver Spur and Kepa Awards. Alex never sought any awards…he earned them.
A native son descended from diverse forebears, Alex’s maternal great-grandfather was the right Reverend Charles Kamakawiwoole of Pā‘auhau. The church he built still stands today in testimony to the Native Hawaiian leader’s devotion.
His paternal grandfather, Timofei, fled Russia’s great war in the 1900’s, and settled in Kea‘au. A sheriff in the old country, he became a noted wood worker in the Puna region producing violins, guitars and of course ukuleles.
Alex was neither inclined toward music, nor preaching the word of God; he was born a consummate horseman. His early exposure to horses came with summers in Waimea at his Uncle Morris Payne’s ranch near Lakeland. By teenage years he cowboyed under the legendary cow boss Tommy Lindsey at Pu‘u ‘Ō’ō Ranch inland from Humu‘ula Sheep Station. During those years he got to know Willy Kaniho who ran the sheep station. Alex could see that Willy was second to none in every aspect of cowboy life, and cowboy life was everything he wanted to be and do.
After a brief stay at Kamehameha School for Boys on Oahu, Alex enrolled at Hawai’i Preparatory Academy where horses abounded his surroundings. He became acquainted with Jane Kaniho, Willy’s eldest daughter; they eventually wed and started a family while Alex was enrolled at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California.
When they returned to Waimea, Alex became a ranch hand at Makahalau under Rally Greenwell. Before long he was made the Foreman at Humu‘ula Sheep Station when Willy became Cattle Superintendent of Parker Ranch.
Horses, however, were his lifetime focus and Parker Ranch was the place to be. Under Rally Greenwell, Alex became the Horse Foreman with two responsibilities: rebuild the Thoroughbred Program and further improve the production of cow horses. Given his love for Thoroughbreds, Alex was lured to the Thoroughbred racing tracks of California in 1972, where he readily developed a clientele with barns of well-bred running horses.
Photo courtesy Michael McClure
Alex returned home in 1974, after making the transition to Quarter Horses. He bought a well bred bay named Tellin’ Tales, and converted him into a talented cutting horse that pre-potently sired a son Hele Kanaka Hele.
Alex’s college friend Greg Ward, of Ward River Ranch in California, helped open opportunities in Snaffle Bit Futuries competitions for Alex and his Hawaii-bred and trained colts. In Reno, Nevada, Alex’s colts scored in the finals in 1994, 1995, 1997 and 1999, and Penovaroff became the highly held name in national reinsman competition where it stands today.
Alex at Tim Richard’s 60th Birthday on Feb. 23, 2019 – photo courtesy Anna Pacheco
Near the end of his career, Alex found an enduring soulmate in his wife, Karoll, who shared his love for horses, as well as his tenacity in teaching horsemanship. Together, they redirected their skills to serve the youth of Hawai’i, in a life altering partnership dedicated to making champions of local youths in State and National High School Rodeo Finals competitions.