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Chafin Performance Horses

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68 – November/December,2015

A Commitment to Excellence Built on a Rock-Solid Foundation

By Susan Winslow

Chafin 8315Jim Chafin and Heather Graft have horses in their blood. Jim started out under the watchful eye of his parents, Jim and Sandy Chafin, owners of C Bar C Quarter Horses in Ohio. His success as a youth competitor included Top Five placings at the AQHA Youth World Show and national standings that gave him a solid foundation, responsibility, and work ethic that he parlayed into big wins as an adult at all of the major breed venues.

Heather is also an accomplished horsewoman and multiple champion. As a youngster, she was the AQHYA Rookie of the Year in the 11-and-under division and continued her success with multiple Top Five placings in national competition including a career highlight Reserve Championship at the Quarter Horse Congress. Heather’s grandfather, the late John Herold, was very involved in the Thoroughbred industry and always served as an important role model. “I always wanted to make him proud,” she says.

Both Heather and Jim credit their parents for supporting their love of horses, competition, and career choice. Jim says, “My parents’ work ethic and integrity had a positive impact on me. I try to pattern much of my life on the lessons I learned from my dad.” The couple also learned from their professional peers as they worked their way up through the ranks. Jim notes Gil Galyean and Dan Trein as trainers who have inspired him with their quiet dedication and professionalism. Heather looks up to Darlene Trein and the late Jim Becker Sr. as two mentors who helped shape her career. Jim and Heather share a philosophy that there is always something new to learn in the equine industry, saying, “The people or trainers who think they know it all will be the ones left behind in this ever-changing business.”

Together, Jim and Heather have created a successful business at Chafin Performance Horses on 107 acres in Jackson Center, Pennsylvania. They have transformed a scenic apple farm into a first class training, breeding, and sales facility. The farm includes 10 acres of turnout and 30 acres of trails, a heated show barn with 38 stalls, a 12-stall broodmare barn, and a spacious 80’ x 180’ indoor arena. The enormous 100’ x 200’ outdoor arena has a four-horse hot walker in the center.

Heather and Jim specialize in producing world-class horses for futurities, Halter, Longe Line, Western Pleasure, Show-manship, Western Riding, Trail, and Hunter Under Saddle. They work with riders of any age and ability, from youth to select, and they always welcome new clients. The couple brings a lifetime of experience and their own specialties to their program. “We really complement each other,” Heather says. “Jim’s focus is on the two-year-olds, and he is really gifted with them. He enjoys preparing them for the futurities and the show pen. I love the babies and bringing them along and working with them to prep for Longe Line futurities. We both have a lot of experience in a variety of disciplines, and we both really enjoy working with our clients.” Jim and Heather also credit the smooth running of their successful operation to their assistant trainer, Kyle Pears. Heather says, “He is way more than just an assistant to us. He is a part of our family and our best friend. He has been with us for seven years now through the ups and downs of this business, and I don’t think we can truly put into words what he means to us. Our daughter, Addyson, is also very close with Kyle. They have their movie ‘date nights’ and Burger King play dates. Addyson says she will marry Kyle one day!”

In 2015, Jim and Heather welcomed thirteen foals to the farm. Heather says, “It was a busy spring, but we got some beautiful foals on the ground. Each year, we’re able to assess the crosses to fine tune our program, and we’re very excited about the direction we’re taking. We’re expecting 19 top shelf foals in 2016 with bloodlines including Battman, RL Best of Sudden, Lopin My Best, The Best Martini, No Doubt Im Lazy, It’s A Southern Thing and many more. We have carefully chosen a high quality group of mares, and we put a lot of thought into the crosses, always aiming to produce the highest quality foals. We know our mares’ strengths and weaknesses and breed to complement those qualities. Our hands-on approach to our horses and training the horse for the job it is most suited for results in high quality show horses.”

Heather is very clear that horses from their program are trained for a long and successful career. “We design our two-year-olds so anybody can ride them. We don’t want horses that just Jim or another trainer can ride. We want our horses designed so a youth, amateur, or select rider can get on and ride and it doesn’t take an owners manual to get them around the pen. We want our name to be synonymous with quality horses that people can own and enjoy for many years. I’ve seen too many rail-bound horses, and we don’t want our horses to wind up like that. We train our horses to be willing, versatile, obedient and user-friendly for our customers. We really care about the horses as well as our clients,” she says.

Jim adds, “I get a real sense of accomplishment working with a horse to mold it into a show animal. It’s all about gaining that animal’s trust and working with it to develop its potential.”

Jim and Heather put a great deal of time and effort into ensuring that their clients are well-matched with the right horse for their goals. Heather explains, “Our clients range from youth to select competitors. They range in age, ability, experience, and goals, so we work with each of them individually to make sure we can deliver the service they need, the horse to meet their goals, and the preparation to make sure they go into the show pen ready and confident. We always remember that it’s supposed to be fun along the way!”

They also take great satisfaction in their riders’ accomplishments. Heather says, “We’re blessed with a wonderful group of clients, and we pride ourselves in making sure our barn is drama free, professional, and that our riders are supported every inch of the way. Our riders are also a tightknit group who will come out to the rail to root for each other or congratulate each other if they’re competing in the same class. They give a wonderful example of sportsmanship to our younger riders.”

Heather continues, “It can be a daunting thing to be a select rider who is either new to the sport or has raised their kids and is now making their own dreams come true. We have riders who have moved into select from the amateur division, so they have a lot of experience. We also have someone who took up the sport at the age of 68 and is now competing and having success at the age of 73! They’re a wonderful group, and they’re all so much fun to work with. Jim and I take a lot of pride in each of their accomplishments, whether it’s a win at the Select World, a Congress Championship, or a ribbon at the Novice Championship.”

SRR_6742-D.MAIER CD RELEASEDTheir dedication to hard work has certainly paid off. This year, Chafin Performance Horses has come home with impressive wins. Jim was the NSBA High Point Limited Open Western Pleasure Rider of the year. Their select customer, Susan Grabski, took Top Five in the nation in Select Western Pleasure with her horse, Best Too Be Cool. Jim is also leading the nation with that horse in the Open Jr. Performance Halter Geldings and is standing second in the Open All Age Performance Halter Geldings.

Heather was the Reserve Champion in Longe Line last year at the Congress with one of their homebred yearlings, Lopin My Blaze Off. Jim is also standing Top five in the nation in Performance Halter Mares, and they have several others that are Top 20 in the nation in Western Pleasure, Showmanship, and Horsemanship.

The schedule at Chafin Performance Horses is a busy one, but the couple thrives on hard work, using their clients’ wins as the fuel that keeps them going. Heather says, “We go from foaling season to breeding season and then show season, where we’re on the road for months. After the big shows, things quiet down a bit for December, and then it starts over again. We’re so excited about the quality of horses we’re producing here and the success of our riders; that’s why we work hard. We’re very excited about what we’re building here. With the high quality of foals we’re getting, we’re taking a long view with our program and the horses we’re producing.”

Horses are the lifeblood of the Chafin’s farm, but their daughter, Addyson, is the center of her parents’ lives. This talented young rider is now a seasoned competitor, following her parents into AQHYA competition. With her 16.1 hand mare, She’s My Version, affectionately known as “Twiggy,” Addyson is focusing on the walk-trot division. “We’re so grateful to Joni Gainey for sharing her double-superior Western Pleasure mare with us. Addyson adores her, and she is having so much fun out there with her,” Heather says.

Life is hectic for the Chafin family, but Heather is grateful every day for their choice of career. She says, “It’s a business and a lifestyle rolled into one, but we really love what we do. We’re going all-out with our breeding program, and we’re looking forward to more success in the show pen with our horses and clients. It’s very rewarding to see them all doing so well.”

When it comes to the tiny window of down time for the Chafin family at the end of show season, they head south. “My parents live in Florida, so we take Addyson for a visit each spring for her birthday. Jim and I love everything about Christmas, so this year, we’re adding a trip to Disney at Christmastime with Jim’s side of the family. It’s been a great year, but a busy one, so we’re really looking forward to this vacation before we get rolling again.”


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