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Chasing Dreams: How Top Trainers, Breeders, And Exhibitors Got Their Start

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338 – July/August, 2023

By Sarah Welk Baynum

A rider clutching a championship trophy smiles for the camera and gives their well-bred horse a pat on the neck. The trainer who stands next to them is no stranger to a championship win either. They are the best of the best when it comes to riders and trainers in their discipline. That well-bred horse that helped the rider win this championship title came from a breeder who is also at the top of their profession.

But how did they get to be the best? Were they–at one time–standing on the sidelines watching other riders, trainers, and breeders having their own moment in the spotlight? What compelled them to begin the journey that led them to this very moment?

Everyone has to start somewhere, and there was most certainly a mentor or mentors who helped them get to the point in their career where they are today and impacted their entire future.

Never A Doubt

For some, where they are now was just a dream for them from a very young age.

“I always knew I wanted to train horses. I just didn’t know which style of riding I wanted to do,” says trainer and exhibitor Chris Holbin, who owns and operates Holbin Show Horses in Vero Beach, Florida with his wife, Shannon. “When I was a kid, I team-penned and went to the sale barns every Saturday with my family. People started paying me to ride their horses–after that, I was hooked! Then a family friend gave me a box of Southern Horsemen journals and the AQHA Journal. I read them from cover to cover; the horses and the people fascinated me.”

For others, horses were in their blood from generations past and were a strong part of their childhood.

“My grandfather had horses that he would plow his fields with and I would be right there with him when he did it. It was the start of my passion for horses,” says breeder Terry Bradshaw, who stands some of the country’s best AQHA, Palomino, and Appaloosa stallions. “But I knew if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it well.”

“My parents were very involved with horses,” says Tyler Haney, who trains horses for Prince Farm. “My mom showed horses when she was younger and my dad is a rodeo pickup man. My grandfather trained polo horses, as well. We always had horses around that we’d trade and sell, so I had to learn to be versatile on a horse and ride what we had available. My grandfather once went to a yard sale, picked up an old Crosby saddle with no stirrups and told me to get to work. That turned into wanting to jump, and my dad would buy $500 thoroughbreds off the track, make me teach them to jump, and flip them. I think that taught me to make things work, and that not every horse has to be amazing but that they do need a job. I think it transformed from there into a career–just at a higher level.”

But not everyone at the top of their career in the horse industry had family involved in the sport. Sometimes the horse bug can be something you are simply born with and pursue.

“Even though my family had no interest or knowledge of horses, I was born with that innate love for horses,” says breeder Cindy McCraw whose stallions have been AQHA World Champions and Leading Sires. “From the time I could talk, the only thing I ever wanted was a pony or a horse. Finally, on my fifth birthday, my parents pulled into the driveway with a pony in the back of their pickup truck. That was the beginning of me and horses being inseparable for the rest of my life.”

The Instrumental Mentors

Click here to read the complete article
338 – July/August, 2023

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