The renowned trainer makes it his mission to mentor and change lives, one rider at a time.
By Delores Kuhlwein
Legendary industry trainer and coach Troy Oakley has always said, “Be an innovator, not an imitator.”
He’s truly taking that mission to the max in his latest venture, one that he explains will be the catalyst to changing lives.
“I want to do something different than anyone else has done,” he explains. “I’m going to the riders and working with them one-on-one–and I’m going to change their lives one at a time.”
It’s indeed an innovative concept in this day and age of instant gratification because he will schedule this mentorship at their place–he’s going to the riders themselves to offer what they need to start and maintain a good foundation for the horse and the rider.
His desire to mentor others and enhance their abilities has resulted in a business plan in which he schedules a three-day session with 1-3 students at a time to teach them how to get the best out of their horses. “All I have to offer can’t be done in a short time,” he says. “In the process, I’m going to put them in the position to do it themselves. Over three days with three people, like any good personal coach, I can change their lives.”
He explains his strength as a visual person has helped refine his ability to teach all-around riders over the years. “It’s an art to be able to stand on the ground and put someone in the position to learn the feel and cadence of a horse. Many can operate a horse on its back, but I have the knack to relate to people on how to do it themselves.”
The endeavor stems from his life experience learning from the best, Lester and Bonnie Howard, who started him out when he was fifteen years old. “I stayed with them until I went to work for Alex Ross, and what Alex did was give me an opportunity; he gave me clients, the means of a truck and trailer, he let me buy great horses, and he taught me how to run a business,” he explains.
“But Lester and Bonnie taught me how to train a horse, that was the foundation for me to be Troy Oakley.”
Troy says he has developed this business plan because his mentor did the same for him–they put him in a position to teach a horse himself, and taught him how to recognize a good horse, and how to see that horse’s ability.
Truly a diverse, all-around trainer at heart who has been fortunate to have great horses in western pleasure, Troy says it’s his goal to become known as a horseman who can touch all aspects of the equine industry.
“I want to work on elements: lead changes, the stop, the turnaround, etc. I’m willing to work on their horsemanship, western riding, hunter under saddle, equitation, and western pleasure skills,” he says. “My wife, Carrie, is a champion horsemanship and showmanship exhibitor and she’s riding reiners now, so I hang out with all the reiners. I’m not known as a reining trainer, but I can do those maneuvers as well,” he says, since all those skills are related to the foundation of the horse.
“When you build a house, you don’t just put up the roof, you have to start with a concrete slab, studded walls, then a roof, and then you go to the inside and do the finish work,” he explains. Troy’s personal experience building his own base growing up in Indiana began with 4-H and open shows.
“I worked myself up to be one of the top horsemen in the country. My foundation comes from building that house. You can’t start at the top; you must start at the bottom and work your way up. Lester and Bonnie tried to discourage me, the more they did, the more I wanted to do it. They wanted to see my sincerity and willingness to work through it.”
That idea of foundation is why Troy welcomes beginner to advanced riders–all are welcome, he says. “I know from running a training business that people come from all walks of life to do this, and they all have different skill levels.”
He’s already scheduling with trainers to work with their assistants, and with their non-pros. “I’m not here to take anyone’s clients; I want to enhance your abilities and change lives one at a time. My mentor paved the way for me by teaching his riders. When you have a world of knowledge and you’re willing to share, you have a responsibility and a mission to spread the word to change people’s lives.”
As he develops his schedule, which is rapidly filling with those eager to learn from his expertise, Troy will be working with the climate of each region to determine availability, focusing on utilizing good weather to facilitate his teaching. This approach will provide opportunities in the West and South in winter months, and sessions in the North and East during their riding seasons.
Fees for the coaching sessions align with that of a professional judge – $500 a day for an 8-hour day, in addition to expenses including travel and meals. The fees can be split between up to three students.
Scheduling is simple – Troy can be contacted via text at 940-230-5142, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as on Facebook Messenger.
The Bottom Line
“You cannot believe how excited I am to do this after nine months of near-death experience,” says Troy, who is taking the reins back after his health crisis.
He’s clear, however, that this endeavor is not about him. “I take more pride in the riders I’ve had who went on to be Congress and World Champions–that’s what I hang my hat on. I’ve been able to work with the finest people, and I’m prouder of the people I’ve been able to help; they’re my advertisement.”
Besides, as he’s known to say, ““Some are born to lead, some are born to follow–get in where you fit in,” and teaching others is where Troy Oakley shines.