On The Cart with Compton: Troy Compton’s Exclusive Interview With Karen Hornick
Go check out the slide show with great pictures of Troy and Karen on the Cart. Just click “slide show” below the logo.
Hey it’s Troy Compton, and I’m On The Cart with World Champion trainer and exhibitor, Karen Hornick. Karen, you’re really busy. You’ve brought 23 head of horses to the Reichert. How do you orchestrate that many horses at a horse show?
KH: A lot of good help. We’re just used to it, done it for a long time. I feel like a school teacher organizing 23 children. (Laughs)
TC: It is a lot of keeping everybody in good spirits. Not everybody can win. Is it tough with that big number?
KH: Some people win, some don’t. We just try to have a positive attitude. I always try to tell people, ‘You go show and have good rides and you just have to love to ride, like your horse, win, lose or draw. You have to like to ride.’
TC: You’ve had a great year so far. Bring us up to date with what’s going on?
KH: We started at the Tom Powers. The Tom Powers was great. In fact I think we counted up 12 wins, 12 champions. It was really good. Then on to Southern Belle. We had a lot of wins there. We just have a lot of nice 3 year olds this year. Easy prep on them. From there we went to the Youth World. We were first and second!
TC: Tell me about those two horses, you got Vino and you got Radical Rumors. What’s the future for those two horses?
KH: Vino will do the western riding, still do some of the pleasure, but Darcy will focus on the Western Riding and try to return to the youth world to do both next year. And Rumors…I’m not sure! She’ll have babies and keep showing her I think. Not sure what we’ll do with her.
TC: It’s hard to keep her out of the pen, huh?
KH: She’s happy every time. Troy, you know, you rode her. You told me once that she is a people’s horse, and she is. She’s a great, great minded horse.
TC: Do you remember at the 1999 World Show when we were doing the win picture and I got to talking to her? Do you remember that?
KH: You had tears, Troy. There’s none like her.
TC: You seem to manage a balancing act. You’re a mom, business manager, horse trainer,
KH: (Interrupts) Therapist! (Laughs)
TC: How do you do it?
KH: Take a deep breath. Just try to know that you’re doing good for everyone. The only way I can do it is that it does still make me happy to do it – riding horses and training. If I wasn’t happy I couldn’t do it all.
TC: So that explains the smile on your face all the time?
KH: (Laughs) Yes!
TC: What about the boys? You have two sons, you have to have a great support team to do that. How does that schedule work?
KH: We’re fortunate, Ty’s mother lives with us. A lot of people ask, ‘How do you live with your mother-in-law?’ and I’m like ‘How would I not live with her?’ She’s awesome for the kids. Awesome. She makes sure they get to school, football practice and in the summer time she goes with us when she can.
TC: How much time do you get to devote to their activities and school and being a regular soccer mom?
KH: When I’m at home, I get up in the mornings, bust my butt so I can get done so I can go be a mom. By 5:00 I try to be done. I go to all their football practices. My youngest is ten and I go to all of his football practices. It’s no different than one of my customers watching their kid ride in that show pen and they’re proud and I’m proud when he’s out there catching that football. I’m like ‘Hey, that’s my kid!’ (Laughs)
TC: What are some of the greatest horses you’ve had, I know you’ve had Rumors and Vino, but are there any other horses that really put you over the top and gave you that confidence?
KH: The first one would be Dynamic Sports Buff. I was second at the Congress when he was three and he just was a really easy, broke horse that every time you went in the pen he was there for you. We still have him, my son Brandon rides him. We’ll keep him forever.
TC: Vino, one of the hottest horses in the industry right now. Where do you think he ranks with the all-time greats?
KH: I don’t know! It’s hard to say he’s the best pleasure horse alive. I can’t say that. As far as where he ranks with the all-time greats, I’d say he’s just as good, if not better.
TC: Would you ride him against anybody?
KH: Oh yeah. Every day he lopes. I don’t have to come out there and worry about him loping, trotting, doing his job. He has so much strength. You can prepare him until he peaks and he’s good or you can take it easy at a weekend horse show and he still performs. However you do it, he’s there. I’ve never rode anything like him. He stays centered up when you ride him, he’s incredible.
TC: Who decides who gets to show? You have a husband and wife team, who decides who gets to show what horses?
KH: Sometimes it depends on the customer who is riding the horse as far as preparation for the horse. Ty says I’m good at lessons and getting one real steady for somebody, and Ty can take one that’s not as broke and get it around which helps determine it. Sometimes he tells me what he wants, and I take what’s left, and I might beat him! (Laughs)
TC: You’re on the road a lot. You ever get burned out?
KH: Yeah. I do. I miss home. I’m kind of a home person. I enjoy my house, cleaning, decorating, I love HGTV (Home and Garden) I think because it’s the total opposite of any of this. It’s kind of my own little world when I’m at home. I could stay at home and do nothing.
TC: Do you see yourself slowing down in the next few years?
KH: No. I don’t think so. I hope not! (Laughs)
TC: You get a lot of different personalities with the customers you have to deal with. You have to keep everybody happy in the barn. How tough is that?
KH: We try to make it be fun for everbody. This is a hobby. We try to stress to enjoy your horses, enjoy riding, working on yourself. So far we’ve been lucky, everybody has been really supportive in our barn of each other.
TC: Good chemistry with all the customers?
KH: Very good chemistry. I think a lot of it is what Ty and I portray to each person. I think you have to give the same amount of time to each person whether it’s a novice/4H horse I get in, or whoever spent the most money that year. You just have to give the right amount of time to each person.
TC: You’re dealing with a lot of big money customers but you also have folks who you really want to take care of who are on a shoe string budget. Is that tough to deal with sometimes?
KH: As long as you take what they have and they’re successful, then they are happy. You make them feel part of it, I don’t care if their horse cost $2,500, as long as you feel like you can take that horse and make it be prepared and compete, then they’re happy. Nobody has to know how much anybody makes or has.
TC: You’re a successful woman horse trainer, you win the big shows. You’re a World Champion. All the accolades. How tough is it to compete against the guys?
KH: I used to think it’s a man’s world out there. I can’t say that anymore after getting to win. I just think sometimes I always feel like I have to be 110% instead of 100% to go compete with the men which pushes me all the time. I can look around and I’ll be the only woman in the pen and it’s like, ‘Go do it.’ (Laughs)
TC: You always kept your smile even when you maybe weren’t getting the prizes you deserve a few years ago. How tough was that to get through?
KH: It was hard. It was hard, but I’m always open to learning and suggestions and I’m never above wanting to learn something new. It is constantly important to have eyes and your help, your husband, ask ‘What’s this look like?’ I ask good friends.
TC: What words of wisdom do you have for other women that are coming up? What are some secrets to your success?
KH: Just keep at it. Don’t give up. Be consistent in what you do. Don’t quit. Work hard. Don’t give up.