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GoSmart with Charlie & Jason: Tips to Keep Horses Sane & Sound


GoHorseShow.com in partnership with SmartPak are pleased to continue the highly popular column, GoSmart with Charlie and Jason. Team SmartPak riders, Charlie Cole and Jason Martin have achieved success beyond compare. Since founding Highpoint Performance Horses in 1992, they have trained over 100 World Champions and 200 All-American Quarter Horse Congress Champions.
“I think we just have a different philosophy as some trainers,” Jason Martin explains. “I asked a trainer last year why they would leave a horse saddled and tied up all night, and he told me he was bad and not lifting his back and wanted the horse to think about it all night,” Jason recalls. “I thought to myself, yes, I’m sure all night long that horse is going to think I was a bad, bad horse. I’m going to try much harder in the morning….most likely the horse now has a sore back to add to not wanting to do his job.”
Martin continues, “I asked another trainer why are you so hard on your horses the second you come out of the arena? He told me he wants his horses to like the show pen, so he wants to make the warm up pen miserable.”
Martin and Cole credit much of their success to the fact that they respect and love horses and treat them with dignity. “Charlie and I are just plain and simple,” Martin states. “If your horse is happy and healthy and enjoys their life and their jobs, most likely they will try harder, look happier and have a longer career.”
Exclusive to GoHorseShow.com, GoSmart with Charlie and Jason will give
you access to Charlie and Jason and the secrets to their success like
never before.  Cole and Martin discuss five tips that help keep them at the top of their game.

Tip #1–Don’t Overtrain

Charlie Cole believes that the biggest reason they have been successful is that they know when to leave their horses alone. “We don’t overtrain our horses. Instead we keep them fresh and learning new things. We switch riders often to try and change up their routine. Horses learn by repetition, but not to the point that they get bored and are constantly drilled over and over on the same maneuver,” Cole states. “There is a fine line that needs to be drawn to make sure you develop techniques that they learn from while also diversifying their training so they remain focused and interested in what you are teaching them.”

Martin and Cole state that when they are riding two year-olds or green horses, they may practice some of the same maneuvers, but then they may work on the bridge or poles to mix it up. As far as the older horses, they try to keep them fit but they have more downtime. Cole and Martin prefer to peak them right before the big shows. With older horses, they may try new events to keep them from getting sour or burnt out.

“We don’t keep picking at them and nagging them,” Cole states. “If possible, we try to stay out of their way. We want them to keep liking their jobs, and if they do get burnt out–it is important to find them a new job that they enjoy and love to do. It’s like a person that hates their job–they obviously aren’t going to put their best foot forward or work that hard if they don’t love what they are doing.”

Cole adds, “We also make sure we praise our horses so they know when they are doing something correctly. We pet them often and also give them treats and affection because every animal and person thrives off attention and love.”

Tip#2–Exercise and Mental Stimulation

According to Cole and Martin, all horses need exercise and the ability to get out of their stalls and be just a horse. “Stalls are dark and confining, so for their mental health, it is important to put them in turn out pens, on the walker or maybe have them walk on a treadmill,” Cole says. “All horses need rest and the ability to recharge and rest just like people. Also, some horses get very bored in stalls so some of them have cones or balls in their stalls that they can play with that provides some mental stimulation. I find that boredom leads to many behavioral problems in horses, and if they have something to do or they are kept physically as well as mentally fit then they are not full of pent up energy that leads to frustration and grumpiness in many horses.”

Tip#3–Good Feeding and Soundness Program

“We love our horses to be a little on the fatter side,” Cole states. “I don’t know of any skinny horses that look very happy so we try to make sure they are getting enough high quality feed, hay, and daily SmartPak supplements.”

Highpoint feeds all their horses Purina feed–usually Ultium or Equine Senior and gives all of their horses the SmartDigest Ultra supplement that helps prevent horses from colic and keeps their digestive system in top form. Their horses are also enrolled in the SmartPak ColiCare wellness program where if their horses have colic surgery; they can qualify for up to $7,500 of colic surgery reimbursement. Click here for details. 

Knowing your horse and its ability to handle stressful situations and strenuous exercise is crucial. “Some horses are more fragile than others,” Cole states. “Whether it is a barrel horse or trail horse, it is important to notice if they start favoring a leg or start struggling at performing circles or turning in a certain direction. There may be something physical that a vet needs to evaluate. It is easier to make decisions about a horse when you know more about their soundness history and what they can and can’t handle on a daily basis.”

Tip#4–Quality Equipment

It is important to have high quality equipment, including saddle pads that don’t leave sores or rub the withers on the horses which will definitely leave them in an unhappy mood. “We use Professional Choice saddle pads because they are well made and provide outstanding coverage and protection,” Cole states. “It is also important to make sure your saddle and bridles are well cleaned and fit well or that could lead to training problems that could have been easily avoided.” That doesn’t mean someone has to buy the most expensive equipment and tack on the market but it should be comfortable for both horse and rider.

Tip#5 Training Consistency

While the older horses may not need to be ridden as much, the younger horses need consistency in order to improve.  Even though Cole and Martin state that they try to diversify and mix up their horses’ routines, the younger horses need to be constantly reminded of what they have learned. Infrequent riding or inconsistent training will lead to young horses being fresh and likely frustrated due to pent-up energy and lack of focus from the trainer.

“We have a barn meeting every month and talk about every horse,” Martin says. “We make sure every horse is on someone’s daily list and we discuss what our goal for that horse is during the next month. Right now, all of our young horses are learning their new events. We have pleasure horses that just came off their futurity year who are learning to change leads, do trail and four others that are learning to pull the cart for pleasure driving.”
At the end of the day, Cole and Martin stress that it is important to keep the owner, as well as their horses in training, happy. They believe it will result in a positive experience for everyone. Showing horses is an expensive and time consuming hobby and the horses and owners should be getting the attention they deserve for their investment. Keeping everyone happy is difficult, but it is important in order to have a successful training operation.
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What would you like to know from Jason and Charlie? Do you have an article idea or topic that you would like to know their thoughts about? Please email your ideas to laura@gohorseshow.com and we may consider it for our next article!

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