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GoSmart with Charlie & Jason: Avoiding Burnout through Hobbies 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.

Anyone who has been to Highpoint Performance Horses in Pilot Point,
Texas knows that Martin and Cole love animals–particularly rare and
endangered exotic animals. Martin and Cole both consider their hobbies a sanctuary from the stresses of everyday life and the high pressures of the AQHA show circuit.

“People used to want to come see Harley D Zip, and Vital Signs Are Good but now they want to see our other animals first,” Charlie Cole admits. “We usually
have at least one or two tours a day for our friends that come by and
want to see our animals. My rule is that if the animal is known to be dangerous and kill and
eat people; we will not have them at the ranch,” says Cole.

Cole and Martin currently have over 40 tortoises, including three Galapagos tortoises and three Aldabra tortoises–one of which is over 500 pounds and 80 years-old and named Rocky. Highpoint also has a camel named, Rose; a kangaroo named, Captain; along with over a 100 exotic ducks, swans, and cranes, two miniature horses, two dwarfs, a goat, zebu–miniature cattle, Koi fish, Peacocks, and deer. The newest member of their animal family who has amassed quite a fan following, is a 9 month-old orphaned reticulated giraffe named Gerald.

Photographer, Mallory Beinborn of Impulse Photography, recently visited Highpoint and did a photoshoot with no other than Gerald the giraffe. CLICK HERE to view slide show.

“Gerald is an amazing creature and he has a fun and unique personality,” Martin says. “He is super friendly and will probably have some female friends in the near future. He loves attention and is halter broke and leads around. He is currently being fed three bottles a day, but we will probably get him down to one so we can still worm him and give him his medicine that way.”

Martin says that the exotic animals and their venture into racing barrel horses keeps them from getting burned out, and it gives them a refuge outside of showing horses.

“I enjoy barrel racing because there isn’t politics or opinions involved with it. I think a lot of horse trainers only think about training horses and don’t have other hobbies or outside interests. I think it is important to be able to get away from work so you can remain focused and refreshed,” Jason states. “It is fun to be involved with a sport that isn’t judged. Our stallion, Slick By Design (pictured right) has earned enough to go to the NFR again this year as well as he is now the all-time money earning stallion in barrel racing history. Slick also bred 240 mares last year, and it is a great way to be involved with horses more as a hobby and enjoy it even after we retire.”

Cole agrees, “I love barrel racing because I like to go fast, but there is also only three factors involved with the sport: you, your horse, and the ground. You can blame the ground if you have a bad run but 99 percent of the time it is your fault and you can’t blame anything else or any outside factors. It is also a completely different world, and I have different friends and people that I see at the barrel shows. A few times a week I go to a local barrel racing jackpot, and it is a fun way to wind down from a hard day’s work.”
Cole says that his day usually begins and ends by visiting the pond and feeding his fish, ducks and tortoises. “I just find reptiles fascinating and very self-sufficient and dinosaur-like as well as the exotic birds fascinating to look at and watch. Even when I was younger, I always had reptiles when my mother and sister were involved with horses. I’ve had some of the tortoises for over 25 years, and it is just a great way to begin and end my day.”
Special thanks to Mallory Beinborn of Impulse Photography for the great photos.