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Go Smart with Charlie and Jason: Celebrating 24 Year Friendship with Searles Family


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 nearly 150 World Champions and 250 Congress Champions. 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.

Starting this year, we will also be teaming up with multiple AQHA World and Congress Champion trainers and Team SmartPak riders, Jim and Deanna Searles of Scottsdale, Arizona. For our next article, we introduce you to Jim and Deanna and discuss their 24 year friendship and professional partnership with Charlie and Jason. They discuss, among other things, what they have learned from each other, how they have kept jealousy at bay and whether they have the same training philosophies.

Why Their Friendship Works

deanna searles“We have all known each other since we were teenagers,” Deanna Searles reveals. “The four of us have similar personalities. Jason and Jim are a little more business oriented and serious. Charlie and I are a little more easy-going but they keep us very organized. We all get along so well and we keep each other in line. We are all horseman, but if you take the horses out, we would still be friends.”

“We are just great friends who care very much for each other. We are competitors in the show arena, but we are truly happy when they do well,” Jason Martin says. “It’s a friendship that will last our lifetimes. Believe me, if I do something to upset, Deanna, she doesn’t tell everyone else–she tells me. She has put me in my place a couple of times–that’s a true friend. She is someone who cares enough about a relationship to not let things fester. When we do things together, we have great conversations and laughs.”

Deanna remembers one time when she and Jason had a conflict. “All we did was talk about it until we each understood the other one’s perspective on it. We respect each others’ opinions. It’s easy in our industry to get our feelings hurt, especially when clients make up our businesses and clients come and go. We really try to work together and build relationships and not be negative or cutthroat.”

Charlie Cole, who ironically was named AQHA Professional Horseman of the Year in 2012 at the same time as his good friend Deanna, says, “We all appreciate how hard we’ve worked to get where we are in our careers and we try to keep showing fun. Deanna is sweet, fun, gritty and speaks her mind. I love her openness and honesty. Jim is genuine, funny and always busy and organized. He’s always got my back.”

Buying and Selling Horses

GoHorseShow asked the group why they have bought and sold so many horses from each other. Horses such as Majestic Scotch, Hot Rod Annie, Jet Set Spots, and Blue And The Gray reached great success in both programs.

“I think it works so well because we know we can follow each other’s program,” Martin states. “When I get on a horse that Jim and Deanna trained, it’s like we trained it ourselves. There are no tricks or gimmicks.”

Cole agrees, “I think we look for very similar qualities in horses, but the biggest thing to me is that we train similar and are easy to follow behind. There’s no real tricky parts and we make our horses happy and easy to ride. I know if I buy a horse from them, they tell me everything I need to know about that horse and its history and we do the same for them.”

The Searles both echo the same sentiments and believe it works well because they all ride very similarly and have the same taste in horses.

“We just really try to find the right horse that fits the customer,” Jim says. “Sometimes the best horse at the time is not the best horse for that customer or our training program. We buy most of horses on our first impression and I feel that they do too.”

Professional Help

The group acknowledges, some more seriously than others, that they have helped each other professionally.

“Jim is always telling me to stop looking down when I change leads, and I am always telling him he needs to wear a hat or his bald spot is going to burn,” Martin says and laughs. But in all seriousness, they are all open to advice and constructive criticism.

charlie cole“When we are at shows together, we often ask each other to watch our horses if we are trying to work on something or just need help,” Cole reveals. “Sometimes, we will hop on each other’s horses to see how we can help each other. We all try to make horses that are trained solid, not hurried, and last for years.”

Deanna adds, “We like to bounce ideas off of each other whether it’s from billing to training horses. We talk a lot about our similar situations and what works for us and what works for them.”

Jealousy or Competition Among Friends?

“It’s more competition, not jealousy. We are all very competitive in this industry,” says Deanna. “Once we had a competition while we were all playing bingo. It was who could keep a breath mint in their mouth the longest without chewing it. Jason won. We held the mints in our mouth for probably close to 20 minutes. It’s silly stuff like that we try to do and just enjoy each others company.”

Cole continues, “I don’t really get jealous. I worry about me and my horses–that’s all I have control over. If I can’t win though, I do hope the Searles or one of my other good friends win.”

Jim Searles“No jealousy,” Jim says. “We respect each other and love the competition. Actually, I take that back, maybe a little jealousy. It annoys Jason that I always show up at a horse show and leave a horse show with a clean truck and trailer. I know that bugs him even even though he will deny it.”

Favorite Stories

“My favorite story goes all the way back to the first Iraqi War,” Jim recalls laughing. “We were all at a show in Pomona, California; we were all young and just really getting our business started. I just remember all of us talking about and being worried about a war and the possibility of a draft. We were age eligible. Of course, now it is kind of funny that we worried about stuff other than horse shows.”

Jason Martin“We vacation together at least once a year, sometimes twice,” Deanna says. “We’re really good friends but we don’t get to socialize at the horse shows. We have a lot of laughs and harass each other all the time.  One of my favorite times was when we all went skiing in Telluride. The airplane ride into Telluride was one of the most memorable ones. We had to abort the landing for the first time and then come in the second time in a very small airplane.”

Cole says that every year they do a spend time in Hawaii with Jim and Deanna, Chris Thompson, and Susie Johns. “It’s my favorite trip of the year. It is a week of pure joy and laughs. Anyone who has ever traveled with Chris knows that she has a lot of tricks up her sleeves. From changing out our toilet paper to joke toilet paper where the biggest piece you can tear off is about the size of a quarter; to hiding alarm clocks in our bedrooms that are set to go off every half hour throughout the entire night.”

Cole remembers one trip where they were all together on an airplane and Chris was seated next to a single man that they were all trying to set her up with. “The next thing we know, Chris is sick and filling up her barf bags, as well as all of ours. Needless to say, there was no love connection and the poor guy couldn’t get off the plane fast enough.”

Martin adds, “I think 30 years from now we will be just as close as we are now. We might all be in diapers, but we will be laughing.”

Photos © Taylor Searles

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