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GoSmart with Charlie and Jason: Giving Back to The Industry


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. Their next GoSmart column is about Highpoint’s willingness and desire to give back to the industry.

Every year, Highpoint Performance Horses, along with several other coaches and trainers, donate their time to help out the college judging teams before their first big competition in Gainesville, Texas. According to WTAMU Head Coach John Pipkin, the Spring Contest held at North Central Texas College (NCTC) has become one of the key “capstone” events for many universities.

Earlier this week, on an unseasonably cool day in Pilot Point, Texas, Highpoint hosted a group of over 200 college judging team students who came to their facility for a trail judging practice session. The students were from Mississippi State (MSU), University of Arkansas, Colorado State (CSU), University of Florida, Texas A&M, Texas A&M-Commerce, Oklahoma State, West Texas A&M (WTAMU), New Mexico State, Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Nebraska, Sam Houston State, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Blackhawk, Cloud County, and Ellsworth College.

Team SmartPak rider, Charlie Cole taught the group while Highpoint assistant trainers, Brad Ost, Adam Smith, Hanna Friedl who is visiting from Austria and trainer Troy Lehn, charliedemonstrated the trail obstacles and patterns. “I enjoy helping out the students every year,” Charlie told GoHorseShow. “These are our future vets, trainers and coaches in our industry, so I want to help educate them. I believe they get a lot out of it and they ask good questions.”

GoHorseShow asked coaches, John Pipkin of WTAMU, David Denniston of CSU, and Clay Cavinder of MSU their thoughts about their students having the opportunity of learning from Charlie Cole, one of the most successful trainers in AQHA history.

“The best thing about Charlie is he is obviously not only an accomplished horseman and exhibitor, but he is also a great teacher,” Denniston states. “The way he talks through a trail horse run and comments on maneuver scores is probably the most beneficial.”

Pipkin, who has organized this type of trial run for the past five years, says that these practices are with some of the best clinicians and horses that the students may ever have the opportunity to see. “Charlie is an outstanding clinician and has excellent horses to provide a very educational experience,” Pipkin says. “Plus, many students are awed by having the chance to visit a successful horseman’s facility.”

judgingCavinder adds, “Charlie’s place is a good workout for trail and western riding. Most of the students at all the schools are fairly green this time of year, so hearing another AQHA judges similarities and differences in how they approach judging any class is beneficial. Sometimes, the way we (coaches) explain things makes sense to most of our students but sometimes hearing a different perspective can clear up some ‘muddy water’ for our young judges.”

One of Cavinder’s students, Hannah Miller agrees, “I really benefited from watching several runs in person and being able to hear them talked out afterwards from another judge/perspective in addition to our coach. Mr. Charlie was very helpful in picking out trouble spots of a pattern, as well as possible higher credit earning obstacles. This helped me with more accurate maneuver scores. On the training side of things, I really liked seeing his facilities and looking at, so to speak, a different way of doing things.”

We also asked several students including Kendra Smith of WTAMU, Dixie Crowe of CSU and Hannah and Samantha Miller of MSU what they learned from the experience. WTAMU student, Kendra Smith, who had the highest individual score at the Spring Judging Contest, shared her thoughts about her experience at Highpoint.

“Mr. Cole started our visit with a demonstration of a trail course with four different horses,” she explained. “He went through each obstacle of the course with different horses while he explained, and demonstrated different scenarios and which one would be more desirable when judging. This was helpful because we got to see first hand what a world champion trail horse was supposed to look like when going over obstacles, and how an average to good horse should look like,” Kendra recalls. “He helped us develop an eye for what is good, average, and poor, This is an asset to judging as we are faced with these decisions in not only judging trail but in all of the other performance classes as well.”

judging highFinally, Cole demonstrated a class of four horses performing the same course and allowed them to evaluate, and score them just as they would in a contest. After the demonstration of all four horses he explained step by step why he scored each horse the way he did.

“This really helped in developing a correct way of scoring a horse by giving horses penalties for the correct reasons and for giving them the correct maneuver scores according to degree of difficulty, style, correctness, and lack there of,” Smith says. “Mr. Cole stressed that as judges we should really focus on ‘recognizing excellence and rewarding it accordingly’, as a judge, I could honestly say that Mr. Cole’s information was very insightful and he helped me develop a better understanding for trail and also how to score a very poor to and excellent maneuver not only in the trail but in other patterned classes as well.”

MSU student Samantha Miller told us that it was great to be able to watch horses that are some of the top performers in trail. “It gave me a deeper understanding of the ideal trail horse. Charlie’s scoring and opinions on each maneuver as they happened gave me a better grasp on what I should be looking for. For me, his thoughts on why obstacles were not carried out correctly was very helpful,” Miller says. “A deeper understanding of what causes flaws in the pattern helps when constructing reasons for the class. Charlie Cole is a very knowledgeable man and I appreciated the chance to learn from him.

Miller adds, “I also enjoyed seeing the facilities at Highpoint. Of course, I enjoyed seeing all of his other animals too, especially Gerald the giraffe.”

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