"In a constantly evolving industry, the moment you shut off your mind to learning is the moment you begin to become obsolete," says Kyle, when he was asked what advice he would give other young trainers. Photo © Kyle Pears

Assistant Trainer Spotlight: Kyle Pears of Chafin Performance Horses

Assistant trainer Kyle Pears of Mercer, Pennsylvania lives about ten minutes away from Chafin Performance Horses, where he works under trainers Jim Chafin and Heather Graft. His primary responsibilities at the facility include overseeing day-to-day operations at the farm, helping load and unload trailers for shows, riding and entering classes at the horse show. Pears specializes in western pleasure, hunter under saddle and showmanship.

“For as long as I can remember I have loved horses and constantly begged my parents for one as a child,” Pears told GoHorseShow.

While horses have been important to Pears, one of his priorities was also getting an education and degree. Kyle received his bachelor’s degree in 2016, double majoring in corporate finance and real estate. “Much to my parent’s disapproval, it took a couple of extra years to obtain because I would occasionally skip a semester to continue to show horses,” says Kyle laughing.

GoHorseShow wanted to find out more about this driven and talented young man, so we decided to sit down and ask him about his background and involvement with horses.

GHS: Hi Kyle, tell us how you first got involved with horses.
Kyle: While vacationing with a family friend in North Carolina, I went on my first trail ride. Aside from the occasional “pony ride” and sitting on my aunt’s horse a few times, I had not ridden before this. For whatever reason, we weren’t sent out with a guide. We had help getting mounted and then we were told to follow the signs. Atop an ancient red mare, the three of us set out for what was supposed to be a relaxing afternoon on horseback. About 30 feet into the trails, my horse decided she was all done and would be headed back to the barn. I grabbed the horn and held on as if my life depended on it while she quickly trotted back to the barn. We made it back, and I gave her a pat on the neck and quickly dismounted. From start to finish the entire encounter lasted about 7 minutes. Completely terrified, I handed her off to the barn owner with no plans of ever riding a horse again. Unbeknownst to me, my parents had already made plans to buy me my first if I enjoyed riding. Luckily for me, when asked, I lied so as not to seem like a wimp. I told them I loved it. The rest is history.

GHS: When did you start showing?
Kyle: I started showing horses in 4-H when I was 12 or 13. All it took was one show, and I was hooked. I had a Paint horse that I showed in everything, even though he wasn’t that great at anything except showmanship. Luckily for me, showmanship was my favorite class at the time, and I qualified for the 4-H state show my first year showing.

GHS: What is it you like about horses and showing?

Kyle: My love for horses came naturally, nothing about it was forced. Showing lets you showcase the animal you are fond of while being surrounded by a great support system. Showing horses makes you continuously strive to be better. At times, that can become frustrating because you don’t think you are making enough progress becoming better. If I take a deep breath and go back where it started, a love for horses, everything usually becomes clearer.

GHS: What has been your favorite accomplishments in the show arena so far in your career?
Kyle: My favorite accomplishment would be when I was eighth in the Senior Western Pleasure at the Congress on A Midnight Intuition for owner Stephanie Spaeder. Before the class, I remember looking at my split and thinking there is absolutely no way I am making it out of that split. To be called from the split and then actually place among a sea of distinguished horsemen was a very humbling experience. As with all of my accomplishments, it’s important to note that it’s not just a win for me, it’s a win for the entire barn. Without Jim and Heather, the customers, the crew at the horse show and the crew at home who work tirelessly to make sure everything runs smoothly, none of my accomplishments would be possible. I am a small piece in the overall equation. For all of them, I am grateful.

GHS: What are some of the horses you have helped train?
Kyle: Best Too Be Cool, Get It On Girl, Shes My Version, Cool Like Fire, A Midnight Intuition, VS Security Code and Girls Got Game are a few.

GHS: Who are some of your biggest mentors?
Kyle: My biggest mentor is my grandpa. It is from him that I inherited the “horse gene” and he taught me more than I will probably ever realize. You will never meet anyone who has an off colored word to say about him. He lived life fully and honestly and gave back way more than he took. If I can be a fraction of the man he was, I will consider that a success. Another of my biggest mentors is Jim Chafin. He has always believed in me and my talent, even when I did not. He took a chance on me and molded me into the rider I am today. I can’t thank him enough. Being in the horse business is full of its ups and downs and it is inspirational to watch Jim always rise above the hard times and work even harder to get where he wants to be. Finally, I have many other people I look up to. They probably don’t know who they are, and I can’t name them all specifically. If you are a trainer or an assistant trainer and you consistently show up with a smile, do the best you can, and treat everyone with respect, I look up to you.

GHS: What is some advice you have for young trainers?

Kyle: Aside from the standard issue advice, work hard and don’t give up. It’s important to remember never to stop learning. In a constantly evolving industry, the moment you shut off your mind to learning, is the moment you begin to become obsolete. Stay humble, observe, ask questions, be involved…never stop learning.

GHS: What are some of your favorite memories from the industry?

Kyle: My favorite memories come from watching people and horses evolve. If Jim has been working hard on a horse and is rewarded in the pen, or when a customer “clicks” with their horse and succeeds, those are the memories I most enjoy. I also really enjoy the moments when horsemen come together to support a worthy cause. One that sticks in my mind is when Carl Yamber won the Bridleless Calcutta class at the Tom Powers Futurity. Watching everyone come together to support and honor Carl while raising money and awareness for an incredible cause is something I will never forget.

GHS: How did you come about working for Jim Chafin and Heather Graft?
Kyle: That’s kind of funny. I had my horse boarded at the farm with the prior owners. One day, Jim and Heather showed up looking at buying the farm. A brief period elapsed, and they ended up buying it. I sat down with them one day and ended up staying. So, we often joke that I was inherited with the farm. I started out cleaning stalls, then began helping with the horses and it all evolved naturally from there. Working for Jim and Heather has been a great experience. They are like family to me and we work well together. We are always bouncing ideas off of one another and strive to improve constantly. They have always been very encouraging. We have a great group of customers and it’s more like a large family than anything else.

GHS: What is one thing people probably don’t know about you?

Kyle: I am a 3rd-degree black belt in Taekwondo. I started taking lessons when I was five and for several years before I went to college. I became an instructor and helped teach classes a few days a week. Another interesting thing is that training horses has never been a career goal of mine. Even though I love what I do and have been with Jim for going on ten years, I do not plan on going out on my own as a professional horse trainer.

GHS: What would you like to see improved with the industry?

Kyle: I think the industry is continually changing and growing. I would merely like to see the industry listen to its supporters and continue to improve with them in mind.

GHS: What are your future goals?
Kyle: My goals for the future are to continue to strive to be the best version of myself. To work hard, learn more, make each horse I ride the best they can be and help our customers grow and succeed with their horses. The rest will take care of itself.