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Trainer Spotlight – Adam Winter of Winter Performance Horses

Starting a business at a young age is a scary proposition, especially for a young horse trainer. Now 25, Adam Winter, trainer at Winter Performance Horses (WPH), started his business when he was just 19 years old. As a youth, he worked his way from 4H to the AQHA circuit.

Since the start of WPH in 2013, Adam and his clients have experienced tremendous success in the show pen. Winter currently trains in Zeeland, Michigan and travels to shows all over the country.

GoHorseShow talked with him about his roots in the industry, his advice to others, and his love of horses.

1) How did you become involved with horses?

I can’t remember a day I haven’t been involved with horses. My cousin, Courtney Winter had horses that lived right down the road from me. From that day, I decided I wanted to learn to ride. Courtney spent hours teaching me everything I wanted to know. On top of traveling to shows, we rode together almost every day. I am so thankful for all those years we shared, and I owe most of my success to her.  (Adam pictured right as a young boy)

2) What made you decide to start training horses?

When I was a youth, I did most of the training of my show horses with Courtney watching, and I also took lessons. I loved to see how you can change a horse with hard work and dedication. I always joke that my youth horse, Charlie Outlaw pushed me into training.

In my last year of youth, he started becoming sore and was not able to show as competitively. We weren’t in a place where we could afford to replace him, and I honestly didn’t want to. I just wanted him to be happy, and we semi-retired him. I ended up being an assistant trainer for a few months.

Then, my cousin, Courtney called and said Larry was staying sound enough, and she was going to show him. I decided to come home and help her get ready for Congress. I jokingly said if Larry and Courtney would win or get reserve, I would go out on my own and open my own business. (Adam pictured left with Courtney)

Well, that year she was reserve in the Novice Amateur Equitation and third in the Amateur Equitation, so that started Winter Performance Horses.  

3) What do you consider your best/most significant accomplishment? 

I have been very blessed since I started my business. My barn has had wins at the Congress, NSBA World Show, Novice Championships, and Top Tens at the Youth, Amateur, and Open World Shows.

I have been lucky enough to have some great horses and customers. I don’t always find the big horse show wins to be the most significant accomplishments. Some of my favorite accomplishments have been watching someone work truly hard and change as a rider.

A moment that reminded me of this was watching my younger cousin, Liv Winter start showing in the small fry classes. Liv came to her first horse show and showed in the trail where she ended up getting fourth out of four.

When the announcer started the placings and came to her name, she jumped up and down from excitement. It brought some tears to my eyes as it made me remember the thrill of being a child and loving this sport.

Whenever I have a terrible day, I think about her at that moment. She was on top of the world after just hearing her name called that day. Sometimes the little things are what makes us the proudest and humble as horse trainers. 

6) What advice do you have for aspiring trainers? 

The best advice I ever received when starting was, no one is going to make this happen for you. It’s your job to better yourself and the horse you are riding. It isn’t easy, and you will hit stops where you feel like you have run out of ideas. Every time you find something that doesn’t work, you are one step closer to finding something that does. In this sport, you can never stop learning, so try to learn something new each day. Stay humble and work hard.

6) Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My two most significant sources of inspiration have been my family, and a letter I wrote myself in the 4th grade. 

I was blessed to grow up in a very close-knit family where every member lived in the same town. We all spent each holiday, and most of our time together. This meant anything you did, good or bad, growing up, it wasn’t just your news, it was the family’s news.

Now, I am the only member who doesn’t live there as my training business led me to move a few hours away.  My parents always worked hard to teach my brother and I right from wrong and how to work hard for the things you believe in. Though they may not still understand the horse world, my entire family have been my biggest supporters. They are always a phone call away. They inspire me in more ways than they know.

Also, I wrote a letter to myself in the 4th grade that said I was going to be a horse trainer. Most kids write that stuff and choose to have a different career as they go through school. I never wavered. I stuck with the course and ended up here. Yes, I still have the letter, and it reminds me I get to live my childhood dream every day. How crazy is that?

7) What would you like to see change in the horse industry?

Some people competitively show on an open show circuit and feel like they want to try the breed level, but they get the impression that breed shows have an unfriendly environment. There are so many great people in the industry. It makes me sad that a few negative people can make a person think differently about breed level showing.

Our actions can change the way a person thinks. Some of my closest and most valuable friendships have been created by showing AQHA. I hope others read this and choose to give the breed level shows a chance. I also hope to remind others always to be friendly and lend a helping hand when needed. 

CLICK HERE to view the Winter Performance Horses ads in the April issue of GoMag.

About the Author: Cat Guenther is a devout equestrian and a freshman at Michigan State University. Cat started and runs her successful show clothing business, Behind the Bit Show Clothing. She loves to show the all-around classes with her beloved horses, Zippos Kat Man Do, aka Teddy, and Zippo Hot Leaguer, aka Beamer. She is currently on a Pre-Veterinary track and also hopes to study business.