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Assistant Trainer Spotlight – CJ Fisher of McCulloch Training Stable

Assistant Trainer CJ Fisher of McCulloch Training Stable currently lives in Portland, Oregon. His primary responsibilities include riding, giving lessons, getting horses and the trailer ready for shows, and driving the truck and trailer. Without a doubt, Fisher’s favorite class is the trail. “I love training horses for it, riding and showing it…basically everything about it.”

Fisher has lived in the Northwest his entire life. His parents trained racehorses in Washington and Oregon until moving their operation down to Golden Gate Fields in the Bay Area. “My mother galloped through her entire pregnancy and ponied ten races horses the day I was born. You could say I was born on a horse.”

Fisher says he started showing in leadline the minute he could hold his head up. Then, he moved on to open shows on his mom’s pony horse and eventually moved to showing all-around Paint horses through the rest of his youth career.

GoHorseShow sat down with CJ to find out more about his background and his future goals.

Q: Hi, CJ. Thanks for sitting down with us. Can you tell us more about what you like about horses and showing?
A: I love that showing and training horses at a national level requires so many different skills daily. From problem-solving to finances, and depending on the trip, even some impromptu auto mechanic work. You are always pushed to learn and develop yourself as a coach, a rider, and as a person. All while analyzing each horse to train them in their unique way.

Q: What are some of your favorite accomplishments in the show pen?
A: So far, in my professional career, my favorite accomplishment was placing fourth in the Level 1 Senior Trail at the Quarter Horse Congress on Hot Time To Zip. When I first started working with him in the trail, I had the hardest time getting through the most basic obstacle. We were not on the same page. With a lot of work and a lot of help, we not only got it together, but ended up making a personal dream come true.

Q: Are there any well-known horses that you have helped train?
A: I had the privilege of joining McCulloch Training Stable while RL Rumbleman and Winkin For Chocolate were showing with us. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with Moonlightin and Dark By Moonlight.

Q: Who are your biggest mentors?
A: Four people stand out. Of course, Shannon (McCulloch) has been one of my most prominent mentors for many years. Shannon’s sister, Erin Jeter, for taking my training ability to the next level. And this list wouldn’t be complete without my parents, Steve Fisher and Jacqui Navarre, who have taught me everything I know about horses.

Q: Any advice for young trainers?
A: The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Find someone you respect and commit to working with that person(s) for the long haul. Absorb every word they say during a lesson, ask questions, and listen more than you speak. Honing your skills as a rider and a coach doesn’t happen overnight, nor should you expect that.

Q. Any favorite memories that stand out?
A: When you align yourself with the right people, every show creates memories, but with that said, the ones we make every year at the Quarter Horse Congress are some of the best. Until you’ve lived and worked a Congress, words don’t do it justice.

Q: How did you come to work for Shannon? What do you like about working for her?
A: I rode with Shannon for a while as a young youth, and have known her for nearly 20 years now. One day she called me up and asked if I wanted to come work. She had heard after my dad had gotten sick that I wasn’t working with anyone. She got my number and the rest is history. Six years later, our friendship and training partnership has only continued to get stronger.

What sets Shannon apart from the rest is that she emphasizes developing a life outside of the barn. She always pushes me as a person to expand my horizons, to learn, and try different things. I honestly don’t think there is a single topic that she can’t have a conversation about, and that makes her so unique in our little horse-centric world.

Q: What is one thing people probably don’t know about you?
A: I’m guessing most people wouldn’t know that my partner and I have an import shop or at least the beginning of one. Through our travels, we’ve brought back and sold art, antiques, and other items from countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, France, and more. You can find “Vantoosh” on eBay, Etsy, and Instagram so far, we hope to expand to more platforms soon.

Q: What would you like to see improved with the industry?
A: I would love to see the implementation of some type of “performance pleasure” class. I believe that the western pleasure industry has become its little world that seemingly speaks its own language. Very few horses can successfully transition from their pleasure career to trail, western riding, or other all-around classes. Inversely, few all-around horses could cut it in today’s pleasure classes. We need some sort of class, i.e., performance pleasure, that would allow horses to have a smoother transition into the all-around events. A class that “speaks the same language” or would be more similar in training as what they encounter when being trained for other events.

Q: Future goals?
A: I have many goals for the future. In the show pen, I’d love to be Top 3 at the Congress in a trail class. Outside of the show pen, I dream of developing my skincare brand. Quite the combo!