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Assistant Trainer Spotlight: Cole Troutner of Dry River Ranch

Assistant Trainer Cole Troutner of Warsaw, Indiana, currently lives at Dry River Ranch in Weatherford, TX. Her day-to-day responsibilities vary depending on the time of year. She generally helps saddle, longe, and ride, along with helping work the stallions that live at the ranch.

When riding, Cole spends the majority of the time starting and riding the young horses. She is also the assistant breeding manager, so during the spring, she is responsible for helping with collecting the studs and shipping semen, while also assisting with foaling out and breeding mares.

Troutner was raised in Warsaw, IN, where she was essentially born into horses. “My dad had rope horses and started colts when I was young. I pretty much was always in the barn with him,” Cole recalls. “I learned to ride on his good rope horse, and then, when I was in kindergarten, we started Junior Rodeoing. A year or two later, my parents bought me the horse that I ran barrels, poles, goat tying, and steer daubing.  In 2007, we bought my first pleasure horse, and I have been riding and showing pleasure horses ever since.” 

Q: Hi, Cole. Thanks for sitting down with us. Can you tell us what you like about horses and showing?

A: I think what I love about horses and showing is how much it all teaches you about life. You learn how to set goals and work towards accomplishing, effectively communicating, and working as a team. It teaches you to win and lose gracefully, and to stay humble, because one second you’re on top of the world, and the next second you are in the dirt.

Q: What are some of your favorite accomplishments in the show arena?

A: Honestly, it was probably a win at an open show that is still my favorite. When I was 12 and was first starting to show pleasure horses, we went to an open show, and I showed my horse that was still relatively green, that I was the only that rode. We won an open added money walk-trot class that had 50+ entries with all of the trainers in the area showing in it. It helped me realize that I made the right decision to start showing pleasure horses and set into motion my love for riding the young/green horses.

Q: Who are some of your biggest mentors?

A: Stephen Stephens and Terry Cross quickly became huge mentors for me when I originally interned for them and have continued since. They are both so willing to teach and help you learn pretty much anything you can think of. They both are continually seeking out opportunities to continue to learn more and then share that knowledge.  I hugely admire the way they run their business and their work ethics. 

Q: Any advice you have for young trainers?

A: Don’t get discouraged with the grunt work. You have to pay your dues with the people you work for, but if you put in the work and show that you are willing to put in your time, the opportunities you get will be tenfold. Ask questions and ask for help if you can’t figure it out. Most trainers are more than willing to help you and would rather see you identify a problem and ask for help with it than have to tell you there is a problem.

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

A: One of my favorite memories from the industry was my internship here at Dry River Ranch. I learned so much that summer, and it helped me see where I wanted my future to go. My internship ended at the NSBA World Show, where one of the mares that I had helped ride all summer and prep at the show won a world and reserve world championship. It was enjoyable to see all our hard work pay off.

Q: How did you come about working for Stephen and Terry? 

A: In the spring of 2018, I was looking for a summer internship at a breeding operation, and my cousin put me in contact with Stephen. Two weeks later, I was packed up and on my way to Texas to spend the next three months working for Stephen and Terry.

After the NSBA World Show, I went back home, finished school, and started working for a cutting trainer in Minnesota. During the Redbud last year, Terry texted me asking what I was doing and that I should come work for them. I was still pretty set on staying at my job, but over the next month, talking with Terry and Stephen, I eventually agreed to come work for them. I met them down at the NSBA World Show and worked the show and then continued down to the ranch and have worked full-time for them since.

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

A: Most people don’t know that I started out rodeoing before switching to pleasure horses. When I talk about it, they look at me like I’m a little crazy that I liked going fast, but I greatly attribute a lot of my riding foundation to that. The running and rope horses made me learn how to sit down and stay in my seat no matter what my horse was doing. While I love training pleasure horses, I still enjoy getting to rope or run barrels whenever I get the chance.

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

I think the industry is moving in the right direction. I believe that adding more of the 3-year-old trail and other classes have opened the door for the horses that aren’t quite going to make it in the pleasure but aren’t ready to show against the older horses. I think the industry is becoming more aware of the need to have opportunities for the horses that aren’t ready to show at two or aren’t super strong in the rail classes and is doing an excellent job of creating classes and incentives for them.

Q: What are some of your future goals?

Down the road, my goal is to be top 3 at the Congress in the trail. This year, I was allowed to start two 3-year-olds in the trail. I had never shown or had a horse that did trail, so it was entirely new for me, but I have fallen in love with it.