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Assistant Trainer Spotlight: Austin Lester of Beckey Schooler Show Horses

Assistant trainer Austin Lester lives in Adrian, Michigan, where he works for Beckey Schooler at Beckey’s Place/Showplace Farms. His primary responsibilities are training/teaching the all-around clients and horses. Lester has an associate degree in Business Administration and is close to finishing his bachelor’s. Austin uses some of his education to help with horse sales and the business’s social media accounts. His favorite classes to show in are the trail and the western pleasure. Lester told us that he is also starting to enjoy showing in the western riding.

Hailing from a small town in central Illinois named Minonk, starting the moment Lester was born, he was on a horse. His family has always been involved in the horse industry. His great grandparents, Hilda and Harold Moritz, and the rest of his family bred and raised Welsh Ponies, competing in the driving classes and pulling a calliope circus wagon his great grandpa had built through parades all over the place.

Lester started out showing at their local 4H fairs and local open shows, showing in just about any class he could go in, even though his favorite class was the western pleasure. From there, he started showing AQHA when he was 14 or 15.

GHS: Hi, Austin! Thanks for sitting down with us. Can you tell us what you like about showing?
Austin: When I started showing the AQHA circuit, I knew I wanted to be involved in the industry. My favorite part about horses is that every horse has something different to teach you. They can always teach you something, whether patience or helping you grow your talents in certain events. One of my favorite parts of training and showing is teaching and seeing the horse and owner come together as a team. Nothing is better than seeing each team you work with grow and helping them reach their goals. 

GHS: What are some of your favorite accomplishments in the show pen?
Austin: My favorite accomplishment in the show pen was 6th in the Level 2 Senior Trail this past year at the World Show. Growing up, trail was a class I never thought I would like, since I only showed the pleasure. However, in the past five years, it has grown to be my favorite class for sure. A close second was making the finals in the 3 & Over Novice Horse Western Pleasure class at the Congress in 2021. It was my first big success in the show pen as an open exhibitor. 

GHS: What are some famous horses that you have been involved with?
Austin: I would say one of the most successful horses I have helped with was at Beckey’s, her name being Always Victorious. She was one of the first horses I started working with when I moved here. She ended up winning the NSBA World in the Novice 50 & Over Showmanship, being Top 3 at the Congress in the Novice Select Showmanship, and winning her Champion of Champion Hunter Under Saddle Class at the AQHA World Show this past year. The second horse would have to be Best Of My Luv. This mare was the mare I placed 6th on at the AQHA World Show last year in the Level 2 Senior Trail. She also won the Novice Amateur Horsemanship and Hunter Under Saddle the previous year at the Level 1 East Championships. 

GHS: Who are your most significant mentors?
Austin: I would easily have to say my two biggest mentors have been Beckey Schooler and Kyle Dougherty. From the get-go, they took me under their wing and have helped me mold into the horseman I am today. Every day, they are there helping me on the ground, teaching me, and helping me grow my skills with the horses and my teaching skills and abilities as a coach. I will never be able to thank them enough for the opportunities they have given me and all they do for me. They have quickly become like family to me. 

GHS: What advice do you have for other young trainers?
Austin: My advice to young trainers is to never give up, always keep working, and keep pushing yourself to improve daily. There isn’t a day that you do not learn something new. 

GHS: What are some of your favorite memories in the horse industry?
Austin: One of my favorite memories in the industry happened just this past January. A group of trainers came together and did a trainer challenge to raise money for Jason Ducharme and Stephanie Riddell at the C Bar C Winner Circuit. It was a great way to cut loose, have fun, and see all the money we raised for them in a time of need. The crowd we drew to watch the class and all the cheering going on was something you don’t really experience at a weekend horse show, and it was just so cool to share and be a part of. 

GHS: How did you start working for Beckey?
Austin: So, I started working for Beckey in June of 2019. I was initially just supposed to be horse show help at a show, but after working with her, Kyle, and all the clients, I knew it was where I wanted to be. Now, I’m going on four years here. The barn has for sure become just like family to me. 

GHS: What is one thing people probably don’t know about you?
Austin: I originally was not supposed to be a trainer. I was initially going to school to be an accountant. However, horses have always been my passion and something I enjoy doing every day, and I do not regret my decision. 

GHS: What is one thing you want to see changed in the industry?
Austin: I feel like, as a whole, the industry is in good shape right now. There is not a whole lot I would say needs to improve. But, I think we could always be more inclusive to allow others to join the industry, feel welcomed, and help the industry grow and succeed. 

GHS: What are some of your future goals?
Austin: One day, I would like to win or be top 3 at the Congress, NSBA World, or AQHA World Show in an event. 

GHS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Austin: I would like to thank my family for getting me involved in this industry and helping me reach my goals as a youth kid. Without that, I would not be where I am today. 

GHS: Thanks, Austin!