GoSmart with Charlie and Jason: The Secret to Their Success
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"It’s important to remember no matter if we are riding a $2,000 or $200,000 horse, they are going to make mistakes," says Charlie Cole
GoHorseShow.com in partnership with SmartPak are pleased to continue the highly popular column, GoSmart with Charlie and Jason. Team SmartPak riders, Charlie Cole and Jason Martin have achieved success beyond compare. Since founding Highpoint Performance Horses in 1992, they have trained over 100 World Champions and 200 Congress Champions.

Exclusive to GoHorseShow.com, GoSmart with Charlie and Jason will give you access to Charlie and Jason and the secrets to their success like never before. Their next GoSmart column deals with how these world champion trainers maintain confidence and positive attitudes not only within themselves, but their clients as well.

Charlie and Jason both seem to keep everything in perspective, and you would be hard pressed to find anyone who has seen them lose their cool or raise their voice. When they make a mistake or one of their customers has a bad ride, these top trainers take it all in stride. How do they maintain their composure? What is their trick to build their clients' confidence up in order to show at the highest levels of competition? How do they bring out their clients' strongest riding traits while minimizing their weaknesses? How are they able to keep the big picture in mind that, "There is always another horse show," when they have high dollar horses and clients who expect to win?

Let's find out!

CHARLIE: I think that all starts with Jason and me. We both have positive attitudes and try to take everything in stride. If I have a bad ride, I don't start blaming the horse or someone else. I try to see what I could have done better or how I could have prepared my horse more.

With customers, being prepared is most important and when they have a bad ride, Jason and I don't get mad, we talk to the customer and figure out what and why it went wrong. Years ago I had a youth rider that was so talented but her mother was really hard on her when she made mistakes or went off course. I knew the youth was trying her best, but like me, she occasionally went of course. When she was 12 I, took her to the Youth World and she won the go round in the horsemanship and western riding. These classes had back-to-back finals. When she went off course in the horsemanship finals, her mother was very upset and screamed at her. Then she went right into the western riding finals and knocked over the first cone. I was disappointed but I knew she had tried her best.

That was the last class she ever showed in and I believe it was because her mother took all the fun out of horse showing. To this day I try to make showing fun and to remember that rarely does a student go into the show arena and not try their best. Nobody wants to fail or look bad. It does happen but all you can do is try to be more prepared the next time.

I think it’s important to remember no matter if we are riding a $2,000 or $200,000 horse, they are going to make mistakes. I don't remember who told me this quote but I'll never forget it… "Anyone can wreck a Ferrari." In other words, it doesn't matter how nice or how much you paid for your horse, you still have to practice and learn how to ride it.

I use to get so nervous when I showed. I would be so nervous I wouldn't ride anything like I could in the warm-up pen and I would have bad rides. Back then I only showed in western pleasure and my whole day focused on that one class. Once I started showing in multiple classes in a day, I found myself not putting so much pressure on myself to do well in just one class. I finally taught myself that there is always another class, another show, and a next year. Now I don't even get nervous at the World Show. As long as I'm prepared, which I have complete control over, I'm confident I can do my best. I don't ever expect to win. I plan and prepare to have the best possible ride that each horse can give me.

: I was very fortunate to have had a great hunter teacher when I was young named Marie Wilson. I only rode with her for one season but the way she taught her lessons taught me a life lesson. Every time you would go by her she would tell me two positive things and then something to work on. I found myself trying extra hard the next lap to get a compliment. For example, she would say, “I love how flat you’re staying in your back over the fence, but if I was real critical I would like more weight in your heels.” The next time around all I was focused on was my heels.

I think if this was tap dancing lessons that kids where forced to take, I would have a different opinion. But, I feel like people are spending a lot of money. I once had a customer who turned off her air conditioner in the summer to save enough money to show. These customers want to be the best they can be. They also are trying the best they can.

Teaching is all about timing... saying the right thing at the right time. If we are at the world show, I want my customer to be as confident as possible walking into that arena. I see so many people winning the western riding in the warm up arena. Practicing over and over again until they have used up all of their good goes. There are numerous times I can remember going out with someone the night before and the first time they go down the line it was perfect and I tell them to quit. Other trainers will say ‘Are you kidding me she only did it one time,’ but my client is now on cloud nine thinking all the stars are lining up for them. They are on, their horse is on, and they go to bed feeling great. Even if I had them do it 10 times and 9 times where perfect and 1 time something bad happened when they go to bed they are going to over think the bad thing until that's all they think about. How can I ride different so that doesn't happen or pray that doesn't happen.

I never understand when I see trainers yelling or talking down to their customers like they are stupid or not talented. I think, 'why in the world would you pay someone to be mean to you?' You will always get more out of someone with a clear thinking head rather than someone who is over-trying because they are upset.

I also remember one time when we first started and Charlie was giving Harriet Yakatan a lesson. Her first horse, The Yellow Page, was a World Champion western rider. Harriet had seen the pattern hundreds of times. All Charlie wanted her to do was go down the line and weave the cones. He didn’t want her changing leads, his instructions were just to go from one side to the other. For some reason they didn't teach that in college where Harriet went to school…how to weave….so after about the100th try, Charlie's voice was getting louder and finally Harriet stopped and told him, “Charlie if you have the time I have the money!” Charlie laughed and said, “Do it again!”

There is no doubt that I am a very competitive person. The difference is, I have always believed in my own ability and I am only competitive against myself. My brain has never worked in a way that all I wanted to do was beat a certain horse or person. I always wanted to step up my own game and I always felt, let the chips fall where they do. It is a given that when I walk in the ring, my goal is to try to perform to the best of my ability and win. However, if things don't go as planned for me, then I hope Charlie or Beth or another one of my friends does well. I have done my share of winning in the past and I feel it is very important to be a good loser as well. I think our barn has the same attitude. I don't mind someone being disappointed but a poor sport or a snotty comment really bothers me and I will call that person out every time. I think we owe this perspective to the way Charlie and I came up thru the ranks. Not very many people who show today remember me when I slept in the tack room at shows. Nothing was handed to me. I used to braid and band all night just so I could show the next day. So I am grateful for where I am at today and that keeps me grounded.

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3 comments for this article Reverse Comment Order
Added: June 19, 2012. 08:44 PM CDT
After spending the weekend at a show with my trainer(a very good one) I appreciate this article. Very uplifting.
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Added: June 19, 2012. 06:29 PM CDT
Enjoyed the insightful article. Thanks Charlie and Jason!
worldshow horses
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Added: June 19, 2012. 05:17 PM CDT
Very nicely written Charlie and Jason, and so totally true!
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