An Interview with a Flat-Shod Walking Horse Trainer
Lonnie Kuehn-Cameron
Please tell us about your family.

My family of four includes my husband Doug, sons Benjamin (15 years) and Marshall  (10 months) and a step daughter Natalie who is 18.  We have two rottweillers, Zeus and Travelier, and too many horses, but we can't seem to part with any of them.... oh and a couple barn cats, Mutt and Jeff.

We live in Franklin, Tennessee and own Pleasure Gait Farm.  We live and train flat-shod versatility horses.  My husband has lived in this area all his life.  I moved here from the west coast in 1988.  I was born and raised in Oregon and have been in love with horses since I was old enough to jump my hobby-spring horse across the floor at a year old.

I started out on a Shetland Pony at the age of 5, then moved to a Quarter Horse for 4-H at the age of 8.  Then on to jumping/hunt club after that.  In high school I had a wonderful APHA mare that was my saving grace.  She and sports were the only things that kept me from getting into trouble and running with the wrong group.  I entered high school rodeo and was a princess for the Emerald Empire Round-Up and Miss Rodeo Oregon. 

From there I went on to college and studied Political Science and Criminal Justice.  I then became a Police Officer in my home town of Oregon for a couple of years and then moved to California and was a California Highway Patrol Officer.

During my whole life I have always had horses and used them as a stress relief management program, not to mention a reality check.  In 1988 I moved to Tennessee and took my first ride on a Tennessee Walking Horse...it was flat shod and I was amazed at how wonderful they are, and how athletic.

I started my professional training job with 20/20 Farms, and then went out on my own and started Pleasure Gait Farms in 1992.  I have been in the Franklin area ever since. I specialize in Flat-shod walking horses, traiing for Show and Trail.  I've been in the horse loving business for 30 years and the professional training for over 10 years.  I do train all breeds and have several other breeds in my barn.

What would you feel to be the most important aspect of training a horse?

I feel that Communication & Trust are two of the most important things that you have to establish first with any horse.  You must do this before anything else will blossom into any kind of working relationship.  This is for every breed and any type of riding that you do.

What age do you start a horse under saddle?

This depends on when I receive the young horse.  If the colt comes to me around 19 to 20 months, I start them to drive the cart.  This goes for any breed.  It builds up muscle, discipline, and gets them used to guiding and traveling.  Even if the colt is big and strong and older I may still start them to drive...all my horses drive.  I usually don't start a colt under saddle training until at least 22 months and then it is interchanged with driving to make for a good work-out program.  This also keeps the young colts attention span open for more input.

Do you prefer english or western tack?

I use all types of tack...english (forward seat, saddle seat and side saddle), western in many different events.  I also love to ride bareback...when ever free time allows me.

Would you like to elaborate on your training methods?

I've always asked myself if there was a method to my madness with horses....so far I'm still looking!!!!  I do believe that every person is given a special gift from God...I've been Blessed with the love and respect of horses and for horses.  I start every horse the same way....with some bonding and flexing exercises.  I first try and establish a relationship that I can build on.  I try and figure out where the horse has been and where he/she is coming from.  Every horse has a story, just like people.  I like to know a little about their past...this helps me with their future.

I let the horse tell me what they are capable of doing; I try and listen to what they are telling me and help them to find their given talents and strengthen their weaknesses.  When two parties come together in a bond of complete unity wonderful things, no miracle things are possible.

What advise do you have for people, at any age, entering the training field?

I guess first thing I would say is...Are you NUTS!!!!!!..Then smile and tell them that it takes an open heart, mind and attitude and lots and lots of hard work.  That training horses or any animal for that matter is not for an ego trip.  Its not for a control issue, or wanting to be a big shot.  Working with horses is a 24/7 type of job.  Expect the unexpected, never plan a vacation...unless its with your horse, and you have to be a master at everything from carpentry to gymnastics.

Training and starting horses is just like teaching our children.  It gives you the same rewards and disappointments,  but I would say in all my years of laughter, tears, spills, broken bones an blue ribbons, it's all been worth it.

What expectations should an owner have of a trainer?

You need to expect everything that you would of your daycare provider.  Sending your horse for schooling is just like sending your child to daycare.  CHECK IT OUT!!!!  Go meet the trainer, check out their stables, ask the vets in the area about them, the feed stores or coop's.  You can never be too careful.

I always have the owners fill out a training agreement and bring with them a list of objectives that they would like to see done, provided that their horse is capable of it.  Then together we set up a workout schedule that we feel will best fit the needs of all the interested parties.

What expectations should a trainer have of an owner?

First of all, I expect their full participation.  I expect them to be in complete contact all the time.  I do have many customers that live in other states and other countries.  This makes communication and personal involvement a little tough sometimes, but we have many phone calls, or email, computer on-line chats,  and I send videos of the horse's monthly progress.   This way we are all involved in the training and teaching of the horse.  If you don't know much about horses, don't worry, you will... both, you and your horse learn a lot when we are done with you.

Are there any words of wisdom that you have learned over the years working with horses?

I'm laughing outloud....yes......"There are only two types of riders...them that been down, and them that are going!"

Anyone whose been around horses and spent any amount of time in the saddle tells you they've never come off a horse...run as fast as you can the other way...they are lying...that's what my grandfather told me many years ago...he was a TRUE horseman, I miss him greatly!

 

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