Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Painted Lady Horsemanship: An Interview with Trainer Devin Young by Gina McKnight

Devin at work. Photo by Bill Slader Photography

Painted Lady Horsemanship:
An Interview with Trainer Devin Young

Archived article from the October 2017 Issue of Florida Equine Athlete.
No duplication without permission.

“I am absolutely blessed to have such an amazing team behind me and an amazing family who wants to see me succeed.”

Several years ago, I was at an Amish barn in southeastern Ohio where I meet a lovely eleven-year-old Paint Quarter Horse mare who was broke to drive and had a great disposition. I was in the market for another horse and the mare immediately connected with me. She was for sale, caught in the middle of divorced owners; registered, but with no papers. She was a little battered from being in a field with several other horse breeds, clearly low in herd order, but well taken care of and in good health. When I told my Dad about her that night, he said he would buy her for me for my birthday. I was thrilled, and the mare with no name came to my barn the next day. She immediately settled in, and I named her “Zubedia” or Zubie for short.

Since Zubie was broke to drive, she liked to go-go-go all the time – she out-paced my Quarter gelding, Mac. I decided she needed a refresher course with a trainer. One of my colleagues introduced me to Devin Young, a devoted horse-lover and trainer. After Devin spent a session with Zubie at my barn, we made arrangements for Zubie to spend 30 days at Rocky Point Stables, Athens, Ohio, in Devin’s expert hands.  

Originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Devin moved to Ohio while still in school. Devin says, “I have ridden my entire life, but outside of that I played volleyball for years, took kickboxing for a while, and pursued a career in modeling. Though I was offered a modeling contract, I decided to stick with horses and later on did small to large fashion shows in Columbus, Ohio.” A member of the Ohio High School Rodeo team her entire high school career, Devin began rodeo on a horse that was “meaner than snot” that she trained herself. She bought her first horse at 13 years of age, and her second horse, whom she still owns, at 15 years of age. She currently owns four Quarter Horses, and a TWH purchased from Bella Run Equine. Devin lives in Albany, Ohio, with her husband Damon and her beautiful daughter Coraline, who also loves horses. Now an expert (and highly recommended) trainer, Devin is the proprietor of Painted Lady Horsemanship. Here she shares her insight to horses, riding, training, and more…

GM: When was your first encounter with a horse?
DY: My first encounter with a horse was actually the ponies that work the pony rides at the zoo. From then on, my mom said I was obsessed, so at the age of four, I started riding lessons on a horse I will never forget, named Sonny. I was raised by mom, so I wasn’t always able to take lessons as money was tight, but I always found a way to be around horses. I went to summer camps, volunteered at farms, started teaching lessons and so on.

GM: You are a seasoned equestrian! When did you realize that you wanted to become a horse trainer?
DY: Oddly enough becoming a horse trainer was not my first choice of careers. From the age of four I wanted to be a veterinarian. As I got closer and closer to entering college and the pre-vet program, I realized I wasn’t going to be a good fit. I decided to find something else that was still hands-on, helpful and around horses, which is when I decided I wanted to go into equine massage. Turns out I didn’t really enjoy that either. After I graduated from Hocking College, I didn’t really have a plan other than to be a good mom to my daughter. I started training a couple of horses for people I knew and was really enjoying it and for once it felt like my calling. Luckily, I have this awesome farrier (also my mentor) who believed in me and knew someone who needed some lessons, so he recommended me to them. A couple days later I got in contact with my first Painted Lady Horsemanship client, and from then on it just spread like wildfire.

GM: I heard that Hocking College has/had a great equine program. How has the program prepared you for your current vocation? Were there specific mentors/professors at the College who inspired your career?
DY: Hocking College had a very unique equine program, classes you can’t normally find anywhere else. I originally decided to go there for the Equine Health and Complementary Therapies program and ended up graduating in that program and one class shy of finishing the Farrier Science program. All in all, I learned a tremendous amount about advanced health care, anatomy, complementary therapies that can be used, and so much more about hoof health and care I even thought was possible. Though none of this is specific to literally training the horse, all of what I learned systemically of the horse makes an incredible difference when training. Now when I work with a horse, I can look them over as a whole - from foot to conformation to muscle to balance. So many times horses come in with some kind of physical problem that has been pointed to as a behavioral problem. It’s my job to advocate for the horse whether that means I am actually training or I’m helping educate owners on other possibilities for the behavior, lameness, etc.

I was incredibly blessed to be taught by some of the most amazing and knowledgeable horsemen and horsewomen there are. The instructors at Hocking College have years upon years of experience in the industry and their specific fields, not only that but many of them have their own very successful businesses outside of the classroom. Every single instructor I had the pleasure of learning from has a hand in my success and my expanded knowledge. There is a particular instructor who has not only been my farrier for a few years now, but he is also my mentor and my friend - Bryan Farcus. Bryan has been nothing short of supportive of me, my dream and my business. Bryan is to thank for Painted Lady Horsemanship, and since the beginning, he’s been in the back rooting me on, giving me advice, and to this day he still teaches me something new every time I see him.

GM: Would you recommend Hocking College's Equine Program to those looking for a career in horses?
DY: I was very fortunate to enter and exit the program when I did as I was able to take full advantage of the classes and the knowledge of the instructors. Classes then were still taught well and passionately to the students with safety, education and success in mind. Under the current administration I am sad to say I would not recommend the program as it has seemingly become more about what will make the school more money and not continuing the legacy of unique and enriching classes Hocking College is so well known for. Most unfortunate is that the majority of the quality instructors have either voluntarily resigned or been terminated.

GM: That is sad to hear and devastating news for our community. As a horse owner, and the many horse owners in our area (and beyond), we rely on experts to help us with our equines. You have made such a huge difference in my mare, Zubie! What training methods do you use to school a horse?
DY: As I have tried to educate myself more and more over the years about the best methods of horse training, I find myself picking pieces up here and there from specific trainers I admire and sometimes from the training trends. Sometimes I will focus on something Buck Brannaman uses, other times I will use something similar to what Clinton Anderson does, but I incorporate my own methods, too, that I’ve come up with by trial and error; and, yes, sometimes I even use a clicker. The most important thing to remember when working with the horse is that they are individuals; a training method I use on one might not work with another. I have to start slow, learn the horse, ask for simple things and build some resemblance of trust, then from there we are kind of just figuring one another out. My goal is always to leave the horse better off at the end of a session than when I started. It’s not about submission, it’s about communication and trying to build a relationship with the horse and give them confidence. For some horses that’s overcoming a fear, for others that’s doing something really easy and getting a big reward, others are adventurous and want to do something completely new. As long as the horse leaves me with a better head on its shoulders and the communication between horse and rider is there, I am happy.

GM: My mare Zubie has been pampered for too long and has picked up a few vices - nipping, trotting when I want her to walk, and moving when I mount. Are these vices easily fixed?
DY: It all really depends on the horse and why they are performing that behavior and how long it has been going on. I’d say the hardest to fix is the nipping, but still able to be accomplished. Moving around while mounting takes a few days of consistent training usually and they will quit doing it. The walking off while mounting is a common one I deal with, so I’ve gotten decent in solving it pretty quickly. I feel most of the time walking off is stemmed from being allowed to be disrespectful and/or has been learned and is now a habit. I like to squash that behavior right away. When a horse is trotting while you want them to walk can be a number of issues, most of the time it is rider error. Tensing up while on the horse and they feel that nervous energy and try to do something with it so they trot. Also, many times riders will think they are telling the horse to slow down when in reality they are gripping on the reins pulling themselves forward which is essentially telling the horse to go faster. Like with anything else, when it comes to horses, there are so many variables to take into consideration that need to be looked into carefully to help resolve any vice with the horse. Most importantly owners of horses are best to educate themselves to get the most out of their relationship with their horse. Though I am happy to report Zubie is no longer having issues with these vices, thanks to her mom seeking out some help.

GM: Zubie is much better, thanks to you, Devin. Working full-time with horses keeps you busy and I know you are in demand in Ohio! Describe a day in your life and how it revolves around horses...
DY: A day in my life revolves around all the animals including the horses, my almost three-year-old daughter and my husband trying to keep up with me. At home we have 4 horses, 10 chickens, 5 cats and 4 dogs, so for about four hours a day I am just feeding animals. A few days a week I travel to my off-site clients to help them train at home, usually appointments start at 9-10 a.m. and I can schedule up to three clients in a day. My off-site clients range from actual training, refreshers, lessons, and barrel training. After I have finished with all my off-site clients I will make my way to Rocky Point Stables, that is the barn that I work out of. I board my barrel horse at Rocky Point and lease a couple of stalls for training horses. By the time I get to the barn, it is usually afternoon and I will then work whichever horses I currently have in and my barrel horse. If I’m lucky, a few days a month I get to run my horse at some local NBHA or IBRA races. Though I love colt starting and training horses, my heart will always live for fast horses and adrenaline rushes. By the end of a “normal” day I get home about 7:30 p.m. and feed my horses at home their dinner before feeding the husband and the kid. It’s busy day to day, it literally revolves around horses and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

GM: I have been totally impressed with your skill level as a trainer. You seem to be a natural in and out of the saddle with horses. What are your plans for the future?
DY: I am so honored to be recognized for my horsemanship at all at this point in my business, it’s such a surreal feeling. I have to laugh for a second when trying to answer this because my husband would roll his eyes and ask, “What aren’t my plans for the future?” I am definitely a dreamer, big idea, knows no limits type of person, so I probably have goals for the next ten years. Short term I’d like to continue to grow my business, keep my training stalls filled, buy land before winter that eventually will become Painted Lady Ranch, finish my business plan, attend some clinics, start my prospect and so on. Long term my plan is to have the barn and arena built for Painted Lady Ranch, teach clinics, take on more performance based clients for barrel racing, eventually I’d like to focus mainly on colt starting and putting prospects on the pattern. I’d love to mentor someone else and give back some knowledge, maybe somewhere in there I can take some time to run my own horses. I am absolutely blessed to have such an amazing team behind me and an amazing family who wants to see me succeed.

GM: Do you have advice for novice riders and those looking to purchase their first horse?
DY: My advice for novice riders is to ride, ride, ride! By riding frequently you will learn feel, softness, lightness, balance, you will learn how the horse communicates and how to communicate back. There is nothing that can replace plain old time in the saddle! When you get stuck, ask for help, there is no shame in seeking education and further your knowledge. There’s always someone out there more experienced than the next guy. If you don’t have access to a horse, find someone who has one that will let you ride in trade for cleaning stalls or unloading hay. The only way to get better is to immerse yourself and be consistent.

For those looking to purchase their first horse, know what is most important to you in a horse, be realistic - there is no such thing as a unicorn, what you get is what you pay for, in that the cheaper the horse, the more work you will have to put in. I highly suggest finding a reputable veterinarian to do a pre-purchase exam. There is so much more to the horse that a first-time owner may not catch and then may get in a sticky situation if the horse isn’t what they thought it was. Also, know that it will take the horse time to adjust and get to know you. They may be very different once you get them home, remember the horse had no say in being purchased so you will have to work harder at the relationship at first. Last tip, take an experienced horse person with you to look at horses, they have an eye for what will make a good fit or not; trust in your friend, trainer, mom, dad or whomever.

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
DY: Horsemanship to me feels sacred, it’s this never-ending way of life where I strive day in and day out to be better for the horse and with the horse. For whatever reason, I have been drawn to the horse my whole life and there’s this higher level of understanding that I want to reach. Within Horsemanship it is well known that you will never know it all, you’re constantly learning and understanding the horse in new ways, I believe that’s what is so addicting about it that I can keep learning, I can reach new levels of communication with the horse. Horsemanship is enlightening, challenging and incredibly rewarding. When one even learns the basics of horsemanship, a whole new world opens and you notice your horse is so much different, better, now that you are being let on to this language that was once dismissed in place of barbaric training methods. To have a mutual, working relationship with an animal as large as the horse - who we shouldn’t really in the first place - is in every sense of the word magical. To practice horsemanship to me is a religious experience and I encourage everyone to learn and practice horsemanship in everything they do with their horse.

For more information on Painted Lady Horsemanship, see more pics of Zubie and Devin, or to follow along on the journey, find Devin at…

To contact:

Gina McKnight is a freelance writer from Ohio USA.

Devin working with Zubie at Rocky Point Stable, Athens, Ohio

Devin and Dewie, a new student owned by Taylor Adlesberger

Devin schooling Mingo, owned by Susan Eddy

Devin's kill pen save Poe with daughter Coraline

Summertime barrel racing. Photo by Bill Slader Photography

Devin and crew. Photo by Angela's Photography

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