Cherokee Valley Farm And Stable Offers Positive Training by Kevin DeBusk When Sarah Smith, a long time horse owner and rider, and husband Greg moved East from Seattle, Washington to Collierville, Tennessee in 1996 they didn't expect to own a stable. However, in May of 2000 the two purchased Cherokee Valley Farm and Stable in Michigan City, Mississippi. Cherokee Valley Farm and Stable is located on twenty-four rolling acres with thirty-four stalls, three tack rooms and five pastures with white vinyl fencing. Cherokee Valley also offers riders a 150X80 indoor arena, 190X150 outdoor arena, grooming area with five workstations, heated/air condition lounge and twenty-four-hour security. "We have miles of riding room," Sarah said. "It's great for endurance, cross-country and fox hunting training. "Both my grandparents and aunts had horses when I was younger. I got my first horse, a three-year-old Arab, when I was eleven and trained her myself. I showed English and then I got a half-Quarter /half-Arab and showed in the half-Arab shows. I showed in English, Western and jumped. I did about everything you could with an Arab on the West Coast. "When I came out here (Cherokee Valley) I was looking for a place to board. The opportunity opened up that it was for sale and we bought it. When we moved down here I was a little surprised with the lack of customer service at the barns. The lack of owners really caring what the clients thought. If the clients had a problem their attitude was you could leave. "I thought that was sad, on the West Coast there is so much competition people are a lot more customer service oriented. That's why I wanted to start something at this level. A level that the owner is out there cleaning the stalls and interacting with the clients and their horses, not just somebody that is collecting a check every month. I'm here seven days a week, cleaning stalls and doing the dirty work. I'm making sure everybody is happy." "I want to have a place where people can come and if they want to show have trainers that are experienced. I don't want a very pretension barn. If people want to show or trail ride I want them to feel comfortable in the barn. I don't want it to be snobby I want it to be friendly. I want people to be here because of their horses not because of the kind of trailer they have. I want it to be for people who enjoy spending time with their horses." One way Sarah plan to achieve her goal is by promoting the fact she keeps and trains her own horses. "I have three horses here," she reported. "One of them is a schooling horse and the other two are my show horses." One of theses is a yearling Quarter Horses she plans to show AQHA and the other an Arab that she shows on the circuit and competes in endurance with. Offering English and Western lessons Cherokee Valley is designed for any discipline of rider. "We give lessons and have school horses" she stated. "Our students are of all levels of riding ability and age. Not only do we offer beginning lessons for young riders but we also have students in their sixties. "We also have a leasing program. A lot of times parents don't want to do the initial investment of purchasing a horse. They can lease the horse and decide if they want to spend the time and money for horses. Most people find they really like it and purchase a horse. It's a smart way to do it." Trainers working out of Cherokee Valley Stables have to meet Sarah's standard for customer service. "We go through a lengthy interview process and they have all ended up being people I haven't intended to hire," Sarah remarked. "They haven't been people that applied for the job. They're people that I have learned through word of mouth, friendships and networking of horse people. I think that is the way I am going to continue finding good employees or trainers. "Not necessarily through an application process but through word of mouth and watching them ride and watching them work with their horses. I feel that picking out a trainer should be conducted as one would pick out a babysitter or daycare. "We feel that an important part of proper training should include time with the horse owner. After all what good is a trained horse if the owner does not know how to ask the horse what they want it to do. "The basic training we begin with you can use for any discipline. Everybody says they do John Lyons training and anybody can rent a video and say they are John Lyons trained. I think utilizing information in real life instead of reading the books and watching the video is important." Cherokee Valley Farm has that real life knowledge of horses through its trainers. In addition to Sarah, Jennifer Patrick and Cappy Houck are currently training horses at Cherokee Valley. "Jennifer Patrick had boarded four horses here and the reason I like her so much is I like the way she works with her horses. I got to be around her several days a week and realized she was a good rider and good with horses." "My goal is to teach rider safety to children and adults that have the desire to learn about horses and begin riding," Cappy commented. "For the last six years my passion has been working with, taking care of and studying about horses. I think one of my biggest joys is working with someone who knows nothing about horses and watching them build confidence week after week as I teach them." "I want a person to know exactly what I'm doing with their horse," Jennifer stated. "I want them to have a rapport with their horse, so they know everything about them. Some people send a horse off to a trainer for thirty days and don't see them. Then they take them back home and don't know what the trainer has taught them. I like to teach the rider as well as the horse so they are doing what I'm doing. Then when they get them back home it's an even flow, there's no guess work on their part." Hygiene is an important part of a quality program to Sarah. "I come from a medical background," she said. "My grandfathers a doctor, my moms a nurse and I'm getting my Masters in nursing. "One of the things I had a problem with at a barn I boarded at was it was absolutely grotesque. I was paying three hundred and twenty dollars a month and every time I went out I had to clean out the stalls. I felt like I shouldn't be paying this much to come out and see my horse and have to do that. "That's also a way you have ammonia fumes and all kinds of health problems. There are feet problems and digestive problems that come from dirty stalls. It's not healthy and that is something that I am very particular about. I'm also very particular about the way water and feed buckets are kept. "We are completely full service. That way I know exactly what every horse is being fed and what they've eaten that day, it's just a lot easier that way. "We have really reasonable fees. Full board is two hundred and fifty dollars and pasture boarding is a hundred and fifty dollars." A horse's day consists of feeding around seven in the morning, and then full board horses are turned out after they have finished their hay. "I believe in turning them out everyday," Sarah commented. "I like to make sure they have fully digested their breakfast before I start. I usually start working my first horse around ten o'clock and work each horse a good hour to hour and half. If I'm not working with a horse they go out about ten every day for exercise." Additionally, pasture horses are feed twice each day. "We check all the pasture horses everyday even if we're not training or riding to make sure they haven't cut themselves or have anything in their feet," reported Sarah. "We bring in our pasture board horses when the weather is bad. We have stalls in the back for them when it's not that nice outside." Horses are placed on a feeding program Sarah has designed of a 10% MoorMan's Sweet Feed, minerals and Vaughns Bermuda. "I work with what ever an owner wants," she said. "I prefer MoorMan's but I work with what ever the owner has their horse on. We also use Grow Strong minerals and a MoorMan's mineral block. "We don't feed alfalfa. Most of the horses here have some Arab blood in them so we can't feed them alfalfa. The Bermuda we have is 22% protein and is really good hay. We haven't had any problems with it and we feed it free choice." They have also worked hard to remove all fescue from their fields." Aside from the visual customer service Sarah and Greg are working to move the operation into the 21st century. "We have just started our web page at www.cherokeevalley stables.com," said Sarah. "In the next couple of months we plan to offer some security and computer technology to our customers. We are going to have web cams. What we want to do is allow people to see their horses twenty-four hours a day. It's going to be a good way for people to look at their horse and show people their horse."
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