When Heather Thompson was growing up in Idaho, showing horses in 4-H, she didn’t know horses would become her life. “I didn’t dream of being a horse trainer when I was a kid, because I didn’t know there was such a thing!” She laughs. “Horses were a passion. I moved to Texas for horses. I was so passionate about them that one thing led to another and here I am.”
While living in Huntsville, horses were Heather’s side hobby. “I managed a race horse farm. During that time a lot of people brought me their horses to train.” She explains. Now, Heather starts many colts for all Western disciplines with a reining foundation. Her personal passion is showing reining horses in NRHA and breed events, and she spends a lot of time coaching non-pros and youth.
Heather eventually moved to the Texas Panhandle in 2010, when friend and fellow trainer Melanie Wilhelm invited her to come out to Nazareth. “I remember walking out of her barn and looking at the wide empty space and thinking ‘Where are the people? How can I get business with no people?’” She says, laughing.
Melanie Wilhelm also introduced Heather to Hi-Pro Feeds. “Melanie fed it in her barns, and I kept feeding it when I moved into my own place.” She says. “Alfa-Pro gives me peace of mind. I know my horses are drinking a lot of water, even when it’s cold. And the feed is consistent. I can have a horse come here and think to myself ‘Oh, I’d like to see more bloom on this one.’ So, I’ll just up it a scoop and within a week you can see a difference. You just see the bloom on them. Everything on my place gets Alfa-Pro. Even the horses turned out on round bales get it because of the amazing nutrients.”
It was the move from Melanie’s place into her own that makes Heather the proudest. “Relocating my business was scary. I’ve never owned my own house. I’m really proud, though, because I did it on my own. It took me a little longer, but I did it on my own.” She says. “I’m blessed buying this place and moving my business over here to Amarillo. I still look at it and can’t quite believe it’s mine.“
When Heather looks back at her journey, she credits patience and hard work. “I’m self-taught. I’ve paid my dues for a long time to get clients and build my reputation. Every year I look back at where I was last year with my training and I know I’m better. I try to learn as much as I can, and I go ride with other trainers and learn from them. Gunney Matheson was very influential in helping me become a better trainer, showman and coach. It’s a lot of tough love, but he is also very patient with me. And at the end of the day, I’d rather work this hard for myself than for someone else.”
Although being self-taught has made her road to success a bit longer than some other trainers, Heather feels it has benefitted her in a lot of ways. “I like that I’ve been through frustrations and had a hard time, because it makes it easier for me to relate to the people I work with.” She says. “If they look like they are about to cry or have a meltdown, I can say ‘Hey, it’s ok. I’ve been there. If you need to cry, go have a cry. Take 20 minutes and then let’s get back to it.’”
Though there are plenty of frustrating times, Heather loves to watch the process. “I love to watch the colts that are scared or not confident progress into and excel in their discipline. I enjoy taking my time and working on slowly showing them maneuvers such as crossing over. It’s very relaxing to me to just do the slow foundation building training.” She says. “Don’t get me wrong, though, when they get broke and the pieces come together, running fast circles or running to a 20 foot plus sliding stop is very fun. That’s the exciting part.”
Along with focus, Heather’s training philosophy involves a lot of ground work. “If they are dragging you around on the lunge line, they are going to drag you around in the saddle. If they are disrespectful on the ground, they’ll be disrespectful when you ride.” And she is careful to treat every horse as an individual. “They are a lot like kids when they are learning. Some are super-fast and some take a little more time. I let them tell me if they are ready to be pushed.”
Hi-Pro Feeds is proud to support such a hard-working and talented horse trainer. For more information on Alfa-Pro, click here.
If you’d like more information about Heather Thompson and her training operation, click here to go to her Facebook page, or call: 936-293-0110.
Photo Credits: Alden Corrigan Media
@alden_corrigan_media and @NRBC2019