(NOTE: This story was written in 2008 for a short-lived publication, the Surry Messenger.)
By Tom Gillispie
Heather Miner and Heath Moore are right at home on the range, even if it is the old Cham- berlain place near Bannertown.
Under the company title of HM Performance Horses, the two break and train horses, teach riders, and even sell horses on a consignment basis.
They even raise and sell dogs.
On Tuesday, Heather was showing a visitor around the spread with the help of two black dogs. Nearby, three colts grazed under the careful eye of Billy the goat. Generally, horses and goats don’t mix, but Heather said that Billy’s an exception to the rule.
He actually calms the horses.
Katie began lessons in May, and she won a local riding championship. It’s a good start, but she has more to learn.
The Mondays have two horses that they keep at home, but these lessons seem special.
On this day, Heather put her on Butchen, a gentle chestnut nicknamed Mama. Katie did a few exercises that teach the rider to use her legs and stay balanced.
At one point, Heather had to turn and stretch toward Mama’s backside. “This is hard,” she said, emphasizing the last word.
They did a few more exercises, including one or two that looked like something you might do in phys ed. They made a few more laps around the outside ring, then headed to work in the barn.
“He does a lot of our work for us,” she said.
Heather said that she and Heath met at various equine events, and they teamed up about 18 months ago.
It’s their routine, since the Mondays visit Heather and ev- ery Tuesday for
A listener can tell that Heather’s accent has more Connecticut than North Carolina in it.
She said that they’ve expanded the business since she joined it.
Among the horses is a black and white paint that had never been ridden. It’s 30 days are near- ly done, and it’ll go home, likely a better horse for the experience.
“Every horse is different; each owner is different,” Heather said. “ We cater to each one. Most want their horse to be quiet and gentle, so they can ride it.”
She says they will soon hire another trainer so they can han- dle 50 one-hour lessons a week.
Inside the barn, Heather showed off horses, some of them theirs, some belonging to others. One is named Rascal, and the name fits. He’s intelligent, and you have to watch out for him.
Heather said that customers make themselves at home, and 9-year-old Katie Monday, her mother Kelly and brother Korb- in did just that as they showed up for a lesson. There were no cow- boy hats this Tuesday; too cold.
the lessons. Kelly said that the Mondays
had known Heath and his family a long time. But the lessons start- ed after Kelly’s mother stopped and asked if Heather and Keith would tutor Katie.
“ I believe she’s gotten a whole lot out of this,” Kelly said as Heather and Katie saddled Mama. “She’s bashful with every- one but Heather. It brought her out of her shell.
“She started coming in May,” Kelly added. “We all like it, don’t we, Korbin?”
Korbin watched quietly.
They did a few exercises that force the rider to center her body on her legs.
“So you won’t get all weebly wobbly,” Katie said.
“It takes a good horse to tol- erate a kid doing this,” Heather added as Katie did exercises.
Heather kept up a running commentary as Katie worked with Mama.
“Keep her over by the rail.” “Push, push, push. Good!”
“A little more toes, missy.”
She turned and said, “ Today, she wants to turn her toes to the side. She needs them straight.”
She added that Katie is just learning to spin a horse.
Heather looked back to Katie and said, “You’ve lost your forward motion.”
“Use your heels. She’s ignor- ing you.”
“Keep her by the rail.”
“Set her up, and give me a good stop.”
“Squeeze your knees; push hard!”
“Think about it and give me a good stop.”
“You want to try your lope
yet?” The answer was no, so they went to something else.
Kelly has to drive down 52 from Cana, Va., then go through Mount Airy and up Westfield Road to what is now the Moore place. She was asked what the riding lessons have meant to her.
“It’s every mom’s dream of having a kid who’s happy,” she said.
Not far away, Katie smiled broadly as she, Heather and Mama worked on.
Heather and Heath are looking for other students, but beware: You’ll probably lose cell-phone reception as you get close.
Their website is www.hmperformancehorses.com.
CONTACT: Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.
More blog entries by Tom Gillispie
• Advice for be and would-be novelists
Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie
Entries from The Dog Blog
Blog entries from The Auto Racing Journal
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)