Around and around the pen went the horse, changing direction or changing its gait in response to subtle cues given by the rider on its back. Cody Brown was working hard, doing what comes very naturally to him, getting the best out of the horses under his care and training. This young man was really challenging the horse to perform, but doing it very patiently and persistently. Cody Brown is only 22 years old but he has been training horses since he was 13.
Brown has no idea how old he was when he first began riding. As long as he can remember, he has been on horseback. “My mom used to have to make me get off the horses to come and eat,” Brown says as he laughs. He gives much of the credit for his training skills to his father, Steve Brown of Boonville, NC. He says that he patterned himself after what he saw his father do. “It helped that I grew up around a lot of other horse people.” said Brown. “This is really all I know.”
The skill he has with horses is more than can be learned from a book or an education course. Brown truly has a gift. His training methods, combined with patience and persistence, seem to give him an insight into communicating with each horse. He knows just what to ask each horse and is stubborn enough to keep at it until the horse understands and responds.
Cody especially likes to work with young horses to start them. “If they don’t respect you while you are on the ground, they will never respect you on their back,” says Cody.
At first the young horse will be nervous and jumpy but will become more relaxed and responsive as Brown works with it. As the horse is working around the pen, Brown watches closely. The horse learns to give him its full attention and will learn to reverse direction and change speed just from a slight signal. When he is satisfied with the progression of the horse, he will put a saddle on its back and then do more groundwork. When Brown feels the horse is ready, he will mount it. If he has done his groundwork well, there is a bare minimum of bucking or none at all.
Brown likes to start horses at two years of age. A horse’s joints are not ready for the work that is necessary for rigorous training until they are two years old and a good deal of damage can be done to the horse if they are started before their body is ready. The well being of the horses is something that Brown takes seriously.
Some of the training Brown does is to gentle weaned foals. When a weanling completes training with Brown, it can be caught, is used to being clipped, will pick its feet up, and will lead and load onto a trailer.
Other training involves more serious problem horses. These are horses that come to Brown with behavior issues or bad habits. Sometimes these problems are more a result of behaviors that the owners have inadvertently reinforced.
If a horse can get its own way consistently, it will continue to repeat that behavior. Brown says that horses are usually lazy by nature. When a horse he is training misbehaves, he makes them continue to work and work. His philosophy is to make the horse understand that if they do the right thing, Brown makes it easier for them, and if they do the wrong thing, he makes it harder on them. For example, if they spook at something, he will trot circles around whatever caused them to spook until they pay no more attention to it. He says one of the mistakes owners make is to get down off a horse after it has misbehaved. That is actually rewarding the horse for whatever it has done. The only time Brown will stop working a horse is when he feels it has learned everything they have worked on for that day.
Many clients pay for Brown to exhibit their horses. This gives the horse a chance to utilize the training they have received and they consistently place at the top of the class in which they exhibit. One of the most exciting events for Brown is the Extreme Cowboy Race. Brown has competed in the Nationals in Texas three times, placing 7th in the Professional Division one year.
Marketing the horses he has trained is also part his service. When Brown is satisfied that a horse is ready, videos are taken of the working horse and rider which are posted online.
Brown currently works a full time job at Van Heusen in Jonesville, NC but also trains horses at his home in Boonville, NC. He has a waiting list of clients and rides horses at the horse sale in Madison, NC when a consignor wants to show off what the horse can do. Cody Brown can get the best and the most out of a horse.