|Wilds Brings Resistance-Free Training to NW Alabama|
By Susie Sims
Horses have long been a passion of Jason Wilds. Years ago, he would have loved to make his living with horses, but in rural northwest Alabama, his chances of doing that were pretty slim.
After a couple of other careers, including the U.S. Army and working at a local plant, Jason finally took the plunge and dove head-first into the world of horses.
"We bought some new horses and I began to think about training horses for a living," said Wilds. "Now we have all this."
Wilds is referring to the current set-up at his family’s property. He lives with his family near Brilliant in rural Marion County.
Jason, 33, and his wife of 11 years, Angela, have two sons—Boake, 7, and Brock, 6. Wilds’ father, Nathan, is considered to be his number-one hand on the ranch. Wilds’ mother, Sheryl, and Angela are locally famous for making majorette uniforms for a couple of major universities in the state. Angela teaches at the nearby Brilliant Elementary School.
When choosing his path in the equine business, Wilds wanted to find a way to spend as much time as possible with his family and still earn a respectable living. He knew there was only one way for him to go—the John Lyons Certified Trainer Program.
"In the world of horse training, there is no better name than John Lyons," said Wilds. "And his son, Josh, is carrying on the tradition of teaching gentle training methods to those in the program."
Wilds spent six months in Colorado in an intensive training program to prepare him for the training he does now.
"This program is the most non-abusive, humane way of getting a horse to do what you want it to do," said Wilds. "The training is actually enjoyable for a horse."
Wilds said he takes pleasure in watching a horse work that has been trained with the Lyons method, noting that the horse is relaxed and ready to respond to the rider’s commands.
"It is amazing to watch a horse that wants to work for you instead of watching one that is scared to mess up," said Wilds. "It is more enjoyable for horse and the rider."
Wilds attributes the development of such partnership between horse and rider to the fact that he actually trains the rider instead of the horse.
"What I do here, through my apprenticeship program, is train people," said Wilds. "I train people to train their horses.
"I teach them what they need to know to create a partnership with their horses. They learn how to communicate with their horses in a non-abusive way. I don’t train horses. I train people."
Students Move On
While Wilds does not train horses like he used to, many of his students go on to do just that.
"I do mostly refining work when it comes to training," said Wilds. "So when someone calls and wants me to train a horse, I usually refer them to someone who has completed my apprenticeship program."
Wilds noted that each student has his or her own goal. "Some come to learn to train horses for other people, some come to learn better riding skills," said Wilds.
Programs Require Dedication
Participating in one of Wilds’ apprenticeship programs takes a great deal
of dedication, both on the part of the horse and the rider.
His program lasts for six weeks and is offered in the spring and in the fall.
During the summer months, Wilds offers a more flexible program consisting of three two-week sessions.
To participate in the program a rider must have a primary and secondary horse available. He provided stalls for the horses at his ranch.
Wilds noted that many of his local clients keep their back-up horses at home unless they are needed.
For non-local participants, Wilds has them bring the secondary animal for the entire program. By non-local, Wilds is referring to those who do not live within daily driving distance.
He has clients from many states, including Michigan. "We are expecting a lady this fall from New Zealand," said Wilds. "She wins our long-distance award."
Out-of-towners usually find lodging at one of the local bed and breakfasts.
Summary of Sessions
Wilds’ program is divided into three sessions. Students spend six to ten hours a day and five days a week in these sessions.
The first session begins with an orientation and observation of Wilds. The focus is on groundwork and preparing to mount.
The second session focuses on under saddle basics and a review of the fundamentals of session one.
The final session is geared toward gaining more control. Students focus on skills like speed control, 360-degree turns and crossing major obstacles.
As time allows, Wilds offers instructions on tricks, including lying down, sitting down and smiling.
Animal Health is Key
In addition to the program fundamentals, Wilds stresses the magnitude of overall animal health to his students.
"I try to impress on the participants the importance of proper nutrition for their animals," said Wilds. "A healthy animal will perform better."
Wilds noted that many people, especially in the South, do not take care of their horses the way they should. In order to help remedy that problem, Wilds is working with nutritionist Jimmy Hughes of Alabama Farmers Co-op Feed Department. Hughes is helping Wilds prepare to educate his students and clients about the importance of feeding quality products to horses.
"A good quality feed can maximize a horse’s performance," said Hughes. "Jason wants to be able to educate his students on the nutritional requirements of equine."
Hughes said they are concentrating on the energy content of feed.
"Starch and carbohydrate content need to be restricted as they burn much faster and create more heat in the digestive tract of the horse," said Hughes. "Fat burns more slowly and does not produce as much heat, making it a more efficient energy source."
Hughes has also recommended that Wilds focus on mineral and vitamin supplements and their ability to improve hoof integrity, bone development and overall health.
As always, a good protein source is required for the development of muscle tissue in horses, noted Hughes.
Local Co-op Helpful
Wilds depends on Marion County Co-op in Hamilton for his feed and minerals, fertilizer and lime, and fencing supplies, among other things. Manager Steve Lann is always willing to lend a helping hand, noted Wilds.
Look for Wilds at your local Co-op store’s upcoming horse meeting. Wilds will be making appearances across the state promoting good nutrition, proper care and humane training for horses.
For more information, check with your local Co-op for dates of future meetings and events.
Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.