Western Riding Lesson with Charlie Cole

Team Horse & Rider's Charlie Cole gives Horse & Rider magazine's managing editor, Alana Harrison, a taste of what it's like to ride a top-level Western show horse. It's harder (and way cooler!) than it looks.

In the July ’09 issue of Horse & Rider magazine, you got to experience what it’s like to ride a Western pleasure superstar like Show Diva, under world-champion pro and Team Horse & Rider member Charlie Cole’s instruction as he coached Managing Editor Alana Harrison. In the article, Charlie and Alana gave you a play-by-play commentary on Alana’s experience in the saddle, including her struggles and triumphs working through various maneuvers.

One of my favorite things about Charlie’s teaching style is that I never felt intimidated to ask him a question. He never made me feel like it was a dumb question. He’d politely nod and walk me through the answer.

Here, however, Alana gives you the lowdown on what it was really like to ride with Charlie. Read on!

Riding with Charlie

Pro’s credentials: Charlie’s list of Quarter Horse and Paint winners is long and impressive, with many world and year-end national champions. He owns and operates Highpoint Performance Horses in Pilot Point, Texas. For more information, go to highpointperformance.com.

My experience: I had a blast! Although I was nervous, Charlie made me feel comfortable, and vastly improved my confidence in a Western saddle. He’s easy-going, and we had fun joking around in between takes.

Teaching style: Charlie’s relatively soft-spoken when instructing. By this, I don’t mean he’s apathetic or shy. He’s straightforward, hands-on, and clearly communicates his instructions. If I made a mistake or didn’t get the result I wanted, Charlie didn’t get frustrated or edgy. He laughed it off, provided further instruction, and had me do the maneuver again. And what I really like about Charlie’s teaching style? I never felt intimidated to ask him a question. He’d politely tell me it wasn’t a stupid question, and walk me through the answer.

Lesson complete! I had a blast, and what a good sport Charlie was for putting up with me. And, even after one lesson, I feel a lot more confident in a Western saddle. | All photos by Cappy Jackson

Standout trait: His positive attitude. Charlie genuinely cares about his clients, employees, and horses. He treats them with equal respect, cares for their well-being, and ensures that his students have a positive experience during their lessons. For example, if you’re having a bad moment, Charlie focuses on one thing you can accomplish, leaving you eager to come back for more.

Improvement factor: I’m not sure I’m up for a world show run, but I do feel that I learned a lot by riding with Charlie. I’d obviously need a lot more practice to get proficient at riding a horse like Diva. I definitely gained added respect for the finesse required for this level of Western riding. And since I’m a big believer in riding multiple disciplines on a variety of horses, the better to improve overall, riding Diva was great for my education.

High point (for me): While we didn’t end up shooting this (our photographer was packing up), Charlie told me to try a flying lead change on Diva–just for fun. At first I said, “Yeah, right!” Well, I mustered the gusto to try it, and W-O-W! I’ve never been on a horse that literally changes leads on a dime. All I can say.awesome!