Faith, family, and hard work are the backbone of Jeff Cook’s business and philosophy. He has a passion for horses and for helping others. Whether that be clients, fellow trainers, or American veterans, Jeff lives to learn and teach. By passing on his knowledge and time, he’s made a big impact on a lot of lives. Which is something that resonates deeply with me because it is the basis of what I’m trying to accomplish here at The Narrow Trail. It’s one of the many reasons I love these monthly interviews. I enjoy being able to share other people’s stories and learn from them as well.
Jeff Cook is owner and trainer at Dream Horse AZ near Toucson, Arizona. He is the champion of the 2021 Oklahoma Extreme Mustang Makeover. He is an approved BLM TIP trainer, a lifelong horseman, and he also bears the titles husband, father, and grandpa. I am so pleased to have him on the blog. I hope that this interview sparks a small fire inside you to share your knowledge and gifts with the world, just like Jeff has.
Can you give a brief history of your background with horses?
I grew up with horses. I got my first horse at about 9 years old. I showed her in 4- h. When I was pretty young, I got a job at a training stable in Colorado and worked with a really talented trainer at the time. My family had a Dude Ranch in Colorado and I worked for them for a while, buying and training horses for them and still going out on the road and showing paint horses and quarter horses. I started training the Mustangs that came to us through the prison program in Colorado and really got hooked on the idea of training mustangs. I went to a Mustang makeover here in Arizona and I was sold on mustangs from that moment on.
You have a program where you pair American Mustangs with American veterans. How does working with horses and learning their body language help with ptsd?
The horses teach the veterans how to live in the moment. They also teach them that what you have done is not who you are. You can survive traumatic experiences and not have to stay in that trauma.
Does faith play a role in your horsemanship? How so?
My faith in God helps me to try to understand people and horses and to put myself in their shoes. Living with empathy is a great gift. God teaches us forgiveness, and that is really the lifeblood of working with horses.
You pride yourself and your business on educating people about natural horsemanship and respecting the horse. What is the most common thing people struggle with when training horses and how do you go about helping them?
I try to get people to stop anthropomorphising and think more like a horse. Horses don’t have complex thought processes. They tend to react first and we want to teach them to think through problems.
You obviously have a love for the wild mustang. When you started working with wild horses, in what ways did it challenge you as a trainer that working with other horses didn’t?
Working with wild horses is challenging in that you have to really earn their trust. They don’t start off wanting to work with you. Everything about their new environment and their new training regimen is foreign to them and a threat. Wild Horses really cause you to take a look at yourself and what you’re bringing to the situation.
What advice do you have for an aspiring Young trainer?
Keep trying. Sometimes it’s very very hard work and you’re going to get beat up, you’re going to get dirty, and you’re going to be tired. If you stay with it long enough, There will be a horse that comes along that will make you. People will associate you with that great horse. Learn from each horse you work with. They all have something to teach us.
What is your lifelong goal personal or otherwise?
My lifelong goal is to be the horse’s advocate. People have lots of voices to speak for them but there are very few people speaking out for horses’ needs.
If you could give only one piece of advice regarding horsemanship, what would it be?
Make good behavior easy and bad behavior difficult.
One of the greatest gifts we can share is our wisdom. You seem to be really passionate about sharing your horsemanship knowledge. Is that something that is really important to you?
I think when God gives us a gift, we should share it. It’s not about holding back to get ahead, it’s about helping more people climb that ladder to success. I would love my legacy to be that I was always available when people needed help.
What is the most important lesson that horses have taught you?
Live in the moment. You never know how many moments you have.
A huge thank you to Jeff for agreeing to this interview. If you’d like to learn more about Jeff or follow along with him, then please use the links listed below.
You can also give a donation to his mustang program or veteran program. It’s a great way to give back. Follow the links to donate.
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