by Doug Toburen
Growing up on his family's north central Kansas ranch, life for Shane Cole wasn’t much different than it was for other country kids. There were chores to do, cattle to tend and fences to mend.
Shane quickly learned, however, that the more he could do horseback, the happier he was.
“As soon as I was old enough I was competing in 4-H and saddle club shows,” he explains.
Horses weren’t just for showing on the family ranch, they were also for work. For Cole, though, horses turned work into pleasure and as he grew up he continued to make them part of his world.
“I got involved with the Foundation Quarter Horse Registry and later served as president of the Mid-West Foundation Quarter Horse Association,” he says.
Cole found himself getting more involved in various associations when his own children were old enough to share his love of horses.
“These associations were very family friendly,” he explains.
For five years Cole and his family took part in as many events as they could which included national shows.
“We competed in everything we could—cutting, speed events and halter,” he says.
Throughout his early years with horses and later when his own children were involved, Cole used the knowledge he’d gained at home on the ranch to train his own competition horses.
But he found he always needed to be challenged and he wanted to try new things.
After moving to southwest Missouri, the opportunity arrived to help a family involved with Friesian horses and he jumped at the opportunity.
“I didn’t know anything about the English discipline so I started taking lessons,” he says.
The more he learned the more he enjoyed it. And, once a horseman, always a horseman—regardless of the discipline.
As he became more versed in English riding, Gene and Lisa Schoonmaker from Rogersville, Mo., approached Cole and inquired about him working as a trainer for their Rancho Costa Mucho.
“Gene and Lisa wanted to get into horses and we just hit it off from the beginning,” he explains.
As they got to know each other better they came up with a program that centered around their appendix Quarter Horse mare, Joy.
The guidelines of the program would once again require Cole to learn more and that was just the challenge he was looking for. Additionally, they set a goal of breeding and training hunter/jumper horses, primarily using appendix Quarter Horses.
“I started learning more about the English discipline and hunter under saddle as well as jumping,” Cole explains.
The transition from Western classes to English was an easy one for Cole for one reason.
“English riders allow their horses to be more natural,” he says. “We don’t push young horses to do more than they are physically capable of doing.”
This sort of mindset between horse and rider clicked for Cole who has been involved with competing, showing and training horses for over 30 years.
“I think one of the biggest differences I’ve found with riding English is that the more I connect with the horse the more it will do for me,” he explains. “We don’t break their will, we find their natural talent.”
Essentially, Cole feels he has entered into a venture that brings together the best of both worlds .
“A lot of the horses used in the English discipline are Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods. The good thing about Quarter Horses is that they are real strong and very sensible,” he says.
Cole jokes that it is quite a change to go from wearing jeans in competition to wearing tights, but all joking aside, he feels the English discipline has not only let him connect more with the horses he is training, he has become a better rider as well.
In addition to riding and training horses Cole has been very active in the Southern Missouri Hunter Jumper Association.
“We really want to try to get more people involved in this and show them the difference in riding disciplines,” he explains.
For Cole, it’s the challenges that make life interesting and swapping chaps for English riding breeches has made this cowboy not only happy, it’s made him a better horseman.