Friday, May 20, 2016

World Champion Jeffrey Pait

Quarter Horse Trainer in Aiken

Story and Photography By Pam Gleason

Ask Jeffrey Pait, a World Champion Quarter Horse trainer, about his life and career, and he will give all the credit to the horses.

“We’ve been very blessed,” he says. “The horses have been really, really good to us; they have given us our whole lives. And I have been fortunate enough to grow up in the horse business, and to work in it, and to raise a family and make a living.”

Jeffrey and his wife Bronwyn relocated to Aiken in January 2013. At the same time, Jeffrey, who had been a private trainer for a farm in Sparta, N.J. for 26 years, started his own business, Pait Show Horses. Jeffrey grew up in North Carolina, and had always wanted to return to the South. As Bronwyn explains it, the couple has friends in the Quarter Horse business, Patty and Dale Frick, who had bought a 40-acre horse farm in Aiken, but weren’t using it.
“Patty and Dale sat down with us at the [Quarter Horse] Congress, and they said, ‘I want you to come look at our place.’ And so we did.”

The Pait’s daughter, Abigail, was already in South Carolina, where she was a student at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, and a rising star on the school’s equestrian team.

“We came down one Saturday morning, spent the day here, went into town Saturday night, got back up the next morning and went back into town,” continues Jeffrey. “Abigail came too, and we drove around, and there wasn’t even a decision. We had made up our minds before we got back to the airport the next day.”

“It all just fell into place perfectly,” says Bronwyn, who is a New Jersey native. They made their move soon afterwards, bringing along some of their own horses as well as a number of horses for their clients. The move was a good one in every way. The business is thriving, and the Paits and their clients have been enjoying everything that Aiken has to offer. “We love it here,” says Bronwyn.

Carrying on a Family Tradition

Jeffrey Pait was raised in Bladenboro, NC with Quarter Horses in his blood. His father, Eldon, was an American Quarter Horse Association judge who conditioned several champions and instilled a love of horses in Jeffrey, as well as in his two younger brothers, Jamie and E.H. The whole family grew up riding, training, showing and caring for Quarter Horses. All three brothers stuck with it, each becoming not just a professional AQHA trainer, but also a World Champion.

“They say we’re the only three brothers in the Quarter Horse business that all showed at the same time and were all World Champions at the same time,” says Jeffrey. While the younger brothers train and show in the Pleasure division, Jeffrey is dedicated to halter horses. He breeds them, trains them, shows them and judges them. In fact, his judging services are so sought after that he has officiated at shows all over the United States as well as overseas – in England, Germany, Italy, Australia, Mexico – anywhere that Quarter Horses are popular.

According to “Judging Halter: A Standard of Reference for AQHA Judges” the purpose of the halter class is to “preserve American Quarter Horse type by selecting individuals in the order of their resemblance to the breed ideal and that are the most positive combination of balance, structural correctness, breed and sex characteristics, and muscling.” Correct conformation is the main factor in making a champion, and most top halter horses do not compete in any other discipline, and may not even be broken to ride. They need to be trained and conditioned as well as expertly groomed and prepared. A careful exercise program ensures that they are fit and trim in the halter ring, and also that they will feel good about themselves and have the presence and charisma that can only come from a healthy, happy horse.

The Pait method is founded on keeping horses in the best possible mental and physical condition. “We start by getting them healthy. We worm them, vaccinate them, get them on a consistent feeding program and exercise them on a regular basis,” says Jeffrey. Since the horses are generally not ridden, exercise usually comes in the form of ponying them either from another horse or from a gator. “We do a lot of jogging, a little loping,” continues Jeffrey. “One thing we do with our halter horses that a lot of other people won’t do is we turn them out a lot. We think they need to go outside and be horses. It’s important to let them have some free time to do their own thing.”

Every show horse in the Pait stable has his or her own individual feeding, training and care regimen – there is no “one size fits all” here. “Each horse is different,” says Jeffrey. “I like to do my own feeding and I feed grain three times a day. I like to look at them myself every day and let the animal tell me what they need. Certain horses respond better to oats, or to senior feed. Sometimes they need a little more exercise; sometimes they need a little less. If you listen to them, most of the time, they will tell you what they need.”

In addition to conditioning, halter horses also need to learn how to perform and show themselves off in the ring. This means that they must learn to stand squarely on all four feet, to hold their heads in a position that shows off their necks to the best advantage, and to present themselves proudly to a judge. Although in the end, the class is about conformation, showmanship can make a big difference.

“It’s just like with people,” says Jeffrey. “Some horses have a natural ability, just like some people were born to walk down a runway, and others weren’t. The ones that weren’t, you have to enhance a lot. There are certain little techniques you can use to get them to prick up their ears and position their heads correctly, maybe to stretch a little more, or to break at the poll. It all depends on the horse. Presentation can be a big part of it. You need to look like you are out there to win.”

What does Jeffrey look for in a horse? Balance is always the number one consideration. He also stresses that horses must look fit and trim and as though they can do something. In the past, the halter division was sometimes criticized for rewarding horses that were overly muscled, or too fat. Today’s halter champions have a more agile look. “You always want them to look like an athlete. They don’t need to look like beef cattle.”

Rewards of the Business

Jeffrey enjoys showing horses, and he has 11World Championships to his name. In 2015, he had the highest number of points of any professional showing in the halter division, and was invited to join Team Wrangler, a partnership between Wrangler, the clothing company, and the AQHA created to promote educational outreach in the Quarter Horse world. As part of Team Wrangler, he will travel around the country giving various talks and clinics to promote Quarter Horses and the halter discipline. In addition, he currently sits on the board of directors of the South Carolina Quarter Horse Association.

Although he is quite competitive himself, he says he gets his biggest satisfaction from seeing young horses under his care grow up and go on to great things, as well as from watching his clients succeed in the amateur divisions.
“I really enjoy bringing the young horses along, watching them mature and seeing what they turn into once we have enhanced them and trained them to stand and show,” he says. “I like to see the customers win, or do really good with a horse they have raised themselves from a baby. To me, that is the most rewarding thing. Give me enough money and I can go out and buy the best horse, but to raise a foal and have it turn into something, that is a lot harder to do.”

Today, the Pait stable includes three new foals with bright futures, as well as a couple of retired horses and a strong contingent of promising and successful show horses of all ages. These horses are owned by clients from across the United States – from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas and Arizona as well as North and South Carolina. The clients come to Aiken on a regular basis to visit their horses, practice their handling techniques and to take their horses to the shows.

And they have found success, winning World Championships and Select World Championships in several different divisions. “Our little group has done well,” Jeffrey says. “We’re really tickled with all of them.” The highlight of the year was when Jeffrey’s client Ina Ginsberg showed Hez packing Heat to the World Championship title for 3-year-old geldings at the 2015 Adequan Select AQHA World Championship show on September 3 in Amarillo, Tx. Ina, who is 80 years old and a cancer survivor, has been showing Quarter Horses in hand for decades and had been Reserve World Champion seven times. She lives in Carefree, Arizona with her husband Arnie and has been training with the Paits for three years. This was her first World Championship title.

“Her winning was really nice for her,” says Jeffrey. “She really loves horses, and she loves showing. And to see someone that age, who has been reserve seven times, do that good, it was a really big deal for all of us.”

And what does the future hold for the Paits? They would like to keep showing and doing well for their clients and their horses. They are also eager to promote Quarter Horses in Aiken and surrounding areas. One way they are already doing that is by showing Aiken to their existing clients, who have a universal love for the Paits’ new home town -- this is already beginning to put Aiken on the Quarter Horse map. They also hope to encourage more showing and more involvement with the Quarter Horse Association in this area.

“There aren’t many halter horses here, but there are cutting horses and reining horses and barrel horses, and we have met more and more people who have Quarter Horses. We’d like to grow it a little more,” says Jeffrey.

“The more horse people we have here, the better for all of us,” adds Bronwyn, who was very involved with the AQHA when they lived in New Jersey.

As far as their own business plans, the Paits want to stay small so that they can continue to give each horse and each client individual attention, helping horses to fulfill their potential and clients to achieve their goals. And like any passionate horseman, Jeffrey is always on the lookout for the next great horse.

“When you look at one and he hits you, you know right then,” he says. “If I’ve got to really, really look at a horse and figure out what I like about it, I know I need to keep looking. I see a lot of nice horses, but great horses . . . You know when you see them and you get that feeling – I’ve only had it five or six times – they hit you, boom, and you know it. You need to get this one, no matter what.”

-Three Runs Plantation Equestrian Blog. Re-published article from The Aiken Horse.
This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.