It’s not every day you see someone stand on the bare back of a horse.
It seems like an act that should invite a prompt buck and tumble to the ground. Alexandria Warnock doesn’t worry about that possibility.
When she stands on the back of a stallion, he remains docile and still. Add two mares looking on, and you have something of a horse miracle.
“A lot of stud horses are like the dude hollering at you on the corner,” Warnock says. According to Judy Barton, owner of Random Creek Ranch in Seaside where Warnock trains, riding a stallion past mares is usually tricky, if not impossible. It can be very difficult to hold a stud horse’s attention when ladies are nearby. But King, Warnock’s Tennessee Walker, pays attention only to her.
Warnock has been training horses for 15 of her 30 years, but she’s loved them all her life. “My parents had a couple of Appaloosas when I was born,” she says. “I always had wanted a horse, so every year for Christmas, that’s all I asked for.” Finally, when she was in the fourth grade, her parents bought her a horse of her own.
Although she started training when she was 15, she says she broke a yearling when she was 12. “He was a horse we had, so I crawled on top of him. I guess I broke him,” she laughs. Warnock is modest about her talents, but her intuitive way with horses has garnered quite a bit of attention.
“She’s been asked to enter into the Mustang Extreme Challenge, which is held in Texas every year,” Barton says. “You have 100 days to totally tame a wild mustang that’s never been touched, just brought in from the wild.” Warnock will meet her mustang this April. After 100 days, she and the other contestants will travel to Fort Worth, Texas, to perform with their tamed partners.
Warnock has no formal training; her method is completely intuitive. Although she wouldn’t call it horse whispering, essentially, she speaks equine.
“The horse will tell you what it’s good at,” she says. “They like certain things, like people do.” She’s been studying internationally renowned horse clinician Clinton Anderson’s videos and plans to eventually train with him. Founder of Downunder Horsemanship, Anderson advocates a natural approach when working with horses. “You treat the horse like the horse would treat another horse,” Warnock says.
Her methods engender a great deal of trust and affection in the animals she trains. Horses love her. When she stands near the gate of the barn, two mares come over and start vying for her attention, just like children would.
Warnock stands out as a trainer because “she’s able to read every horse for exactly what they need, and she trains individually,” Barnes says. “I swear she can ride anything.” Although most trainers are breed-specific, Warnock works with a wide variety of horses. She currently has a quarter horse, a Thoroughbred, a Tennessee Walker and a Friesian in training. Since breeds vary widely in temperament and learning dispositions, this is no small feat.
When she rides, Warnock forgoes a saddle and uses just a simple halter to guide her horses. “They tell me I got Velcro on my butt,” she laughs. For her, riding is “like dancing. If your partner’s not doing the right thing with you, it’s going to end up a mess.”
In addition to her training gifts, she’s also a licensed farrier. “She apprenticed under one of the best farriers in Portland,” Barnes says. “As far as I’m concerned, I think she’s probably the best farrier we have in the area.” Being a farrier involves more than just nailing on horseshoes. The trade requires extensive knowledge of horse anatomy and gait. Having a farrier and trainer all in one is useful. Many training sessions come to a halt when horses develop problems with their gaits. Most trainers have to wait for a farrier to arrive before work can continue. Warnock can fix the problem and keep going.
“I learn something every day from her,” Barnes says, “and I’ve been riding since I was 8 years old. You never stop learning if you’re really a horseman.”