September 14, 2012 11:48
Neil McLeod has been riding continuously since he was 6 years old, but he says he could not have predicted where his love of horses and training them would eventually take him.
On a recent visit to Brandon, Manitoba I was delighted to tour Thunderbird Horse Center and learn more about the humble beginnings of this family-owned and operated business. McLeod sees his own curiosity and desire to learn as two of the qualities that resulted in what is now one of Canada’s largest training and AQHA breeding facilities. Owners from across North America come to buy some of the best AQHA horses or send their horses here for Neil’s brand of performance training. Thunderbird bred and trained horses consistently win in Roping, Working Cow Horse, AQHA Versatility, Reining and Ranch Horse Competitions across the country.
Thunderbird Horse Center is home to approximately 100 AQHA horses that have been produced through a 30 year, six generation breeding program. During my visit, I also saw beautifully-maintained facilities. Most striking is the unique “No Boundaries” Equine Challenge course, a layout of 15 obstacles designed to measure horsemanship abilities in a controlled environment. Neil obligingly demonstrated the skills in hand of his own equine athlete Pompasas, who appeared to enjoy climbing up and posing on the pedestals as much as we enjoyed watching him. This course is the site of the exciting No Boundaries Equine Challenge, a sponsored event organized annually by Thunderbird Horse Center.
Neil and his partner Kathy exhibit all the strengths of successful business people, particularly a down-to-earth sense of ethics.
“We aim to treat all customers and clients fairly and honestly,” McLeod says. “Our mission is to create the very best horses we can with the time and resources we have available.”
Days at Thunderbird are filled with the maintenance of horses, completing registrations, office administration, special events, training and lessons. Neil does a lot of ground work with each horse and operates from the premise of understanding what a horse is thinking and feeling. The McLeods see their biggest challenge as “how to get 20 hours out of a 10 hour day.” Organization and building a great team helps to overcome this challenge. Their advice to anyone wanting to start a breeding/training program includes the recognition that it is never about the money. It is about beating the odds with the desire to see a vision become reality.
“Never quit learning,” Neil suggests, “in all walks of life. When horsemanship is good, it will never let you down.”
Patience, hard work and never losing sight of the dream has paid off for the McLeods. Their future plan is a simple one – to make Thunderbird Horse Center the best it can be. Looks like that may have been already achieved!
Thunderbird Horse Center was established in 1977 and has grown to one of Canada’s foremost producers of quality performance bred AQHA horses. We have something for everyone from prospects to well-broke show ready horse and we also offer lessons, boarding and training. Visit us in-person or at http://www.thunderbirdhorses.com/cms/
Carol Upton (604) 886-8951
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