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Utah’s horse world; horse training in the greater Salt Lake area

Have you been enjoying your horse out on the trails this summer but think he’d benefit from a few sessions of professional training? Possibly you’d like to try out a new discipline, jumping, dressage, eventing, barrel racing or reining, for example?

Interested in jumping or eventing? Visit Gemini Farm, the 3 Peas in a Pony team at Northfield stables, or Denise Tilley
courtesy of Arielle and Sheik
Gemini Farms in Rush Valley is THE place for eventers
photo by Sarah Robertson, 2013 with the Smyrls and Sarah Ellington

We’re lucky to have a terrific assortment of quality horse trainers and riding instructors across the Wasatch front and nearby counties.

First of all, you’ll want to determine which discipline you’re most interested in, and which direction it seems your horse is best suited for. You'll never have a happy and truly cooperative horse if you try pushing them into something they obviously have no talent or appreciation for! While it’s true that there’s a certain degree of sameness in most foundational training, you’re better off to select a trainer who specializes in the type of riding that most appeals to you. This allows your horse to learn correctly and lessens the possibility that you’ll confuse him with variations in technique and different tack.

Here are a few of the most popular riding options and information about some of the favorite local trainers best suited to help build your skills in those disciplines;

Reining, Roping, Barrel Racing

Joe Ruiz, located on 1300 West in Taylorsville, Utah. An IRHA hall of fame cowboy, respected trainer, judge and nationally successful competitor in NRHA and NRCHA competition, Joe is a true cowboy with timeless skills. Specializing in training for reining and working cow horse events, Joe is also much sought after amongst barrel racers and ropers. This down-to-earth horseman is an expert riding instructor, too. Take a look at Joe’s website to learn more or call him to set up an appointment for riding lessons, or to learn more about those rare openings in his training schedule. 801.502.0313.

Barrel Racing, All-Around Western

Located down in Nephi (well worth the trek south of SLC), Chance Kendall's operation (CK Performance Horses) is top-notch; with a light hand, exceptionally balanced seat and optimum consideration for the horse, Chance turns out impressive equine athletes without compromising their mental or emotional balance in any way. With a background in 4H and traditional equitation, he is a well-rounded rider that will put a quality foundation on any horse, for most any discipline. If you get the opportunity to watch this talented equestrian race, take note of the impressively kind manner in which he treats his barrel horses; never any excessive or gratuitous kicking, always a rewarding pat for a job well done. You can connect with Chance via Facebook to learn more about openings in his busy training schedule.

Trail and Endurance Riding

Cliff Tipton of Flying T Acres in Erda, UT is our area’s go-to guy when it comes to preparing a horse for the trail or readying one for the rigors of endurance riding. Cliff’s vibrant wife, successful endurance rider Janet Tipton, is a shining example of his proven training style, regularly taking race titles on one of the horses trained from the ground up at Flying T Acres. An expert at gentling wild mustangs, Tipton uses a considerate and natural approach that translates into confidence and trust with the horse. Creating a steady and reliable mount is of paramount importance to many riders; Tipton’s methods have delivered quality results time and again. Check out the Flying T Acres’ website for contact information.


West of Salt Lake, Gemini Farm in Rush Valley is a premier eventing facility. Their spacious indoor arena offers pristine footing and ample room to safely jump a course or work on a dressage pattern (all sheltered from summer heat or winter snow to accommodate year-round riding). Owned and run by highly respected trainers and nationally accomplished eventers, Todd and Adrienne Smyrl, Gemini also features a huge outdoor jumping arena, a lovely dressage ring on the opposite corner of the expansive and peaceful property and, set on over 40 lush acres, they even have a cross country course and gently rolling perimeter riding trail. Working successfully with horses of all ages and breeds, they’re especially well known for putting an exceptional foundation on the young or green horse. Allowing a horse to train with the Smyrls for 30 – 90 days will give them a priceless start, and help any rider gain confidence in their equine’s athletic abilities. Look for additional details and contact information on the Gemini Farm website, or visit their Facebook page.

Kim Castro and her eventing team, 3 Peas in a Pony, are based out of Northfield Stables in Heber, Utah. With a playful teaching style that works well for riders of all ages, Kim is a terrific instructor with a unique ability to build both reliable skills and a positive riding philosophy into those she teaches. Their lovely facility east of Park City offers a pastoral setting and, with its mountainside locale, riders will find the lower summer temperature a welcome escape from the Salt Lake valley’s toasty heat. You’ll find regular updates about the Peas and their competitive accomplishments on their regularly updated Facebook page. Interested in training for your horse or riding lessons? Contact Kim Castro directly. 435.654.2134.


Looking for a trainer who’ll come to you and work on site with you and your horses? Salt Lake trainer/instructor and barefoot hoof practitioner Meisja Wagner (that’s pronounced Mee-sha) travels across the Wasatch front (from Sandy to Bountiful and stops in between) for training, rider education and hoof trim house calls. Her strong background in classical dressage and eventing has helped hone her terrific eye for detail. With an easygoing and considerate manner, she’s a terrific choice for riders looking to build, or rebuild, their confidence in the saddle as well as those seeking to refine a correct position on horseback. Call or text Meisja Wagner directly at 801.875.1713.

Jumping and Hunt Seat

Denise Tilley, working out of Rockin E Stables in West Bountiful as well as her own facility, Tilley Show Stables, in both Bountiful and Park City, Utah, is an accomplished competitor and riding instructor whose young students regularly take home ribbons in shows throughout the western states. Believing in a strong classical foundation that helps to create her riders’ reliable positions as they flow over jumps in the hunter ring or negotiate the swift, tight turns of show jumping, Denise turns out steady equestrians who artfully blend both style and athleticism. Look for their Facebook page to learn more or call 801.589.5895.

If you’re having fun with your horses and enjoying the ride, that’s great. But why not enhance your skills and improve your horses’ abilities by enlisting the help of a respected local trainer? Adding some expert education to your riding repertoire is always a great way to inject even more enjoyment into your horsemanship activities!

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