Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Horse sense

PHOENIX-Doug Huls may maintain a hectic lifestyle, but he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Growing up near Boyden, Huls never dreamed he would become a professional horse trainer, but if his ambitions at 12 years old were any indicator of what was to come, he would have had his future outlined for sure.

In his preteens, Huls earned his money by mowing lawns and baling hay. Unlike most kids his age, Huls never spent his earnings. Rather, he saved them.

And when he turned 12, he had about enough to cover half the cost of an Appaloosa.

“I had to borrow half the money from my mom and pay her back later, but I bought a baby and kept it on my brother’s acreage near Boyden,” Huls said. “I just always wanted to do horses. I don’t know why.”

But, when Huls purchased his horse, he didn’t really know how to ride.

“At that point in time, my dad had some horses on the farm and would ride bareback, and my uncle had some Appaloosas, so between my dad and just getting on and figuring things out, that’s how I got started,” he said.

Horse magazines also were helpful when Huls was getting started.

“I think I read every horse magazine they made,” he said.

Through being involved in 4-H, Huls got started showing his Appaloosa in a couple of shows, but nothing really came of it.

“I was probably the worst kid out of everyone,” Huls said.

That soon changed.

Huls graduated from Boyden-Hull High School in Hull in 1983 and went on to Iowa State University in Ames.

But, after two years at ISU, Huls was ready for something different.

So, he and his former girlfriend went to Texas, where her brother lived.

“He knew where all of the big fancy ranches were, so we went to one, and I said I would basically work for food if they would give me a job, teaching me how to ride and show horses,” Huls said.

While he didn’t get that job, he met another ranch hand who decided to give him a shot.

“Rather than working with big, famous horses at the other ranch, I was breaking colts and riding them right then and there,” Huls said. “I knew very little, but I had an opportunity to ride a lot. I wasn’t just allocated to brushing and washing the horses, where you usually start out. I got to start out riding right there. It was a great opportunity for me.”

Only three months after he began working at the ranch, Huls competed in a show and won the second class he ever competed in.

“It just kind of took off from there,” he said. “I experienced a lot of luck along the way, but it all went pretty fast for me.”

Huls relocated in 1990 to Arizona, where he began working for various trainers, showing horses and coaching amateurs and youth riders.

Still residing in the Southwestern state, Huls and his wife, Stacy, own a training facility that accommodates 24 horses. The pair has coached riders and horses to wins at both the Congress and American Quarter Horse Association World Show in events such as horsemanship, western riding, trail, showmanship, hunter under saddle, hunt seat equitation, working hunter, reining, performance halter, pleasure driving and western pleasure.

Huls’ personal victories, which have taken him to destinations in Europe, Australia, Canada and all over the United States, have included top five finishes at the Congress in western riding, western pleasure and trail, top five finishes at the AQHA World Show in western riding, western pleasure and performance halter. Huls also has won an International Buckskin Horse Association World Championship title, multiple top five yearend AQHA High Points awards and judges for the AQHA and the National Snaffle Bit Association.

What’s more, Huls recently came out with a horse training DVD series.

But, none of that compares to what Huls enjoys the most about his job.

“I really enjoy the sense of accomplishment I feel when I get a really good horse and rider to work together,” he said. “It’s a challenge. Animals are not like race cars. They’re all a little bit different, and you really have to know how to deal with their minds, so when you get a really good horse/rider combination, it’s a really good feeling to know that they can compete in any event.”

Name: Doug Huls
Occupation: Professional horse trainer
Age: 44
Residence: Phoenix
Family: Wife, Stacy; two daughters, Cheney, 11, and Olivia, 5
Hobbies: Playing with Cheney and Olivia

Only a month ago, champion horse trainer Doug Huls debuted a series of DVDs: “The Fundamentals of the All Around Horse.”

Available at, the comprehensive four-part DVD series showcases Huls teaching viewers the basic elements or maneuvers needed to perfect at home to be competitive and win in tough all-around events. More than five hours of in-depth training segments are divided into sections.

Within the next 45 days, Huls hopes to release his second series of DVDs, which he said will focus specifically on trail, class and western riding, as well as elements that may be encountered at various horse shows.

This article appeared in the May 23, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

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