Linda Brown’s Story

My love of horses started around the age of three or four. That was a long time ago! We had friends who would invite us to ride at their farm, and my younger sister, Marcia, and I would enjoy many hours doing so. We would go home and pretend to be horses, so our Dad would build us little fences to jump and Mom had to put up with us stealing straw from the chicken house. I guess Dad decided that it was getting embarrassing to have us “pretending to be horses,” so we moved to an acreage on the edge of North Platte, Nebraska, and our parents bought us real horses.

We spent the rest of our childhood riding those horses in our daily “trail” rides, which would sometimes take us miles away, into the city streets and out into the sandhills. Those days were very different than today. I get nervous allowing my riders to go out of sight at the training barn. Back then, there were 4-H club shows and rodeos where we participated in barrel racing, pole bending, keyhole races, many parades and other activities with horses. We actually would race the trains down the side road, until the engineer would honk his big horn at us and we all fell off our horses. Terribly crazy kids, but we could ride!!!!

After competing in the Nebraskaland Days Rodeo Queen contest and coming in 4th out of 10 contestants, I realized that I didn’t ride as “pretty” as some of the girls who beat me in the horsemanship competition. I didn’t have a trainer, only my Mom, Marge, who was an excellent horsewoman; however, she didn’t know the finer points of horsemanship. As I got older, and moved to Omaha in the early 1980’s, I decided to take up riding lessons so that I could ride with better style. I had never seen an English saddle, except on TV, but decided to try that discipline of riding. It was a very big change to go from total neck reining to having to learn to hold my hands still on each side of the horse’s neck. But I was determined to learn, and it wasn’t long before I had reached the top of what the trainers in the area could teach me.

I began dressage lessons in Lincoln, NE with Felice Rose after seeing her ride in a demonstration at a horse fair clinic. She was so steady and still, you couldn’t see her hands move and her horse seemed so willing and happy to do his job. Then came in a couple more riders and they rode Pas de Deux and by three. It was so beautiful!!!! I came home and contacted Felice about lessons. It took her six months to agree to take me, as she knew I was an instructor by then. I eventually convinced her that I was such a beginner and I was definitely not at her level and could learn a lot from her. That was some of the best instruction I could have ever asked for, although she was so tough and made me cry sometimes. It was just my frustration, as I wanted to learn everything immediately and I found out that quality takes time!!! I learned some valuable skills from her. I will be forever grateful to Felice.

Moving on into honing my skills in other disciplines, I had training with saddleseat and driving trainer, Dick Wallen, an amazing horseman and trainer, from Sioux City, Iowa. Show Hack and more saddleseat work came with Shannon Beethe and halter showing from her dad, Larry Beethe, when they lived in Kansas. I enjoyed a couple of lessons with Lori Ross, who is one of the best judges and instructors for equitation in the country. And in the midst of all the specialized training, I pursued my passion for gentle training and found Pat and Linda Parelli and the Natural Horsemanship Training.

Their work with horses, learning everything that I could possibly take in, changed my life with horses. I continue still today pursuing that manner, responsibility and dedication to the horses’ well being. It is the greatest!!!   I went on to train with several other trainers and eventually wound up doing a lesson with an Olympic Grand Prix rider from Ireland who was in the US on business. It was a thrill to be able to teach her some western riding! She said she would come back some day and have me work with her again, and to learn to barrel race, too. Oh boy!

Passing on my education in horsemanship has become my life work. I love to train riders of all ages in natural horsemanship skills, to develop them to be the best horse handlers they can possibly be, as they learn the show skills of western, hunt seat, saddleseat, dressage and some specialties such as halter and showmanship, show hack, costume and trail competition. It is such a pleasure to see my riders excel in show competition and be some of the best horse handlers in the country. Some have ridden with me for more than 20+ years and have grown up, gone on to college, married, and yet come back to ride with me when they are in the area. They have become college riding team top riders, horse trainers, horse camp counselors, and wonderful horse owners. Through their training with me, they have learned the value of respecting the horse and allowing the horse to learn to trust the rider in any situation. The riders have learned, like I did, that quality training takes time, and they learn many life skills such as lots of patience, persistence, striving for perfection, timing, courtesy to others and the horse, time management, emotional control, physical coordination and strength training (how much to use or not use), memory skills, goal planning and achievement, compassion and to follow instructions in detail. I learn along with the riders. It is an every day learning process but, I love it.

Photo of Sylvia Rogan and CP Merritt winning regional in Denver, CO

The first time one of my riders won a national championship, (Sylvia Rogan and CP Merritt), I, seriously, nearly fell to my knees in shock and gratitude. What God has taught me about persevering, even in the midst of doubters, has taken us to heights higher than I ever imagined. I am so grateful to my husband, Rob, for helping me in this business and for being my partner; my daughter, Samone, who is dedicated to our mission and has been a valuable part of our team and trains the show horses; my son, Chris, for all his encouragement and love, and to the wonderful students and clients that I have had the privilege of knowing and working with over these past 30 years of business. You have made my life very full of joy!

We have an outstanding staff of trainers and assistants that we are blessed to have among our Prairie Gem Family. Bill O’Malley has been with us for over 25 years and we couldn’t ask for a more dedicated and loyal trainer for our horses. He has made our lives so much easier and successful. Bill has started and developed hundreds of horses for us , as well as developing horses for our clients.

We love you, Cowboy Bill!!!!

And now to mention all the wonderful, beautiful horses that have been in my life. My first horse, was Prince, an unbroken Welsh pony, that bucked everyone off. Then came “Jim Beam” a retired race horse, that my dad thought would make a great barrel racer. “Buck” was a beautiful buckskin, that was a good parade horse and fairly decent competitor. “Gus” whom I leased for competitions. After my time away from horses, college and starting a family, “Jaguars SugarStar” became my first “lesson” horse, buying her as a yearling and thinking that I could “train” her. Well, she trained me, and sent me to the Parelli training, out of need. I then bought “Kelsey,” my first school horse, who one year later, died of colic after a huge attempt to save her.

My world changed as I was directed to have a heart for the Arabian Horses. Their beauty, affection, and intelligence was amazing and I decided that “Cracker Jack Gem” (CJ) and I were destined to be forever friends. “Misti Gem Lady” who came from Felice Rose’s barn, has been the “main lady of our barn” and has been a steady school horse to many beginners, and has produced two gorgeous babies for us. “CeCe,” who has been such a blessing and taught so many riders how to guide a horse and make them move when they don’t want to go. “Cheyenne” and “Shaask” have become a favorite to many riders, as well as “Heart,” “Sunny,” “Elle,” “Jags,” Dande” and “Gemmi.” Not to forget, because they are so special, “Buddy” and “Tonga,” both national champions, who became two of the best school horses and are now retired at ages 31 and 32 (and still going strong). “Born To Booggie” entered my life as one of the finest show horses, teaching me how to be light in my hands, and ride with perfection in transitions and gaits. He has been such a joy to me and many riders, teaching them the finesse of Show Hack. “Azzon,” “Kreweket,” “Hugs” and “Dakota” were all so special but we allowed them to be someone else’s partner.

“Momentum NA,” is the most beautiful, black Arabian stallion and the horse of my childhood dreams. He came into our lives as a four-year old that was just beginning his career as a famous show horse and breeding stallion. We began a partnership with several other owners, and Momentum went into training and became a reserve national champion in western pleasure. That is a really big deal in the horse world, and he has continued to build his name as a sire of champions. By him we have received several wonderful foals. They include: “Momentums Gold Gem,” “Redemption Gem,” “Sugar Moment Gem,” “Mister Mo,” “Maggiemoselle,” “Molena” and “Momentums Whisper Gem,” “Firefly Moment Gem”, “Moketa Gem”. Having a wonderful stallion like Momentum has been another thrill of a lifetime.

As the years go by, I continue to expand my skills, increase my knowledge and surround myself with great horse people. I have met so many terrific people in this Arabian horse business and consider it all joy (most of the time) even when I have encountered the many challenges that have been presented. I look forward to the future of where God leads me, and to helping more riders enjoy the amazing world of horses.

Thanks for reading my story.  (Stay tuned for the next chapter, which came about in 2022)