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Trainer Spotlight: Spirit of Texas Arabians

Spirit of Texas Arabians, specializes in training the Arabian and Half-Arabian horse. Located in Alvord, Texas and owned and operated by Hank and Selena Copeland, your horse will be trained for trail riding, trail obstacles and the basics of dressage. Through their individualized Combined Training Program, you have the opportunity to acquire all of the skills necessary to have your horse perform as well for you as he does for them. They encourage active participation by the owner in all aspects of the horse's training, so they can experience personal growth in their skills, knowledge and confidence. A good training program begins with good communication between the trainer/coach and rider. They want to understand your goals, past experiences, current skill level and get your feedback along the way.

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Your horse will learn to stand quietly in cross ties for clipping, tacking up, bathing and farrier work, as well as load, haul, unload and tie to the trailer. They strive to have all of their training horses comfortable and confident on the trail - crossing mud, creeks and bridges, and meeting bicycles, motorized vehicles and dogs. Through training in the company of experienced horses, horses gain confidence in leading, following and passing on the trail. Hank has taught several well-attended Spook Clinics for desensitization of trail horses. He was also the featured trainer in an article in the October 2007 issue of Horse Illustrated on opening gates from horseback. They strongly believe in cross training, i.e. their trail and endurance horses are trained in the basics of dressage, and horses being started for the show ring receive time on the trail. Correct arena work is invaluable for promoting balance and correct carriage necessary for long-term soundness in endurance competition as well as increasing responsiveness and confidence in the rider.

They teach horsemanship from the ground up, including nutrition, grooming, lunging, tacking up and caring for horses on overnight camping trips. You will learn simple, gentle methods for establishing yourself as a dominant, trusted leader in your equine partnership. Your confidence will increase as you gain a balanced, centered seat perfect for the trail, how to post on the correct diagonal and the proper cues for canter leads and lateral movements. You will also learn how to handle a refusal or major spook with confidence and do fun stuff like opening gates from horseback, crossing wooden bridges and creeks and jumping logs.

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As soon as you and your horse are ready, you can join them on their trail riding vacations. Everyone in the barn is invited, and they generally have from four to 12 people that join them on these long weekends. They even had one former client who drove all the way from Georgia to attend several of their Spirit of Texas Trail Rides. Two to three times a year they choose someplace scenic with great camping facilities and well-marked trails. They usually have a delicious pot-luck dinner one or both nights where everyone brings their favorite dish. They will either do all-day rides with a packed lunch or take two short rides with lunch and a break in camp, depending on what the group wants to do on that trip. They usually do one fall and one spring ride and look for some place cooler to ride in June. Some of the places they have been, or plan to go to, are the Ouachita Mountains in Oklahoma, Robbers Cave in Oklahoma, Cedar Lake in Oklahoma, the Ozarks in Arkansas, Pole Canyon and Caprock Canyon in Texas, and for the June trips they like to head for the higher elevations in the Pike National Forest in Colorado and the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests in New Mexico.


If you have never tried endurance, you may be hooked after your first ride. The Copelands no longer compete in endurance, but if you have your own truck and trailer and just need good advice on selecting the right horse, buying the right tack, outlining a proper conditioning program and a quality nutrition program, they can help you get started. Their endurance students learn how to pace and monitor their horses. The most important part of endurance competition is knowing how to read and listen to your horse, to know when he is tired, dehydrated, or just not feeling his best and how to manage and care for him during a competition. You need to acquire a good feel for your horse's gaits so that you can detect a minor lameness before it becomes serious and before you arrive at the vet check. If you think you might want to try the sport, but don't have a suitable horse, they can help you find the perfect horse.


The Copeland's have each worked with horses for over 30 years. Hank grew up on a cattle ranch in Alabama riding Morgan horses. In later years, his passion turned to Arabians and showing Country English Pleasure. After training and showing Country English Pleasure horses on the Class A circuit for 15 years, he focused on Endurance riding. Endurance offers the opportunity to not only compete in a timed event, but also to see miles and miles of beautiful scenery in their National and State Parks. Hank's career as an Army Officer, including two years combat experience commanding tactical reconnaissance teams, a national police strike force, and 10 years coaching children's sports has given him a strong base of skills to instill confidence in both his horses and his students to help them overcome their fears and become the best they can be. He also never loses sight of the fact that having fun, being safe and always learning are the cornerstones of his program. Hank also believes in building athletic horses that last - his first personal endurance horse, American Xpress was still winning 50-mile AERC competitions at the age of 18.

Hank's next personal horse, BA Bearcat started endurance by placing second and getting Best Conditioned (BC) on his first 25-mile ride and continuing to improve over time. Hank and Bear placed first and BC on the second day of Bear's first 50-mile per day, multi-day ride. After completing his first 75-mile ride with Hank, he was sold to Barry Waite of California. Bear has continued on to win his first two 100-mile rides and placed ninth at the 2009 Tevis Ride ridden by Jennifer Niece.

To learn more about Spirit of Texas Arabians visit their website at

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