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Ozark Mountain Horses brings riding classes to the Twin Lakes area

While dogs might hold the top spot as man’s best friend, horses come in at a close second.

These majestic animals have been with mankind through thick and thin. They’ve helped us conquer the Wild West and win wars.

For hundreds of years, they’ve helped us pull our plows and keep our bellies full. In modern times, horses still drive the cattle and animals we need to keep society going.

Yet, our relationship and bond with these gentle creatures have changed over the years. Gone are the days when horseback riding was a common skill that everyone learned, forever replaced by the vehicles that sit in our driveway.

And while some people still feel called to learn to ride in the hopes of forging a bond with the very animals that have kept us going for so long, the process of learning can be expensive and difficult.

Thankfully, trainers like Aspen Masters of Ozark Mountain Horses are here to help.

“There’s something about the bond shared between an animal of that size and you,” said Aspen Masters, owner of Ozark Mountain Horses. “For most good-minded horses that have had the right training, they want to please you as much as you want to please them. And ultimately, that partnership of training an animal to trust you and do what you want is just awesome to me.”

Born and raised in Enid, Oklahoma, Masters spent much of her early years riding horses thanks to the support of her grandmother, who taught her much of what she knows today.

And while her parents thought that riding was a simple phase for Masters while growing up, the opportunity provided to her by her grandmother would stick with her for the rest of her life.

“It’s something I’ve never really gotten rid of,” Masters said. “My parents thought it was a phase because every little girl wants to ride a horse, right? Every little girl wants a pony, and it’s just something that I never really outgrew. It’s something I just dove into headfirst, and it’s been that way ever since.”

As an adult,  she began to pick up an interest in training horses on how to be ridden, leading her to move away from her career in the medical industry in favor of focusing on her passion.

Throughout her life, Masters has owned around 10 horses and currently owns three on her small farm outside of Norfork.

“I’ve been riding since I was nine years old,” Masters said. “My grandma taught me how to ride, and then I started training my own horses about five or six years ago, and I’ve been doing that ever since.”

In May of 2021, Masters and her husband, Dillon Masters, moved their family to a small farm outside of Norfork for Dillon’s job at Entergy.

Nestled in the rolling hills and mountains outside of Norfork, Masters’s small farm offers students a quiet and serene location to learn horseback riding.

While small, the farm will feature a full barn and stables, along with a proper arena for horses and their partners to practice in after construction is completed on the property. For now, Masters gets by with using her smaller stable area and fenced-in field for her horses. Classes are held at a makeshift arena in the flat field in front of her home.

“After we moved here and I got my kids enrolled in school, I became known to a few people,” Masters said. “They were constantly asking if I would give riding lessons, and I was like, I don’t really do that right now. I don’t have any insurance, and I had to discuss it with my husband and make sure if that’s OK with him. And so, we just decided to go ahead and go for it.”

With her decision in hand, Masters set up Ozark Mountain Horses and began focusing on transitioning from just training horses on how to be ridden to training clients on how to ride those horses as well.

Masters offers training to both children and adults and has horses that can fit all ages. Penny, the first of Masters horses, is suitable for younger riders and children, while Deputy, her largest horse, is suitable for adults and larger teenagers. She also has Whiskey, who is available to lessons with intermediate riders.

Masters teaches a western style of riding but may delve into English riding as her business continues to grow. Masters said she has never been bucked off a horse.

“My principal is to teach kids the basics of riding,” Masters said. “How to build your confidence. How a horse thinks, the philosophy behind the horse. How people interact with horses and how to do it safely.”

While Masters has taken on the role of teacher herself, she still acknowledges that she has more to learn as an instructor. She said she plans on attending Clinton Anderson’s Clinician Academy in the hopes of becoming a method ambassador for the school.

Clinton Anderson is a world-famous Australian rider, a three-time National Cutting Horse Association Futurity Champion, and a five-time National Reining Horse Association Futurity Champion. He is also the creator of the popular Downunder Horsemanship Method, which has been featured on Fox Sports Net to the tune of 80 million viewers.

Anderson moved to the U.S. permanently in 2001 and is currently teaching from his ranch in Farmville, Arkansas.

“It’s like when a lawyer goes to college and gets a degree,” Masters said. “So, I’m going to a world-renowned trainer to get my degree to train with his method. And that schooling is expensive, and it takes about seven weeks to do.”

For more information on Ozark Mountain Horses or to schedule a class, please contact (580) 478-2841.

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