Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse News

March/April 2007

Farm of the Month


Echo Valley Stables

by: Mary Marshall

The partnership of rider Jonathan Fore and trainer Franklin Johnson is a winning combination based on positive work ethic, good old-fashioned horsemanship, and a stable of talented horses that graze in the
fertile mountain pastures of Echo Valley Stables in Clay City, Kentucky.

Under Johnsonís watchful eye, 16-year-old Fore piloted Twin
River Farmís homebred stallion JTís Skywalker to honors as the 2006 Open Classic High Point Novice Champion, and won the 2006 Open Novice Trail Pleasure High Point Championship aboard the four-year-old filly Barbara Bush.

Fore, whose family owns Twin River Farm in Irvine, Kentucky, is modest regarding his accomplishments. He enjoys riding and training, but defines the excitement of showing as his highest priority with an eye on his debut as an amateur this spring.

"Itís really exciting to ride and compete," said Fore. "The training and riding never seems like work. I enjoy it all. But there is nothing like riding a good horse into the show ring after all the time and work you put into it. Iím looking forward to riding the X Files in amateur classes this year. That will be cool."

Foreís family raises a few good Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horses on their 250-acre farm. Although they have eight mares, only two are in foal this year. They also stand the stallion JTís Black Beauty. Fore got involved in horses four years ago aboard his motherís Tennessee Walking Horse, but doesnít waiver on his loyalty to the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse.

"The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse has the best disposition, if you ask me," stated Fore, a junior at Estill County High School. "They are calm natured, mellow, and donít freak out like other horses. I just really like them."

Johnson, 23, runs Echo Valleyís training facility out of a 24-stall barn with an indoor round pen on 250-acres on the family farm in the Appalachian foothills. The farm is surrounded by small mountains known as "knobs" and located in a community where a handshake is as good as your word. Johnson is as down-to-earth as the land around him. Polite and well-spoken, he will tell you about his horses first and his accomplishments second.

"Iíve got 12 horses in training right now, and 15 broodmares on the farm," said Johnson. "I really enjoy training and getting them ready for show season. Each horseís personality is different, and thatís what makes it such an interesting job for me. Iíve been in horses for as long as I can remember. Sometimes it is a challenge to get along with all kinds of horses, but eventually you can win them over. It just takes time and patience."

Johnsonís patience has paid off. In addition to JTís Skywalker and Barbara Bush, Johnson has trained Charlie Joe to 2003 Two-Year-Old Rocky Mountain Under Saddle championship honors, 2004 Reserve Champion Three-Year-Old Classic Pleasure High Point Stallion, and finished out the year as reserve champion in the 2006 Five and Over Classic Pleasure championship. Johnson stands Charlie Joe at Echo Valley, and is looking forward to competing with the son of Crossroads Good Time Charlie this year.

"Heís got a great attitude, Charlie does," Johnson said. "I really like riding and competing this horse. Hopefully this year we can win the Classic Pleasure, thatís our aim anyway."

When selecting a future show horse, Johnson has a certain set of criteria that he follows.

"I like the old bloodlines," he said emphatically. "Good conformation, gait, and a look-at-me attitude. Most of all youíve got to have a kind and even temperament. After all, thatís what the saddle horse is all about."