It takes most people years and years – even decades – to become proficient in a skill, and even then, some never make it. And if that skill involves much physical exertion, sometimes by the time the student has gained sufficient knowledge and expertise in his field, he’s unable to perform the very actions necessary. But not Scott Purdum. He’s a prodigy. At the age of 23, Scott is already an accomplished horse trainer with amazing skills and talent, and he’s in great shape, able to tackle anything a rank horse can throw at him.
Scott’s success might just be due to the fact that he got such an early start, so if you look at it from that angle, he does, in fact, have two decades of experience. His parents owned Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds when Scott was just a child, so he grew up surrounded by equines. He always enjoyed being around the horses and spending time in the barn. He started riding at the early age of three, and even at such a young age, his parents recognized his love for horses, along with his budding talent. They wanted to feed that natural ability and bring it to its full potential.
After seeing Scott ride and handle the family horses for two years, Scott’s parents thought that formal riding lessons were in order. They felt he would gain more from formal lessons than he would from informal lessons with them, so they decided to sign him up for sessions with a professional trainer. They enrolled him in riding lessons under the tutelage of Jill Betz when Scott was just five. He learned quickly, and once he got the basics down, he pleaded for his own horse. He felt he was ready and wanted to “spread his wings,” so to speak. His parents agreed, and the search was on.
It didn’t take long to find an appropriate horse. Scott’s first mount was a Quarter Horse. It had no special training for any discipline, but it was a gentle horse – a good “kid’s horse,” as Scott says. Scott enhanced and perfected the riding skills he had learned from trainer Betz, and at the age of six, he entered his first show. His event was English Pleasure. He continued showing in English classes and in hunter-jumper for several years, until the age of twelve or thirteen.
By that time, the young horseman became more interested in sports and girls than he was in his equine companions, as boys are wont to do, and he pretty much gave up the demanding schedule and practice necessary for the horse shows. His love of horses and showing lured him back, however, and by the age of sixteen, he again plunged headlong into the equine world – not that he totally abandoned girls. He discovered that a lot of girls were into horses, too!
About that time, Scott began working informally as a horse trainer. His parents owned a paint mare that was incredibly high strung and nervous. The mare spooked easily and saw “ghosts” everywhere, so she was therefore difficult and potentially dangerous to handle. Scott was determined to work with the horse and exorcize her demons, so to speak. Scott was on a quest. He read every book he could get his hands on about different training methods and tips. He watched countless videos of training clinics. He processed all this information and formulated it into methods that he thought would be most effective for him and for the mare. After working with the mare using his new-found knowledge, he happily realized his unique training methods were, indeed, effective. His success with the spooky horse gave him the confidence and experience to further his training career.
His first formal training job was with a high-strung, high-energy gelding. It belonged to a young girl who didn’t have a lot of horseback riding experience, and in essence, the gelding was just too much horse for her. The parents got in touch with Scott, and he worked with the horse and got it calmed down and manageable. By that time, the horse’s owners decided they wanted to sell. All was not lost, however. The owners sold the horse for a handsome profit, largely due to Scott’s efforts.
When it comes to training a horse, safety always comes first with Scott. He learned at an early age the importance of safety. When he was around ten years old, he and his father were trail riding one day when something happened that left a lasting impression on the youngster. Scott’s horse was afraid of water, and as the riders were about to cross a creek, Scott’s mount baulked. His dad dismounted and tried to pull the pony across, but it became very frightened and jumped on top of Scott’s dad, associating the man with safety. Of course, Scott was terrified to see his father lying on the ground, and he realized just how dangerous an improperly trained equine could be.
After Scott’s success with the gelding, local horse owners began hearing about the young man’s special gift with horses, and they started enlisting his help with their horses. Word spread quickly. This word-of-mouth advertizing served Scott well.
After high school, Scott wanted to continue learning as much about horses as he could. He entered the University of Maryland, where he studied Equine Management. After a year or so of his studies, the siren song of the horses called to Scott again, and he left the halls of academia and became a full time horse trainer and lessons instructor. He gained vast amounts of hands-on knowledge on his own and by working as an intern with noted West Virginia Quarter Horse Trainer Ken Adkins. Scott even had the privilege of assisting Adkins at the Quarter Horse Congress in Ohio.
From time to time, Scott has held part-time jobs over the past few years that didn’t involve horses. For example, he has worked as a landscaper, but he always returned to working with horses – his true passion. Fortunately, the horse-owning public has discovered this young man’s rare gift and has clamored for his services. His notoriety continues to spread exponentially.
Today Scott is the owner of Advantage Horsemanship, located in Union Bridge, Maryland. The 50-acre facility includes a 30-stall barn, an 80 x 200-foot indoor arena, and a 100 x 200-foot outdoor arena. The facility offers horseback riding lessons in basic horsemanship, advanced western pleasure, and hunter-jumper. Lessons are taught either in small groups or privately to individual students. Horse boarding is also provided. You’ll usually find about 30 horses at Scott’s barn, with about half that number in training. Because he spends so much of his time helping other owners with their horses, Scott owns only one equine of his own, which he shows in western pleasure at both local and AQHA shows.
Scott calls his methods “advantage horsemanship” because he’s taken the advantages offered by natural horsemanship and those offered by traditional “breaking” and combined them into his own unique system.
Scott made a big splash in the training ocean last August. He competed in the Northern Illinois Trainer Challenge, consisting of three sessions over two days. His competitors were Kerry Kuhn of Coats, Kansas, and T.J. Clibborn of Westfield, Indiana. After the dust had settled, Scott emerged as the victor.
While Scott does teach riding lessons, his passion is working directly with horses. He specializes with problem horses and has worked with numerous BLM mustangs, which have a notorious reputation for being difficult to handle. He also trains Sports Horses, Quarter Horses, and gets two-year-olds ready for the track. In addition, he often takes ex-racehorses and turns them into accomplished hunter-jumpers.
Scott has a great training facility, but he doesn’t limit his work to his own stable. He often travels to the home barns and farms of his clients, especially when he’s teaching horses to properly and quietly load onto a horse trailer. In addition, Scott travels across the country conducting teaching clinics. Just this year, Scot has brought his Advantage Horseman techniques to the Horse World Expo in Timonium, MD; to the Mid-Michigan Horse Expo in Birch Run; to the Horse World Expo in Harrisburg, PA; to The Road to the Horse event in Franklin, TN; to the Horse and Pet Expo in Reading, PA; to the Carroll County Horse Expo in Westminster, MD; to the Horse Starting Demo in Mahwah, NJ; to the Eastern Pennsylvania Hands-On Tour; to the Relax and Motivate Clinic at Best Intensions Farm in Westminster; to the Virginia Hands-On Tour; to the Northern Illinois Horse Fest in Belvidere; to the Advanced Junior Clinic at Best Intentions Farm; to the Ultimate Obstacle Course Clinic in Dickerson, MD, to Horse Appreciation Day at Dublin’s Farm in Pasadena, MD; to the 4-H Relax and Motivate Clinic in Clarksville, MD; to the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, GA, and to the Fall Festival at Day’s End Horse Rescue in Woodbine, MD. Scott will hold a clinic in December at the North American Horse Fest in Novi, Michigan. In addition to this hectic travel schedule, Scott periodically conducts training clinics at his home base of Union Bridge, MD. It’s no wonder that he has little time left to compete in shows!
Scott also designs training equipment to help riders improve their skills. These include a specially designed Western saddle with both the horse’s comfort and the rider’s in mind. One of the saddle’s unique features is large cutaways that provide close contact between the rider and the mount – something often lacking in many Western saddles. The saddle has received rave reviews from riders who have tried it.
Scott also offers a riding halter with reins that serves an important function in training. It’s great for ground work and for young horses just started under saddle. As Scott explains, “If you have a young colt that you are starting out under saddle and you want to have a successful first ride, you can depend on the horse associating the same pressure as given on the ground as to when you are actually riding to horse. If you are a trail rider and you put a halter underneath your bridle to tie your horse up when you get to the trail, now all you will have to do is unsnap your reins from the side rings, use one end to tie to a picket line or fence, and the other to snap to the bottom of the halter! You can just eliminate the whole bridle!”
The most popular of Scott’s designs, however, is his training halter. He describes it this way: “It takes more than a piece of rope to make a halter; it takes design and effectiveness. This halter offers features such as a stiff inner core, knots that are strategically placed, and twisted rope over the horse’s poll-all designed to make it more uncomfortable when the horse is leaning on you. The best feature on these halters is a snap that fastens the halter together. You only need to fit it once to your horse, and it is ready for quick attachment and detachment!”
Scott even has some wonderful training videos. I watched some clips, and they were amazing. He walks viewers through the exercises step by step, explaining exactly what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. I’d say the videos are the next best thing to seeing Scott in person. He’ll have new videos available soon.
Scott’s clients give him frequent raves and often send heartfelt thank-you notes via email. He also gets frequent, good natured ribbing from the “old pros” because of his young age. He’s sometimes referred to as the “wonder kid” of the training circuit, or as the “Doogie Howser” of horse training. Scott takes it all in stride, however. The tall, lanky trainer, donning a cowboy hat, looks more like the rugged Marlboro man than he does a hunter-jumper trainer, but looks can be deceiving. From everything I’ve learned about Scott Purdum, he can be perfectly at ease just about anywhere – especially when a horse is involved.