Heber equestrian center top notch
July 6, 2012
On first meeting Jim and Donnette Hicks, their passion for what they do is evident, sitting right at the surface. And it’s not because they draw some big names, names like Mitt Romney, to their stables for anything from stabling to finding the best trails in the area. It’s because the couple built the equestrian stable from the ground up, with blood, sweat, tears and a serious love for horses.
And that fact has shown through, so much that nearly 90 percent of the horses stabled and cared for in their Heber business belong to both full-time and part-time Park City residents.
"We’re a boarding facility that facilitates a partnership between human and horse," Donnette said.
"All of the horses here are in training," she added. "It’s not a boarding facility and there is a big difference. With every single horse here, the person is learning to develop a relationship with the horse."
Sage Creek Equestrian has more than a few bells and whistles that reflect their world-wide status. Olympic Dressage Judge Gary Rockwell, one of only four in the nation, helps with training techniques and concepts. A yoga studio that offers classes specifically to improve horsemanship skills is on site. Horses are watched over 24 hours of the day by a live-in staff.
"If you look at our facility in comparison to others, it’s a world-class facility," said Jim Hicks.
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His wife continued.
"Here they can access a dream, and we’re quality. The magic of it is, we have a heartbeat." Donnette said.
As a child, Donnette came from a family of professionals, about as far away from horses as one could get. Undeterred, she pushed her parents (in as many creative ways as she could) to get her onto a horse. Before turning 12, she got her wish and never looked back. Her husband Jim was another story. He grew up as a classic rancher, what he described as seeing the horses as a tool, equipment for the job.
The two say what sets their center apart from others across the country is their philosophy, a very particular way of working with the horses. The school of thought driving their business is simple: listen to Ray Hunt. Hunt, an American horse trainer is a well-known name in the equestrian community and one of the founders behind the concept of natural horsemanship.
Nestled in the Heber Valley, the center’s views seem to balance their message. Views of the mountains and a sense of a rural setting are unmistakable.
"As a teenager and I was raised here I remember driving up here and thinking this would be the place for a business like the one I have now. It’s always been a dream, and the magic is now it’s true."
Hunt played a big part in helping the Hicks develop the business. Jim Hicks picked up on the concepts within minutes of meeting Hunt.
"What became clearly obvious to me in the first 45 minutes of the conversation is he was talking about recognizing the smallest change in the horse and creating a willing partnership," he said. "He was talking about a partnership, a partner rather than a servant.
"You have to run this business with passion and heart."
Sage Creek Equestrian Center focuses on the Olympic sport of Dressage in addition to other riding techniques, a very specific training style where riders work with their horses to create a very specific set of movements. Imagine a ballet on a horse, pivots on coordinated strides.
Before Dressage was an Olympic sport, it was used as a way to train military horses for battle, honing their obedience and maneuverability.
"We bridge two worlds, an Olympic event and Ray Hunt’s message," Donnette said. " We don’t spur, whip or force the horse. It’s about the relationship. One world meets another world’s message. We’re threading the two."
Sage Creek Equestrian
3181 West 3000 South