Training at Saddle Peak
July 9, 2014
hile he is new to the Saddle Peak arena, teaching a horse to sort off a cow is nothing new to Jonah Deines, who recently hired on to train cutting horses at the Belgrade, Mont., outfit.
His journey from Montana to Texas, then back home to Montana seems like no coincidence. Saddle Peak's owner, Karen Fellerhoff called Jonah recently, regarding a horse he had for sale. Little did they both know that Jonah would soon be her new trainer. "We got to talking and she mentioned that fact that she owned a cutting horse barn in Belgrade. I told her we were looking to move back and she asked if I wanted to do an on-location interview," remembers Jonah. After a few phone calls and a trip or two back to Belgrade, he was hired and Jonah and Chrisley moved home. "We missed Montana and wanted to make a full time job training horses here, it's perfect timing," said Jonah.
Jonah's training style is more mental than physical. "I like to get inside the horse's head. If I can figure them out mentally it's easier to ask them to physically perform for me," he said. Understanding a horse's mentally capacity is talked about often with well-known trainers such as Curt Pate. "After I figure out what makes them tick, I can start asking more from a performance standpoint," Deines said.
From a young age he called the back of a horse "home." Growing up south of Laurel, Mont., on a small ranch gave him the opportunity to hone and test his skills. At age fourteen Deines took his first outside horse in training and was hooked. From there he started to specialize in ranch horses with problem areas. The opportunity to call a young, ambitious ranch kid to work out the kinks in a broke horse, proved to be a hit with local ranch folks.
When asked about his training style, Deines just laughed. "It was mostly hit or miss. I did have a few older role models such as friend, rancher, and horseman Bob Thiel, who greatly impacted my approach to horses," he says. "My parents, Gregg and Antoinette Deines, built a great horse facility which attracted higher quality horses and many fine customers and friends." When he was in the tenth grade, he started riding bulls and saddle broncs in the high school rodeo circuit.
During a visit with a rodeo friend in Kalispell, Mont., he experienced his first cutting event. The rest is history. Deines said, "I knew at that moment that was what I wanted to do, and while I was at it I wanted to be the best of the best."
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The first cutting horse Jonah ever rode was a Superstakes Open Champion stallion; the Superstakes is one of the six major events the National Cutting Horse Association puts on every year. Shortly after, he bought his first cutting horse and started competing in the cutting events at high school rodeo, where he went to the National Finals in both bull riding and the cutting event. The National Finals opened more than one door as he met his best friend's father who knew of a man living in Two Dot, Mont., that had just acquired a new cutting horse stallion. The Horse Butte Ranch was more than just a stepping stone in Jonah's journey. "The Horse Butte Ranch really put some style to my training skills," he said. "I learned a lot there and it led to bigger things, though I still have fond memories of the ranch and working alongside fellow cutting horse trainer Norman Schuchard."
After the Horse Butte Ranch, Jonah headed to the Big Hole where he was employed by Fred Hirschy as well as a few other ranchers breaking and training horses. "I rode well over 1,000 colts in Montana and it played a huge role in the development of my skills. I wouldn't have gained those experiences elsewhere," says Jonah. After his stint in Montana, he was hired as the assistant cutting horse trainer in Elk Ridge, Utah. Over the next two years he started all the barn's two year olds, as well as continuing training the three year olds and adding work to the older horses when the main trainer was gone.
A special lady brought Jonah back to Montana for a few years, where he was self-employed, taking in outside horses and training. After he married Chrisley in 2010, they moved to Texas to chase his dream of diving head-first into the training business down South.
At the Bronc Willoughby Ranch, Nocona, Texas, he worked alongside and was mentored by Bronc, an NCHA Hall of Fame trainer and past president of the National Cutting Horse Association, as well as other cutting icons. Before horses could enter Bronc's program, Jonah would put a year or two worth of training on them. He also had his own horses in training for a customer in Montana.
Back in Montana, Saddle Peak Arena boasts indoor, outdoor and pasture boarding facilities, and is a prime location for Jonah to ride and train. "I lease the barn and riding arenas from Karen, so essentially I am running my business with her facilities," says Jonah. When asked about Jonah, "We are so lucky to have him, what a great addition to our team," says Karen. While Saddle Peak was always known for hosting cuttings and working dog clinics, Jonah has attracted even more business.
Deines Cutting Horse Company has taken off with a bang. Not only is Jonah training several horses of his own, he also has taken outside horses. Along with organizing cattle events at the arena, Jonah helps and encourages young riders who are gaining experience at Saddle Peak. Jonah and Chrisley know exactly where their business is headed in the near future. "I want to build a business based around performance cutting horses while encouraging people to get into the business. I hope to be able to train horses talented enough to compete in major National Cutting Horse Association events," says Jonah.
"We are happy to be back in Montana doing what we love," he said. "What more can you ask for?"