After five years of service in the Air Force and years of raising two boys, Cabarrus County resident Joyce Lewis is free to pursue her dream of training horses.
Back in 2004, Lewis' sister, Janell Mount, bought Lewis a 4-year-old gelding named Josh.
"It didn't take long to figure out why the seller of Josh said, as we loaded him in the trailer, that there was no bringing him back," said Lewis. "Josh was a great horse to be around, as long as Josh was doing what Josh wanted to do, and I went along with it."
Lewis grew up around horses; she trained and competed until she joined the Air Force in 1983 at the age of 21.
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When she was discharged from the Air Force in 1988 she moved to Las Vegas, Nev. and started a family with her husband, Ken Lewis.
With Josh, Lewis entered a whole new phase of her life. She started training Josh and eventually began working with other horses.
Lewis' return to the equine world at the age of 42 was not an easy one. Her new horse turned out to be a challenge.
"His ground manners were atrocious, consistently knocking into me, stepping on my toes, barring his teeth and flattening his ears when I went to feed him," she said. "Running from me in the pasture, kicking and striking out at me, it's a wonder I did not get seriously hurt or killed."
Despite bruised toes and sore knees, Lewis continued to ride Josh and develop a better relationship with her horse.
After discovering RFD-TV, a cable channel for horse lovers, Lewis began to watch several horse programs that helped her train Josh.
"Remember, I had been out of horses for more than years," she said. "What an eye opener. I watched every clinician there was on RFD-TV."
It was not long before Lewis began to see a transformation in Josh's behavior.
"When people meet Josh, they think he is the greatest horse in the world," she said. "Then I share our story, and they are completely blown away. Josh is the reason I am a trainer and a teacher. He is truly my partner in this business."
News began to spread about Josh's newfound manners, and Lewis' training skills. Other horse owners asked Lewis to help with their horses.
After a year of honing her training skills on her friends' and family's horses, she had gained enough confidence to make her passion into a business venture.
"As word started to spread about the work I was doing in the area, demand started to increase and, soon, Safe Horse Training was born," she said.
Safe Horse Training is a special type of training Lewis offers that makes the horse more comfortable with the trail. Horses are naturally, easily spooked animals. Safe Horse Training helps horses cope with their fears and makes them safer to ride. Lewis tries to earn the trust of the horses she works with.
"Quite often trainers will lay a horse down to teach them that the trainer can have complete control of the horse and not hurt them," Lewis said. "It teaches big time trust between horses and humans."
Another method Lewis uses helps horses feel comfortable with ropes and objects around their heads.
Lewis says most horses are "head shy" and do not like having anything tough on their heads. Through gentle interaction with ropes that tap the horse's forehead, Lewis helps the horse acclimate to ropes and less "head shy."
In addition to her work as a trainer, Lewis is also involved with Extreme Cowboy Racing, a timed and judged race through an obstacle course that is designed to push both the horse and rider out of their traditional comfort zones and to test communications skills between the rider and horse.
In less than a year into the sport, Lewis was in Augusta, Ga. filming season six of the Extreme Cowboy Race for RFD-TV with Craig Cameron, the host and founder of the sport.
Lewis and her husband, Ken, have two boys, Spencer, 18, and Connor, 15.