Jeff Rowen, a retired CEO from Lynchburg, has a facility that is designed to build a bond of trust between a horse and his rider. It’s called Coyote Crossing and it’s a BYOH (bring your own horse) facility. The training works because the horse is your horse. It improves trail riding safety because the horse encounters the obstacles he may encounter on a trail. Because you and your horse do it together, you both learn to trust each other.

Horses, over the millennia have been prey animals. They have been the answer to “what’s for dinner?’ for a number of large predators, humans included at one point. As a result they have a strong fight or flight instinct.

If the horse has not been a trail riding horse, there are a lot of things that can trigger the flight portion of that instinct. The idea is to train them, with their owners on their back, to be calm when they encounter something new.

The course was designed by Mark Bolender, who has designed courses like it all over the county and in several foreign countries. Last week he was there with his equine buddy Checkers. He and Checkers have formed a bond that allows Bolender to control the horse without a bridle. Checkers has no bit in his mouth.

His goal is to help recreational trail riders learn to be safe.

Part of this amounts to training the horse to use his mind instead of his instinct. The other part is to train the horse’s owner. Bolender said a horse is looking for a leader and you, the horse owner, need to be the leader. If you are afraid, the horse is afraid. If you are nervous, the horse is nervous.

“These horses are reading us like a book,” he said.

The training on this course will build a bond between you and your horse. The idea is that they will trust you. And, if you have a horse, you have an animal friend who will be around a long time. A lot of horse live to be 30 and Bolender has seen some who live to be a lot older.

He has done a lot of work with his Checkers, who is 23.

“He does 12 different disciplines without a bridal,” Bolender said.

This includes a discipline in which he shoots at targets while riding Checkers. Bolender said it took half a day of training to teach Checkers to do that.

Coyote Crossing Equestrian Center is located at 4178 Headens Bridge Road. They have a website at You can find them on Facebook by searching for them as Coyote Crossing Equestrian Center.

Headens Bridge Road, if you approach from the direction of Bedford, is friendly to vehicles towing horse trailers, a good feature as this is a BYOH (bring your own horse) facility.