SURGOINSVILLE — Ragan Seal’s 3-year-old Rocky Mountain horse Lassie was pretty easy to get along with until earlier this year, when out of the blue he started biting and bucking.

“When I first got him he was OK, and I’d just get on him without bridle or saddle,” said Ragan, who attends fifth grade at Hawkins Elementary School. “I’d just jump on him. Then starting in 2020 he started to bite. He was never like that, and he just started to bite out of the blue. Then when I’d get on him he’d kick. He’s bucked me a couple of times. I told mom it was time, that he needed to be broke.”

Ragan brought Lassie to Hawkins County’s own horse whisperer Mike Hepler, and in less than a month Lassie was back to normal.

“Now he’s just peaceful,” Ragan said. “He don’t do none of that. He’s chill.”

Ragan said she’s learned a lot from Hepler over the past month.

“He’s an inspiration to me,” she said. “I’ve learned how to put a saddle on. I’ve learned how to lunge and their pressure points. I’ve learned a lot. You need to be calm with them, and let them know that you trust them. You can’t be scared because they sense that, and it scares them.”

Humane Society Horse Seminar

Hepler is a highly regarded Hawkins County horse trainer who will bring his “whispering” skills to the Sayrah Barn in Surgoinsville on Saturday, Oct. 24, for the first ever Humane Society Horse Seminar.

The event is a fundraiser for the Hawkins County Humane Society and will feature a petting zoo, vendors, live music, face painting and other children’s activities and food provided by Carnival Cafe.

The main event, however, will be a full day of horse training and seminars.

You can bring your horse, and if it’s having a behavior or training problem, Hepler or fellow trainer Cara Culotta from Knoxville will try to fix it on the spot.

The only cost is a $5 admission fee, all of which will go directly to the Hawkins County Humane Society.

Hepler said he came up with the idea of holding this horse training seminar fundraiser after the Humane Society helped him look for his lost dog.

“This was the only way I knew to give back,” Hepler said. “Just to have a horse demo and to break horses and help people with their horses. If you just want to learn about horses or watch the sessions, anyone can come. You don’t need to bring a horse. We will have different horses there that have different problems. Any problems that people might have with their horse.”

Ragan and Lassie will be part of the event, helping Hepler demonstrate the training techniques that helped Lassie “chill.”

“taking them out of their reacting form to a relaxing form”

“I just desensitized him and got him used to spooking,” Hepler said. “You’ve got to watch their signs. They’ve got five signs that you look for: licking their lips, blinking their eyes, cocking their back leg, taking a deep breath or standing for 15 seconds. You’re looking for those signs, and what you’re doing is taking them out of their reacting form to a relaxing form.”

Hepler said he’s confident he can fix or at least make good progress on fixing any problem he is presented at the seminar on Oct. 24.

“We’ve invited people who want to bring their horses that have trouble, we will try to fix that, or fix it as much as we can,” Hepler said “You just need a Coggins and an up-to-date health report. When they bring it, just let us know what’s wrong with it, and we’ll try to fix it right there.”

Anyone can bring their horse that day, and there is no pre-registration required. The Oct. 24 event is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Those who bring a horse are asked to keep their horse in the trailer until Hepler or another event official sees their health report.

The Sayrah Barn is located at 4144 Highway 11-W in Surgoinsville.

For more information, you can call the Hawkins County Humane Society at (423) 272-6538 or send Michael Hepler a message on his Facebook page.