Beauty is only skin deep, even in animals, as Cherise Hicks-Harlan knows.
Cherise has learned that really getting to know an animal — even horses — is important, and she and her husband, Paul Harlan, have a business that helps potential horse owners pick the perfect horse with the right temperament.
Cherise knows firsthand about the importance of selecting the right horse. The Conifer resident was 11 when she got her first horse. Her mother picked a horse that had been abused.
“My mom just thought, ‘He’s so pretty,’ and he was. He was gorgeous,” she said. “I couldn’t ride him, though.”
The horse panicked when Cherise simply tried to tie him to a hitching post. Eventually the woman who boarded the horse called Cherise’s mother and told her the horse would kill someone.
Cherise was shaken by her experience but eventually regained her confidence by riding other horses. She’s never underestimated the necessity of understanding the horses she rides.
The business got its unofficial start through 4-H students whom Cherise has been instructing for 17 years. As the kids got more involved with the club, many wanted horses of their own. The couple helped them figure out where to find the right horse. Then the students’ parents wanted horses, and those parents’ friends started calling.
Finding the perfect match
The couple match their usually inexperienced clients with the perfect horses to grow with them.
“So many people want to get into horses, but they don’t really know horses,” said Paul, who also has spent his entire life around horses. “It’s like me wanting to buy a computer — I need help.”
The process is involved. First, they watch the prospective client ride to determine her riding level and personality.
“Some clients are scared to death of horses, but they want to ride,” Paul said.
If the rider is skittish, for example, Paul said they look for a gentle, experienced horse. They then scour the market. Paul, who is retired, will drive all over the state and sometimes beyond to find the perfect animal.
The couple search for healthy, sound equines. They keep an eye peeled for signs of drugging, a problem with some sellers who want a horse to appear docile.
When they find a match, Paul and Cherise check with the buyer and bring home the horse. Still, the process isn’t over.
“We don’t just find them a horse; we make sure they can ride the horse,” Cherise said.
The couple keep the horse on their ranch for a couple weeks, so they can assess the animal and clients can ride it until they’re comfortable. Once the horse has gone home, the couple are still available by phone to answer questions from the new owner.
“When the clients come out and they look at the horse … they’re so happy,” Cherise said, describing the huge smiles on their faces. “Even the adults are like little kids. … You feel good.”
If you’re in the market for the perfect horse, call 720-320-6674.
Contact Gabrielle Porter at Gabrielle@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1043. Check www.HighTimberTimes.com for updates.