Whitney Sewell wanted a horse since he can remember. To say he was born with boots on wouldn’t be far from the truth. He pestered his parents till they bought him one at 7 years old, and hasn’t gotten it out of his head since. Almost daily, he was dropped off at a local barn after school where he tacked up and rode the countryside till dark with his trusty appaloosa, Cocoa. A boy and his horse, he could tell some stories about the adventures they shared together, only God knows them all. He competed in barrels and poles through the 4H program throughout middle and high school, catching a ride with another classmate who was traveling. You see, he lived in “town” and kept his horse at a friend’s barn. Kind friends they were, never seeming to mind to haul his horse and him to events and competitions. He was always grateful, but could see that it gave them joy to see Whitney doing what he loved so much.
Fast forward to high school graduation, when Whitney joined the Army National Guard. After completing boot camp and AIT, his passion for horses gave way to a career with horses as a farrier. Whitney soon graduated from the Kentucky Horse Shoeing School, with an interruption serving active duty with the Army National Guard. In 2005, he spent a year with The Guard in Iraq to return home on Christmas Eve to his family and friends. Within days he was riding ol’ Cocoa again and giving rides to his young nephew; it was good to be home.
If you know anything about Whitney, you know he is a go-getter and hard worker, dusk till dawn. He didn’t waste any time after his return home from Iraq, and soon found an apprenticeship with a farrier in Ohio. He moved there to learn from one of the best and pursued his certification as a farrier. He soon achieved this and moved to Lexington, Kentucky to begin his own business. With his new truck outfitted with the bells and whistles of the farrier occupation, anvil and forge in tow, he soon came to realize that he cared much more about spending time in the saddle then under the horses’ feet. He asked the Lord what he might do, and God lead him to apply with the police force. His time with the US Military equipped him for this position, and he began working as a young police officer. His desire to ride burned like fire in his bones, and while he waited for this opportunity to come again, He served faithfully enduring the long hours and time away from his family.
He bought his first house at the age of 25, a little 3 bedroom, with the all-important 10 acres of land for his horses. He brought sweet Cocoa to her new home and started riding again. That saddle fit as good as he remembered. It wasn’t long before he acquired a young bay quarter horse we now call “Sun.” He put up a round pen and started training. He is quite the cold-blood, and wasn’t thrilled about Whitney teaching him to canter under saddle. His knowledge was limited to the experience he gained from riding and working with his horses and the horses of a close friend. No one explained why horses do the things they do and how to communicate with them. But God used this frustration to send him searching. And search he did.
He rummaged through old videos and books and began to study trainers like John Lyons, Buck Brannaman, and Clinton Anderson. He poured over the material with every spare second, it was all coming together. All of this made so much sense, why hadn’t someone said this before? When he figured he knew enough to get started in the round pen, he made the short trip out to pasture to try it out on the old bay, Sun.
It was amazing, he was speechless, and breathless come to think of it! This round penning stuff was no joke. He could see the transformation in Sun day by day, week by week, and sometimes minute by minute. He was on to something, something life-changing. His whole life he had enjoyed horses, but never like this.
He taught him to side-pass on the ground and under saddle, ground tie, and read his seat well, to name a few. And then came the big one: laying down. If you had asked him 6 months earlier if he could lay his horse down, he might have called you crazy. But now, he knew how to communicate and work with the horse’s created nature. He could do it, he was sure of it. And so he did, and sent a picture to every Tom, Dick, and Harry he knew. What a sense of accomplishment to know that things like this were possible with his horses. And what confidence grew in that young man with a dream.
So it began, and hit the ground running. Soon he was buying more horses to train, teaching others with lessons and clinics, training problem horses, giving trailer loading demos at local events, judging local colt-starting competitions, and even creating his own website. He is now the owner of Straight Path Horses, LLC based in Southwest Virginia.