When training champion Foxtrotters JR Combs and granddaughter, Sophia, know the importance of groundwork Timbers Edge Farm is a beautiful place – it is peaceful, secluded, and overlooks the western side of Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Refuge. It is also where JR Combs and his granddaughter, Sophia, raise and train their champion Missouri Foxtrotters in Spokane, Mo.
JR Combs has been a part of the Foxtrotter world for a long time. As long as he can recall, “it’s always been Foxtrotters.” In 2013, JR was inducted into the Missouri Foxtrotter Hall of Fame – a very fitting honor. He enjoys the versatility that the Foxtrotter breed brings to the table – they are athletic, have good stamina and good temperaments, and their unique gait makes for a smooth ride. All these qualities fit JR’s equine lifestyle very well – he shows his Foxtrotters, hunts on horseback and loves to trail ride with his family. “We like to trail ride,” he said, smiling. Of all the other Foxtrotter activities that JR participates in, his favorite is sharing his knowledge with his granddaughter, Sophia.
Sophia Combs is a junior in high school, and a very active participant in the Ozark FFA chapter. Her FFA advisors are Heath Wright and Travis Phipps. “They’re good guys,” she said of her ag teachers. Sophia has been on her FFA Knowledge Team, and will be participating in Equine Judging this year. “Judging is a big deal,” she said. Sophia and her fellow FFA members participate in fundraising activities, the annual FFA Rodeo and of course, the much anticipated National FFA Conventions.
When Sophia is not at school or with her FFA chapter, you can find her on the back of a Foxtrotter at Timbers Edge Farm. She proudly states that she has been riding her whole life – everything from Foxtrotter shows to barrel racing to trail rides with her grandfather. Sophia showed her first horse at the Ava Foxtrotter show when she was 8 years old. Since then, she has won Best of Show, Grand Champion and placed in numerous other Show Me Horses and Ava Foxtrotting shows. She has a long line of champions behind her – her family has shown winning horses with names such as Perfections Midnight Bandit, Fancy Gold and Warriors Mystery Girl. Today, Sophia is proud to carry on that line with her main show horse, Cardinals Black Magic.
Sophia and JR currently have five Foxtrotters, and they do all their own training and shoeing. All of their horses are started in snaffle bits, and Sophia puts them through a program of desensitization (getting them used to things like ropes, halters and sacks), followed by consistent groundwork (lunging with and without a saddle, and ground driving) before she ever climbs into the saddle. The amount of time spent doing groundwork varies from animal to animal – some take a lot, and some only take a little. “You can tell by the horse,” JR said. Once both grandfather and granddaughter have made the call that the horse is ready to be ridden, Sophia will ride them in their 50-foot round pen and larger arena before graduating them to what she calls ‘mini rides,’ where she takes the horse on a short trail ride on her grandpa’s property. After a few of these rides, Sophia and JR will saddle up and head into Busiek for a nice, long ride.
Foxtrotters really are a family affair at Timbers Edge Farm. JR’s wife, Jeanie, makes all of the show ribbons that get braided into the horse’s manes before going to a show, and she also has her own special fly spray recipe that she makes herself. Jeanie and the rest of the Combs family love taking trail rides on their family Foxtrotters with JR and Sophia – and they all plan to continue the tradition long into the future.


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