March 2010

England and Lieser… Take on Historic Nokota Horse
Articles & Photos by Sarah Lieser

Beautiful herd of Nokota horses. Leftt:  Aaron England working wtih one of the young Nokota horses.   Right:  Jack Lieser working with stallion, North Wind.
Above: Beautiful herd of Nokota horses. Leftt: Aaron England working wtih one of the young Nokota horses.
Right: Jack Lieser working with stallion, North Wind.


Other than being two of the best natural horsemanship trainers in Texas, what do Aaron England and Jack Lieser have in common?  The Nokota horse.

The Nokota horses are not mustangs although their Spanish ancestry is evident. The Nokota horse originates from the badlands of North Dakota and is believed by many to be the horse descended from the herds belonging to Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull and the other Indian chiefs who surrendered at Ft. Buford, ND in 1881. The U.S. government confiscated their horses and weapons and while the herds were mostly destroyed, there were some that eventually ended up being fenced into the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, having bred with the ranch stock of the area along with some Canadian draft lines. Today, there are very few of the historic Nokota horses left in the park.

These horses were not officially called the “Nokota” until Frank and Leo Kuntz stepped in and began preserving the breed after watching them being rounded up from the national park for slaughter.

Nokota HerdThe two brothers knew this was an awesome horse with a fascinating history. For years they had heard talk of the “park horses” strength and stamina. After purchasing a few to ride in the great American Horse Race, they were convinced it was a superior horse.   When the horses began to be eliminated from the park they decided to take on the daunting task of saving and naming this very special breed. This has not been easy but it is their prevailing passion and they are determined to spread the word and hope to save the breed from extinction. As of now the horses are living on rented pastures and the Kuntz’s private land. Their goal is to one day have land donated to the Conservancy where the horses can roam wild and free and the breed can be preserved and kept pure.

Who are Aaron and Jack and how did they get involved with horses in North Dakota?

Aaron England has spent the last 20 years creating his own unique style of training, fine tuning his abilities, and studying under master horsemen.  Partnership between horse and rider is the main goal he teaches at clinics and seminars.  Not only does Aaron teach many diverse styles of riding, from Western to English, he also has taken his philosophy to the competition pen in cutting.  His goal is to teach his horses and compete as teammates versus demanding the horse’s performance. He has won multiple NCHA events as well as being ApHC 2007 National cutting champion, while his wife Riva went to the NCHA World Finals that same year placing eleventh in the finals.

Jack is a trainer and teacher who uses classical and natural horsemanship methods to train horses of all breeds and disciplines. Jack has trained with Leon Harrell, Jack Brainerd, Dr. Thomas Ritter and many others. His focus is on teaching the horse a solid foundation and finding solutions for problem horses. He is well known for his skills starting and handling young horses. He and his wife Sarah live in Chappell Hill, Texas and travel the country giving clinics throughout the year.

Aaron and Jack met in 2002 while studying under Leon Harrel and have been friends ever since. Over the years, they have conducted colt-starting clinics together.

Nokota HorseJack had a client bring a Nokota horse to him for starting and training last spring. His wife Sarah had seen the breed at the Minnesota Horse Expo the year before and had been impressed and awestruck by the horse’s rugged charisma. As Nokotas are quite rare and not well known in Texas, Jack was surprised to discover Aaron had a Nokota horse in training as well. Pony Boy’s Half Moon AKA “Indy” (belonging to Pat Stady of New Mexico) has been in training with Aaron for almost two years. Indy is smart, extremely athletic, and loves people! Aaron has been working intensively with Indy toward the ultimate goal of Indy serving as an ambassador for the Nokota horse at expos around the country.

One thing led to another and a meeting was arranged for Aaron and Jack with the Kuntz brothers.  The brothers are ranchers and their resources are consumed with care for the horses and there is not much time for public relations on behalf of the equines. The brothers were impressed with Aaron and Jack’s many talents working with horses and asked them to help spread the word about the Nokota horse.

After a trip to the Nokota Horse Conservancy in Linton, North Dakota this past August, Aaron and Jack were also convinced of the horses uniqueness and usefulness and found their temperaments tractable and less reactive.

Jack worked with a 4-year-old blue roan stallion he named North Wind for a very brief time frame of three days. He was very impressed with North Wind’s intelligence and his ability to catch on quickly. A surprise bonus was that he was gaited as some, but not all, of the Nokotas tend to be. This is known by some as the “Indian Shuffle” and is very smooth to ride. There are others that would make excellent dressage and reining prospects as well.

Wednesday night plan to attend the “Meet and Greet” from 5:30 - 7:30 pm.  Come and view the horses and meet Aaron and Jack.  $7 gets you in and chili, chips, tea and dessert. RSVP to sarah@jacklieser.com by Sunday March 7th.

Nokota HorsesThe   March 11-14 clinic will be small in number with a limit of 10 people. Jack and Aaron will guide and provide their expertise.  If you are interested in buying a Nokota, the clinic is a great way to get to know your horse before purchasing. Auditors are also encouraged to attend.

There is also an observation and application clinic July 29-August 2 in North Dakota. This will be a chance to see the horses in the wild interacting with one another in their herds. There will be Native American speakers, a chuck wagon as well as colt-starting demonstrations by Jack and Aaron.

For information about the clinic, contact Sarah Lieser at 979-203-9000 or email sarah@jacklieser.com  or visit www.jacklieser.com.  You can also contact Riva England at 325-948-3456 or email riva@aaronengland.com or visit www.aaronengland.com. 

For more information on the Nokota horses you can call 701-254-4302, email info@nokotahorse.org or visit www.nokotahorse.org.


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