Four Rivers Sport Horse Center
Pass by Lovelaceville Road In Lone Oak and you will spot a stunning horse farm overlooking rolling green hills of pastures filled with horses.
The first of its kind in Western Kentucky, Four Rivers Sport Horse Center is a state of the art equine facility dedicated to providing a modern safe environment for horse and rider to learn and enjoy the sport of horseback riding. Four Rivers Sport Horse Center is owned by Jill and Riley Love and officially opened in 2004.
Cathie Fergus-Watson is the head trainer and instructor at Four Rivers Sport Horse Center. She has more than 30 years of professional experience in teaching, training and competing in dressage and jumping and is a United States Dressage Federation (USDF) medalist and developed an interest in horses at a young age.
“My mom said she had two kids and a pony and I was the pony,” laughs Cathie Fergus-Watson.
By the time she turned 11 years old, Cathie’s family bought a horse. She learned the basics of riding with her family’s horse and developed a passion for horses.
“I basically rode bareback all the time from a kid up until high school,” says Cathie.
In college, Cathie attended MTSU and majored in the art program. She soon decided to change her major and enroll in the equine program. Through this program, she took her first riding lesson and developed her skills for riding. Each class was given a yearling to exercise and teach and Cathie was one of the few students to show up and work with her yearling. As a result, she was granted the first scholarship in the new equine program at MTSU.
After graduting from MTSU, Cathie took a job as a stable manager at Sewanee: The University of the South. It was at Sewanee where she learned the art of dressage.
“I worked my way up and became a riding instructor at Sewanee. That is where I first came into contact with eventing and sport horses. I had never heard of dressage before then. Over the years, I quickly decided dressage was my true passion. I love how the discipline is so focused on the horse and the rider is always working to get a better understanding of each horse’s physical and mental abilities.”
After working at Sewanee, Cathie moved to Lexington where she lived for eight years and exercised Thoroughbreds. In Lexington, Cathie worked with yearlings and prepared them for their racing careers. Cathie would spend the first two weeks with a yearling getting it comfortable wearing tack and training it to learn the basics of being ridden under saddle. After graduating from the first training phase, Cathie would gallop the yearling side-by-side with another horse.
“We had this fun policy. If you got bucked off, you had to bring donuts for everybody the next day. So we always had donuts!”
In Lexington, Cathie met Jill Love. Jill was a friend and client of Cathie’s and it was Jill’s dream to open a riding facility in Paducah and make Cathie the head trainer and instructor. Cathie decided to take a leap of faith and relocate to Paducah where she opened her own riding center in 1993 while she awaited the construction of Jill’s state of the art equine facility.
In 2004, Jill’s dream became a reality and Cathie moved her riding and training program to Four Rivers Sport Horse Center. Through her program, she trains successful and decorated students and horses. She is also a successful rider in her own right and has won severak bronze and silver medals in dressage.
Cathie has also trained her own dressage horses from beginning to finishing stages starting with Farley, her beloved Thoroughbred who she purchased in Lexington off the race track. Farley’s stud was the famed Thoroughbred racehorse, Secretariat. Cathie’s plan was to retrain Farley from a racehorse to a dressage horse, although many people told her he would never achieve success as a dressage horse. Cathie and Farley beat the odds and competed as high as the Prix St. Georges, the beginning level of the international levels of dressage, and the first Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) level.
As she looks toward the future, Cathie’s next goal is to compete at Grand Prix level with her Friesian Sport Horse, Levi.
“Levi is the first horse I have owned that has the potential to compete at such a high level of dressage.”
Cathie has trained successful students including Allison Shields who recently competed in the elite 2018 USEF Dressage Festival of Champions in addition to many other awards. .
Whether it’s teaching, training horses or competing herself, Cathie is passionate about what she does for a living and wants to expand her love for dressage to the community.
“I think anything that brings attention to a sport that promotes animal welfare is huge. Kids are great with horses and horses are great with kids. It’s another sport for the community to become involved in and for kids to have a great sport to learn from. It’s something they learn so many lessons in life from as they learn to take care of something other than themselves. It’s a partnership and a true connection with another being.”
The community has been very supportive of Four Rivers Sport Horse Center and there are many adults and kids that take lessons and board horses as well as compete.
“My passion is the horses themselves—seeing them grow and understand and enjoy their work. It would be terrible if I did my work and the horses dreaded seeing me every day. But instead, I walk into the barn every morning to the sound of nickers and horses who peek out of their stalls to greet me. It’s very rewarding and I love seeing the kids grow up and students of all ages find this as their passion too. It’s enlightening when my students see each horse’s unique personality and what a unique experience it is to have a bond with an animal such as a horse.”
Four Rivers Sport Horse Center offers riding lessons from beginner and intermediate to advanced riders, training services and full care pasture and stall boarding. The riding facility is located at 4982 Lovelaceville Rd., Paducah, Ky.