Smart Start Stable is located in Somerset WI, just east of the Twin Cities metro area. We specialize in training horses and owners putting a good foundation into them so they are ready to learn any discipline.  We specialize in dressage but a horse with a good foundation can be trained for whatever discipline their conformation is built to do.

The barn is owned by Ed and Suzette Sontag.  Suzette is the trainer and manager of the barn. Please Contact Suzette with questions: 715-549-6579

Ed and Suzette

Ed and Suzette


On January 1 Wayne Rivard joined Smart Start Stable to train!





facilityOne of the most cleanest Healthiest barns around.




Smart Start Stable is located in Somerset, WI just 30 miles east of Minneapolis/St Paul, MN on 229 ac of land. There are 40 stalls, 31 of which are in heated barns, a 60X135 heated indoor arena with sand and rubber footing, an outdoor sand dressage ring and wooded and open trails to ride. There are 4 hot water wash racks with lockers for each client. Horses are turned out in pastures with suitable pasture mates for the day with no more than 8 or 9 in the largest pasture of 8 acres, less in the smaller pastures.  They are fed grass/alfalfa mix hay grown by Ed and Suzette.  The grain consists of Equishine, a ration balancer made by Doctors Choice Supplements, and whole oats, also grown by Ed and Suzette.

View of the Dressage Ring

View of the Dressage Ring


Breeds of any type are welcome. Training is based on teaching the horse from the horse’s point of view and teaching the riders/handlers how to use these techniques to become effective partners with their horse in whatever they choose to do with them.


The trainers at Smart Start Stable have worked with various breeds through the years. They range from Icelandics to Friesians, Arabs, Warmbloods, Morgans, Quarter horses, Thoroughbreds,  Missouri Foxtrotter, Tennesse Walker, Halflinger and almost everything in between. There is no need for the horse to be a “fancy show horse”, only that it has an owner/rider/handler who wants what is best for the horse and wants to take the journey to become a better partner with his/her horse.

Suzette has her USDF SILVER Medal and is presently showing successfully at Prix St George and on a purebred Arabian!  One of the jobs as trainer is to help the horse understand it’s job so that it is easier for the rider/handler to get the horse to do it’s job for them. The training program is different for each horse/rider pair, Smart Start works to devise a program that works best for each pair. There is no “cookie cut” training at Smart Start Stable.

Wayne Rivard worked with John Lyons and many other “natural horsemanship” trainers when virtually no one knew of them.  He has started many horses under saddle, including Mustangs, and has fixed some extremely difficult horses that others couldn’t train.  He will be starting horses under saddle, training basics into new arrivals at Smart Start and helping Suzette in the journey to make each horse the best performer and the safest and happiest horse it can be.

The training techniques used originated from “natural horsemanship” techniques and have evolved into teaching the horse in the way the horse understands it most clearly.  The exercises also build and strengthen the horse. Often horses that come to Smart Start have severe lameness or behavioral issues, usually a combination of both. Through the Smart Start program the horses become wonderful partners to work with and pain issues and behavioral issues are resolved.

The three components to horse behavioral problems are physical, mental and emotional. They are nearly always tied together and we feel that Smart Start team does a phenomenal job of working with the horse to unravel the problem and fix it.

Please call or email Suzette if you have any questions regarding anything horse related.

If you would like more detail about our training, check out the “Training Philosophies” on the website.

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