October 15, 2014--Heartstrings were stretched to the limit at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex as 10 rescue horses entered the ring on Tuesday night to display their new found skills after just 90 days of training. Ultimately it was the amazing work of Todd Feaser of Newville, PA, and the rescue horse, "Lil' Red" that wowed the judges. The pair completed the obstacle course with ease and went on to exhibit incredible feats during their "freestyle" which earned them first place and a saddle generously donated by Cowboy Classics Saddlery.
A Home for Every Horse created the Equine Comeback Challenge to provide horses in need of care and shelter the chance to find a loving and caring home. The Equine Comeback Challenge pairs 10 trainers and 10 horses for 90 days of preparation for this unique competition. All the horses involved in the Challenge were found at shelters, auctions, or seizures, and had never been under saddle prior to the start of the 90 day training period. Trainers and rescue horses competed in a versatility trail class that includes opening a 'rope gate', walking over a raised ramp, showing at all three gaits, and trotting over poles. Following the event, all rescue horses became available to be privately rehomed by each trainer to approved homes only.
Feaser received "Red" after being contacted by officials in Mercer County, PA, after a seizure of 32 malnourished horses from a private farm. Red was badly emaciated and in need of medical attention, but thanks to foster care, she put on hundreds of pounds in just a few short months. When she arrived at Feaser's Top Shelf Ranch in Newville, PA, she was timid and untrusting for the first two weeks until Feaser's daughter, Fallon, began working with her.
Red's three minute "freestyle" in the ring was nothing short of amazing. The trainers had been given free license to exhibit 'extra' training skills, and Feaser did just that. He had balloons placed on top of cones and then shot them with a loud air gun while mounted and walking around. The spectators surely jumped in their seats, but Red didn't even bat an eyelash! His young daughter Fallon then mounted the tiny chestnut Quarter Horse and rode her across a flaming block of wood,
"She trusts kids," Feaser said of Red. "If she won't do something, just send a kid to her and she will follow them across fire. Literally."
When asked of the emotional journey that training Red had taken him on Feaser said, "It was as good as winning any rodeo or anything else." The most wonderful moment of the night was when the McBride family, who had already decided to adopt Red, entered the ring and surprised their three young daughters with their new horse. What an amazing moment!
"Right away he [Feaser] said, 'This is the perfect horse for your family," said Mrs. McBride. "Finally my daughters guilted me into getting them a horse. They had no idea it came true until the announcer said it. It was a total surprise!"
Each trainer did an incredible job working with their horses. The horses, varying in age, size and breed, all showcased different talents like climbing mounting blocks, galloping while blindfolded, and even standing still while allowing their rider to stand on their backs! Popular Hunter rider and trainer Louise Serio, and horseman Terry Helder judged the Comeback Challenge, and personally congratulated each individual trainer on their accomplishments with their respective horses during the final lineup.
The Equine Comeback Challenge promotes adoption, local horse rescues and awareness to the untapped potential of these talented horses. A perfect tie-in for the PNHS Foundation, which benefits community equine and youth programs since 1945.
A Home for Every Horse was created in 2011 as a partnership between the Equine Network and the American Horse Council's Unwanted horse Coalition. The program provides a resource for 501(c) (3) horse rescue organizations and helps connect rescue horses in need with great homes looking for horses. To make the connection between horses and homes, rescue organizations can list their horses for free on Equine.com - the world's largest horse marketplace - where they can be seen by some 300,000 visitors each month. To learn more about the Equine Comeback Challenge, and adopting a rescue horse, please visit www.ahomeforeveryhorse.com.