In an effort to erase the image of the broken-down, unwanted horse, the Grace Foundation, located in El Dorado Hills, Calif., along with the Western States Horse Expo, has developed an event called the Rescue Me Trainers' Showcase.
In fall 2009, the Grace Foundation took in part of a large group of horses that had been branded with a symbol that looks like the capital letter "U" to indicate they were the most unwanted of the unwanted. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had sent these Mustangs through three auctions with no one bidding on them. When that happens, the BLM's policy is to cease responsibility of the horses. Many rescue organizations pitched in to save these Mustangs and find them new homes, among them the Grace Foundation.
"When I looked at these horses, I could see what happened. They were just plain brown horses," says Beth DeCaprio of the Grace Foundation. "Nobody wanted them because they weren't flashy in any way. I thought that was so sad."
The Grace Foundation trailered 31 of the rescued Mustangs from Texas back to their Northern California facility and brought the horses back to good health. Then Beth developed a plan to showcase the plain brown horses at the big Western States Horse Expo and then offer them for adoption. She invited 31 trainers to each take on a rescued Mustang for two and a half months and uncover each horse's potential.
Professional trainer Alejandro Salazar volunteered to see what he could do with a 10-year-old gelding they named Blue Amber.
"He had a kind eye. I liked that he seemed curious and interested in me," says Alejandro. Blue Amber is turning into a horse with job prospects.
"I'm confident that, with more time, Blue could go in a number of directions: competitive trails, working cow horse, reiner or low-level dressage, even a quiet pony club mount," says Alejandro. "He has been a pleasure to work with and a happy surprise."
No one was more surprised than the crowd at the Western States Expo on June 10, 2010, when Alejandro presented Blue to the public. The photo tells the story. From unwanted to elegant. All of the Grace Foundation's unwanted Mustangs were presented at the trainers' showcase, and all have been adopted to new homes.
It took a lot of effort and a lot of caring people to save Blue Amber and the other most unwanted of the unwanted. Beth is happy.
"The trainers' showcase isn't a competition; it's a platform to reach the horse-loving public with an important message," she says.
Blue Amber is no broken-down horse. He might be a plain brown horse, but he's clearly on his way to a better future.
The August 2010 issue of Horse & Rider magazine features "Rescue Me!", which offers tips for deciding if a rescue horse is right for your program and provides pointers for finding the right rescue organization with which to work.