UHC Director Judges 'Rags to Riches Rescue Competition'

Organizations across the country are continuing to work hard to address the issues of unwanted horses. Equine care facilities are struggling and many of our nation's rescues are either at capacity or near capacity. With this information at hand, Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC) member, the Equine Extravaganza, has instituted a new program to promote rescue and adoption.

On Nov. 3, UHC Director Ericka Caslin went to Richmond, Va., to judge the inaugural 'Rags to Riches Horse Rescue Competition' at the Equine Extravaganza. Along with fellow judges Harry de Leyer, a successful show jumper and trainer in America; Elizabeth Letts, author of the book The Eighty Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse that Inspired a Nation; and Elizabeth Shatner, philanthropist for the All Glory project; Caslin saw ten rescue horses over the course of the day. These ten finalists were chosen out of many entries, based on video submissions received since July. The breeds showcased included Quarter Horses, Paints, off-the-track Thoroughbreds, a Percheron/TB cross, and Appaloosas.

During the first part of the competition, the finalists presented their horses' stories to the judges. "A few stories really stood out," said Caslin. "Some of these horses were on the brink of death, and to see that someone cared enough to give them a second chance at life is really incredible. What is even more amazing to me is that these horses are competing successfully in disciplines such as dressage and eventing. These stories were very heart-warming and emotional."

In this round, the horses and riders or handlers were judged on a scale from one to 10 on the passion and allure of the story behind the horse's rescue, how far the horse has come since its rescue, and if the horse would be a good role model for the equine rescue industry.

The second part of the competition was moved to the outdoor arena of the Equine Extravaganza. The horse and rider/handler combinations were allotted three minutes to demonstrate to the judges their horses' talents. The horse and rider/handler combinations were judged on a scale of one to 10 on the compatibility of horse and rider, how far the horse has come since its rescue, the horses' healthy appearance, the creativity of the performance, and how well the performance was executed.

"The horse and rider combinations really got creative during the arena demonstration of the Rags to Riches competition. We saw a horse play soccer, we saw a rider ride her horse bareback with a flag, we saw a lunging demonstration, a barrel racing demonstration, and we saw some really fantastic dressage tests," said Caslin

After tallying up all the points, the win went to 'How Do You Like Me Now' and his rider, Caitlin Schoemmell. How Do You Like Me Now was rescued in 2010 and had an initial body score of 1.5. His first day of training was in May 2010 and he went to his first show in May 2011. He has won many championships at shows and is now jumping 2'6" courses and is safe enough for children to ride. His owner helps educate people about rescuing horses and the joys a rescue horse can bring to people's lives.

Second place honors went to 'Box of Chocolates' and her rider, Brittany. Box of Chocolates, Cocoa around the barn, was rescued from the Camelot auction in 2010. She was so badly injured, that she walked on the insides of her feet. Her owners were not sure if Cocoa could ever be ridden, but they were willing to save her to keep at their farm. After using the Parelli method to initially trainer her, Cocoa is now successfully competing in horse trials, consistently placing, and jumping 3' regularly.

Days End Chino and rider Alyssa earned third place honors. After being rescued from a farm in Maryland with a body condition score of 1.5, veterinarians were not sure if Chino would live. With a lot of love, care, and training, Chino thrived and was able to be adopted into a forever home in September 2010. He is now competing successfully in dressage and eventing competitions.

The rescue chosen by the winner of the Rags to Riches competition received a prize package from A Home for Every Horse.

"It was such an honor to judge the inaugural Rags to Riches Horse Rescue Competition at the Equine Extravaganza," Caslin said. "There were so many people there to cheer on their favorite horse and rider combinations; it was a pleasure to be a part of it and we hope it will continue to grow each year. It's incredible to see so many horses that have been saved and have thrived in their new situations, and these are just ten of the many."

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