FRANKTOWN, Colo. (CBS4) – Nearly three dozen horses involved in neglect or abuse cases are getting a chance at a new beginning. On Tuesday, professional and amateur trainers from all over Colorado came to the Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center to pick them up for a 45-day training challenge.
The Colt Starting Challenge, made possible by the Harmony Equine Center and Colorado Horse Rescue Network, is aimed at getting the horses love and training so they can be ready for adoption.
Judges will look for who can get their horse furthest along in training. Because the horses are too young or too small to be ridden, trainers will work with them on obstacles, teaching them how to lead and pick up their feet, all to help prepare them for eventually becoming a riding horse.
Trainers with the most progress over the month-and-a-half long period will also be in line for various rewards.
“These trainers didn’t just take these yearlings just for fun,” said Garret Leonard. “They’re taking them because there’s about $6,000 in prizes.”
Tesha Homolka drove all the way from Fort Collins to pick up a horse for the competition. In an earlier random draw, Homolka was matched with a 2-year-old quarter horse named Stella.
“She’s a lot bigger than I thought she was,” she said. “She’s a mare. I love mares!”
Stella is one of about 225 horses that came to the Harmony Equine Center last year through law enforcement action. According to the Dumb Friends League, it was a record year for animal cruelty and neglect cases.
“They’ve been at our facility getting rehabilitated, getting worked with, and now it’s time for them to move off to the next level,” Leonard said.
Homolka has taken part in a program like this before and continues to do so to hone her training skills. With Stella, she’ll have her hands full over the next few weeks.
“She’s going to learn all her ground work skills, so that way she’s a productive member of society and is a little more respectful than she is now,” Homolka said.
After 45 days the trainers can adopt the horses or help find them new homes. According to Garret Leonard, many end up keeping their horse.
“My yearling that I have now – he was supposed to be a train and sell, Homolka said. “That didn’t really work out so well because I still have him.”