Click here to read about Jojo, one of the horses in the Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse
Click here to read more about the Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse
by Joni Astrup
In January 2013, North Dakota authorities investigating a complaint of underfed horses found 96 dead horses and mules and seized another 157 that were starving. Vegetation in their pasture had been eaten down to the dirt and the horses were so hungry they had chewed on tree bark and fence posts, according to the Bismarck Tribune.
One of the surviving horses is Hope, who landed at a rescue operation in Hastings called This Old Horse, where she began her road to recovery.
Kate Nelson, executive director of This Old Horse, said Hope was very malnourished and weak when she arrived.
They named her Hope because she survived “horrible” circumstances, yet still had enough trust to walk on their trailer and take the journey home with them.
Today Hope has made a full recovery and been declared sound by two veterinarians. She is living in Nowthen and being trained by Leanna Giles to participate in the Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse on Sept. 20 in St. Paul. The event is put on by the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation in Zimmerman.
The Trainer’s Challenge will showcase Hope and 16 other rescue horses and give them a second chance. At the end of the event, the horses will be offered at silent auction to adoptive homes that have been pre-approved to ensure the horses go to good homes.
Giles said she hopes Hope will go to someone who will treasure her.
This is the second year Giles, of Nowthen, has participated in the Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse. Last year she trained a rescued horse named Norma. Giles and Norma took overall reserve champion at the Trainer’s Challenge, missing the championship by just one point. Norma went on to become part of the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office mounted patrol.
“It’s so rewarding to know that you took something that nobody wanted
and made it valuable to somebody,” Giles said.
It’s a time-consuming labor of love. Giles and the other participants are training the horses at no cost, but will compete for $10,000 in prize money at the Trainer’s Challenge.
Giles has been working with Hope since May, spending several hours every day on her training. Like the other horses in the competition, Hope was untrained before Giles began working with her.
Rescue horses present their own set of challenges, she said.
“They still bear the scars of what they went through,” she said. “It takes more to get them to trust you.”
But Giles described Hope as a very sweet horse with a kind temperament. Hope is estimated to be 7 or 8 years old, and Giles said she would be well-suited for trail riding, light showing or mounted patrol.
Working with horses is nothing new for Giles, who has been around them since she was a girl growing up in Mound.
“When I was a kid, I didn’t have a bike. I rode my horse,” she said.
Her first job was working for a Twin Cities Polo Club polo player, caring for his horses. By 17, Giles had started training horses for money.
She has a degree in law enforcement, and for 11 years was the trainer and riding instructor for the Three Rivers Park District.
“I didn’t know horses would become my living and my way of life,” Giles said. “But, really, you couldn’t ask for more.”