Standing Ovation by Ovation Riding: Good People for Good Horses Awards

Every Friday, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an individual or organization doing good work in the horse world. Today we recognize the the Right Horse Initiative’s Good People for Good Horses Awards recipients.

The Right Horse Initiative’s first annual Good People for Good Horses Awards recognized eight recipients who have made outstanding contributions to equine adoption and welfare efforts. Each recipient has dedicated their time and talents to helping horses in transition through varying capacities as horse industry professionals, volunteers or advocates.

The awards were created to recognize and spotlight the outstanding contributions being made by individuals in the equine welfare and adoption movements. “We realize there are so many unsung heroes whose efforts are invaluable to adoption programs; we wanted to shine the spotlight on them,” stated Christy Counts, President of The Right Horse Initiative. “These are folks who go above and beyond giving their time and resources to help horses in need.”

The Right Horse Initiative is pleased to recognize the following individuals and organizations in six categories.

 Trainer: Melissa Porter, nominated for her work at Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program. Melissa Porter grew up in the American Quarter Horse racing industry, raising and training horses from a young age. After graduating from Alfred State University in Alfred, New York, she moved to Colorado to continue training racing American Quarter Horses.

While working in Colorado she discovered a niche and passion for helping racehorses find new careers after training several mounts to barrel race. This inspired Porter to join the team at Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program and has become an integral part of their team. Her vast knowledge of horses combined with her attention to detail ensures that each horse coming into the facility receives outstanding care.

She specializes in focusing on the details that fit the right horse with the right person, helping many horses and resulting in high quality adoptions. Porter’s expertise has helped the program to nearly double the number of horses served this year.

Melissa Porter. Photo courtesy of the Right Horse Initiative.

Farrier: Thad Gouge, APF, CF nominated for his work at Kentucky Equine Adoption Center. Thad Gouge has been working as a farrier for nearly three decades. He is a certified farrier with the American Farriers Association and an accredited professional farrier with the American Association of Professional Farriers.

He spent five years working under Dr. Bray Fraley of Fraley Equine Podiatry, honing his skills in therapeutic shoeing. Drawing on that experience, Gouge has made significant contributions to the horses at the Kentucky Equine Adoption Center. Some of the horses that come into the organization’s care have experienced neglect and require significant care to regain health before being adopted. Gouge’s extensive knowledge for the hoof and passion for helping horses have allowed him to rehabilitate numerous hard-to-help equines that went on to find loving new homes.

Nominator Olivia Dixon wrote that “Thad has gone out of his way to help horses on many different occasions throughout the years… He goes above and beyond to do the best job possible making each horse as comfortable and as functional as they can be so that they have a greater chance and getting healed when needed and a greater chance at getting adopted.”

Thad Gouge. Photo courtesy of the Right Hors Initiative.

Community Partner: Celia and Daniela Bunge, Miami International Riding Club, nominated for their unique approach to cultivating and integrating at-risk equines into their riding programs. Mother and daughter duo Celia and Daniela Bunge own and operate the largest barn in the Miami area. The Miami International Riding Club has over 50 horses on-site and a robust lesson program. They focus on expanding the sport of showjumping within the community while also bringing new riders into the sport.

The facility was awarded the 2018 American Youth Horse Council “Youth Equine Industry Connections Award” for their dedication to connecting kids and horses. Both Daniela and Celia are members of the Certified Horsemanship Association. As avid lifelong equestrians, the Bunges have developed a talent for rehabilitating and training rescue horses. Many of the horses come from the racetrack and continue onto new careers as sport horses.

Their rehabilitated and re-trained horses transition into a variety of homes and careers including show jumping, dressage and eventing. Other horses remain at the equestrian center and are incorporated into the lesson program.

In describing MIRC’s work, Kimberly Gonzalez wrote, “At MIRC they love to work with rescued/adopted horses that need to be rehabilitated and introduced to a new career as jumpers or hunters. They are not a non for profit organization, but they are able to pull this off thanks to the help of their very our own MIRC horse community. As proof of the program’s success, several of MIRC’s rescued horses are now excelling in their new careers [as lesson and show horses]. They all find their role, and are all loved, cared for, and become happy horses with a fulfilling life and a job.”

Daniela and Celia Bunge. Photo courtesy of the Right Horse Initiative.

Volunteer: Casey Waldrop, nominated for her work at Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society. Casey grew up with horses and was an avid competitor on the barrel horse circuit. In her adult life, she reconnected with her love for the animal and began volunteering with Bluebonnet Humane Society in 2015. Two years later she joined the board of directors and became co-chair of the board in 2019, continuing to serve after a recent move to Montana.

She acts as Bluebonnet Humane Society’s Rescue Horse Training Challenge Coordinator. The training challenge pairs professional trainers with rescued equines for four months of training. The Challenge provides training and showcases adoptable horses and accounts for half of the organization’s annual adoptions. Under her leadership, they have duplicated the competition into a twice-a-year format and have increased the number of competitors and horses participating, resulting in helping many more horses in need.

Casey Waldrop. Photo courtesy of the Right Horse Initiative.

Wild Card: Elizabeth Moyer, nominated for her editorial efforts in promoting equine adoption to her publications’ readership. Liz Moyer is the immediate past editor of Horse Illustrated, Your New Horse and She has a passion and vision for improving welfare of America’s horses. She guided Horse Illustrated, a publication with one of the largest equestrian readerships in the country, to focus on promoting at-risk horses.

Starting in 2018, Moyer piloted a series of stories, articles and news updates about equine rescue, adoption and horses in transition. The features thoughtfully and positively explored issues from many angles, changing the conversation, dismantling stigmas and providing individuals ways to get involved.

Elizabeth Moyer. Photo courtesy of The Right Horse Initiative.

Veterinary Professional, West region: Wayne Marteney, DVM, nominated for his work with Love This Horse Equine Rescue. Dr. Marteney is a passionate supporter of equine adoption and has been a large part of Love This Horse’s success. His years of expertise translates into compassionate care. He is extremely dedicated to supporting and promoting adoption and has frequently donated services and supplies to the organization.

As a respected member of the equine community, he promotes the organization locally and has referred owners to Love This Horse Equine Rescue when they run into difficulties caring for their horses.

Nominator Vera Valdivia-Abdallah wrote that “Dr. Wayne Marteney has been our main veterinarian since we started Love this Horse. He comes with 40 years of equine veterinary experience which is something that we strongly appreciate. In addition to his many years of experience, Dr. Marteney has a passion, deep empathy and caring for our rescued horses. Many times, our horses come in states of starvation, neglect and medical issues. Dr. Marteney cares for each horse as if this horse was the most important horse in the world.”

Dr. Wayne Marteney. Photo courtesy of the Right Horse Initiative.

Veterinary Professional, Central region: Bruce Connally, DVM, MS nominated for his work with Colorado Horse Rescue. A lifelong horseman, Dr. Connally has been in the Veterinary profession for over 30 years. Specializing in sport horse medicine, Dr. Connally spent seven years as a teaching assistant at Colorado State University and spent an additional three years working at Michigan State University, where he received a Master’s Degree in Large Animal Clinical Sciences.

He puts his years of experience and expertise to good work by providing outstanding care for the Colorado Horse Rescue. He also works with the CHR to create knowledgeable adopters and elevate community education through educational clinics. The clinics raise funds for the CHR, while simultaneously improving the care and education of local horse owners and adopters.

An inspiring story shared in his nomination reads: “One time Bruce truly went above and beyond for a horse at CHR was with a horse named Tigger. Tigger was a horse who came to us a while back, and was pretty shy with a bit and a halter. Upon his arrival, Bruce evaluated him from a health standpoint and very quickly diagnosed Tigger with a squamous cell carcinoma. After performing freeze treatments that cleared up about 80% of the carcinoma, Tigger still required continued treatment and care for the condition. Bruce performed all of Tigger’s treatments at a significant price reduction for us, which allowed the horse to get the treatment he needed and be more adoptable in the long run. While in continued care, Tigger was adopted! Bruce worked with Tigger’s adopter even after he left CHR, and has continued to be his veterinarian since.”

Dr. Bruce Connally. Photo courtesy of the Right Horse Initiative.

Veterinary Professional, East region: James Fukuda, DVM, nominated for his work with Florida Thoroughbred Retirement and Adoptive Care. Dr. James Fukuda spent many childhood weekends at the local racetrack in Tokyo. He obtained a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia while furthering his passion for horses as a member of a riding team. He continued on to receive his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University.

He joined TFB Equine veterinary practice in 2015 and specializes in lameness diagnostics, airways and natural medicine. He is dedicated to the horses at Florida TRAC and brings his years of experience to provide outstanding care for the organization’s horses. He is always available to help horses in transition and provides continuous support to the volunteers, staff and trainers at Florida TRAC.

Of Dr. Fukuda, nominator Katie Schmit wrote, “Volunteers, adopters and staff ask him countless questions, all of which he answers with the greatest of care and patience. It truly feels as though he treats each of our horses, even an elderly retiree with years of wear and little monetary value, as if they are a potential Breeder’s Cup Champion in the final stages of preparation! We are blessed to have him on our team and TFB Equine for the support they provide us and for being so generous with his time.”

Dr. James Fukuda. Photo courtesy of the Right Horse Initiative.

Each winner received a custom belt buckle and plaque to honor their efforts.

About The Right Horse

The Right Horse Initiative is a collective of industry professionals and equine welfare advocates working together to improve the lives of horses in transition through a dialogue of kindness and respect. Through collaboration with over 60 industry and adoption partners, The Right Horse is able to innovate new and better adoption standards and practices. Together, the goal is to shatter the stigma and reframe the conversation around equine adoption in order to massively increase horse adoption in the United States. To learn more, visit

Many thanks thanks to Ovation Riding for their support of both Horse Nation and individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected]. Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.

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