Appalachian Trainer Face Off trainer Brianna Ivory and her horse Delaware are off and running — or at least walking and trotting. They are 29 days into their 100 days of training and we’re here to help highlight their progress.
Two weeks ago, we introduced Horse Nation readers to the Appalachian Trainer Face Off (ATFO), a training competition “that leads to a better view of what horse rescue means, what adoption should look like and how the horse industry can … help horses in a meaningful way.” The training period takes place over the course of 100 days and culminates in a competition from Thursday, August 19 through Saturday, August 21, 2021 in Winfield, West Virginia. Throughout the course of the retraining period and competition, we will be following the journey of amateur trainer Brianna Ivory and her horse Delaware.
Brianna is a lifelong horse lover who grew up appreciating the hard work, effort and responsibility that come with caring for horses. From the time she bought herself her first pony at the age of six, she knew that horse ownership meant dedication. “We never bought finished horses,” said Brianna,” so I had to train my back yard pasture pets to do the things I wanted to do. It started out as just trail riding and later evolved into the local 4-H club. As an eight-year-old, I wanted to do it all. I entered every event class 4-H had to offer… as long as I was allowed to use my western saddle.” As Brianna grew up, she developed a love of barrel racing and competed on her Arabian gelding and then later on a grade (probably Quarter Horse) horse her father purchased for her.
Brianna’s love of horses heavily influenced her career choices. Following high school she earned her Vet Tech License and went to work for the Cleveland Equine Clinic. There, she focused on working with Standardbreds at the racetrack, learning even more about the animals she would one day train.
Since life seldom follows a straight path, Brianna’s career pulled her away from horses (at least professionally) for seven years while she worked for General Electric’s diesel engine manufacturing facility. Even though she wasn’t with horses at work, Brianna never stepped away from riding. She moved from barrel racing to Cowboy Mounted Shooting. She currently is a Ladies Level 5 and she competes on her Quarter Horse mare, Ziggy.
Although comfortable in her position with General Electric, economic circumstances forced an early end to that career and gave Brianna the push she needed to pursue training horses full time. “I was laid off in December of 2020,” said Brianna. “I decided this was the perfect opportunity to launch my horse training career and it did just that. It has taken off faster than I could’ve ever imagined.”
Training horses full time gave Brianna the opportunity to apply for the ATFO. Brianna said, “I set a goal to compete in the Appalachian Trainer Face Off and intended to apply in 2020 but we had just bought our farm in January of that year and hadn’t settled in yet. This year I finally was able to apply and was stoked that I got accepted.”
Why the Appalachian Trainer Face Off? Brianna says, “It is my passion to help horses become the best they can be and it’s a bonus when I can find them a home where they are loved and appreciated. When I found the opportunity to help the Heart of Phoenix train horse to become good members of society and find good homes, it just seemed right.”
Delaware is a presumed Quarter Horse cross who is at least 11 years old. She was part of a 2018 herd seizure in Maryland. She had lived on a 180-acre farm with well over 100 horses. At the time of rescue, 25 were found dead and over 100 were relocated to a variety of rescues and foster homes (you can read our coverage of the seizure here). Delaware was taken in by Changing Fates Equine Rescue of Delaware (hence the mare’s name), where she was handled and taught to lead.
After spending the last two-and-a-half years with Changing Fates, Delaware was identified as a candidate for the ATFO and was sent to Heart of Phoenix to be made available in the amateur division of this year’s ATFO… And it’s a good thing she did, for both Brianna and Delaware. As Brianna said upon learning about Delaware’s past, “It’s good to be able to learn about Delaware’s past, but we only care about her future!”
Pick Up Day
The ATFO trainers were able to pick up their horses on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Horses and mules are divided into two groups: those for professional trainers and those for amateurs. Within each designation, the horses are then chosen by lottery.
Brianna, a first-time competitor, went in as prepared as she could be. She spent the time between the release of the available horses and pick up day reviewing the album of adoptable horses on the ATFO Facebook page, but still didn’t know which horse she wanted. She had some in mind, but decided it would be in her best interest to look at the horses once she arrived and form a more salient list from there. While walking around, she referred to her list and put a star next to the names of the horses in which she was interested and then a second star by the ones that still appealed to her after the horses were taken out of their stalls and run through a pen. After watching the horses move and seeing a bit of their personalities, Brianna made a list of her top 10 horses. Then she waited.
The trainer’s names were pulled from a hat in order to determine the order of go when it came to choosing horses. Brianna recounts, “I waited as trainers names got pulled…one after another…horse after horse. My top 10 list kept dwindling until finally my name was picked. I looked down at my list, feeling a rush in the heat of the moment and realized I only had one horse left on my top 10 — Delaware. I couldn’t for the life of me remember anything about Delaware of why she was even on my top 10, but I figured it was meant to be and, no matter what, all the horses needed homes.”
Delaware loaded easily onto the trailer, but was hesitant once she got off. However, she has been willing every step of the way and is learning quickly.
From the moment she picked up Delaware, Brianna has only been looking forward. Her goal is to expose Delaware to as much as possible over the course of the 100 days of training. From trail rides to obstacles to mounted shooting (as well as a few more surprises), Delaware will see as much as she can to help build her confidence and help her become a solid mount once the competition has ended.
Like many rescue horses, Delaware does come with a bit of baggage — she needs to build confidence and learn to trust, but she and Brianna are well on the way.
We will be following along on their journey up until and through the competition. You can read updates at the beginning of each week — we can’t wait to share Delaware’s progress.
If you would like to support Brianna and Delaware on their ATFO journey, you can do so through a variety of channels. Brianna has created an Amazon wish list for Delaware and cash donations can be made via PayPal. If you would like to make a tax deductible cash donation, you can do so through Heart of Phoenix by sending it through PayPal to [email protected] — just put in the notes that it is for Delaware and Brianna. You can also send donations directly to Brianna. For more information on how to do so, email [email protected]. Put ATFO Donation in the subject line.