Preparing to Work: Getting Delaware Ready For More

Before any horse enters a regular training regimen, both body and mind have to be prepared. As Brianna and Delaware meet the 30-day mark of their time together, here’s what steps Brianna has taken to make sure Delaware was ready for the saddle.

Earlier this year, 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.

As Brianna and Delaware embark on their training journey together, a big part of Brianna’s goal has been to make sure Delaware is mentally and physically ready to take a rider and continue her education. For many trainers who enter training competitions, that can be one of the biggest challenges when working within a strict timeframe. Since the Appalachian Trainer Face Off (ATFO) is a training challenge that takes place over the course of 100 days, this can be somewhat daunting.

Fortunately for Brianna, the mental aspect of preparing Delaware to ride has been easy. Delaware’s mind is a good one. Her mode is slow, and she’s not overly reactive. This has made for a smooth transition when it comes to working on the ground, being saddled and being ridden. According to Brianna, “Delaware is very quiet and laid back. Not much bothers her. Even though she doesn’t always understand what is being asked of her, she is very willing.”

Delaware crossing a bridge. Photo by Brianna Ivory.

Delaware and Brianna enjoying a bonfire. Delaware is unfazed. Photo courtesy of Brianna Ivory.

Delaware being ponied on the trail. Photo courtesy of Brianna Ivory.

Although not insurmountable, the physical aspect of preparing Delaware for riding has been a bit more nuanced.

When trainers received their horses from Heart of Phoenix, the horses are in decent flesh so that they are ready to go directly into training. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. Between the stress of shipping, waiting to be adopted and whatever their experiences may be prior to arriving at Heart of Phoenix, many horses do drop weight. However, with proper nutrition and care, they bounce back and are ready to become an adoptable riding horse. This certainly has been the case for Delaware.

Delaware’s 30-day comparison photos. Photo by Brianna Ivory.

The benefits of a consistent location, feeding routine and exercise routine is clear in Delaware’s 30-day comparison photos. Brianna notes that when Delaware arrived, they were unsure of what her feeding schedule had been. Therefore, she started Delaware on Purina Impact Professional Performance and slowly increased the amount until they brought her up to six pounds per day. Brianna also has Delaware on two pounds of Purina Hay Stretcher and 10 oz. of Purina Super Sport to help build her topline. When Delaware first arrived, she was introduced to pasture in 15-minute increments — she is now up to full turn out.

Similarly, Delaware was introduced to the herd slowly to make sure that no issues arose between horses. Brianna reports, “She was only interested in eating grass and gave no mind to the other horses who were clearly interested in her.”

The biggest obstacle for Delaware has been her hind end and picking up her back feet. For as easy going as Delaware is, handling her back feet has been a challenge. Initially, this resistance to having her back legs picked up was attributed to a combination of having not been handled much and sensitivity due to external injuries. Delaware arrived at Shooting Star Ranch, Brianna’s barn, with several scrapes on her back legs. Brianna isn’t entirely certain on the source of the wounds, but everyone believes the injuries were acquired while trailering from one adoption location to the next.

Photo by Brianna Ivory

Photo by Brianna Ivory

This video shows Delaware’s reaction to having her back legs handled. It’s not dramatic, but she makes clear how she feels about it:

Through working with Delaware, it became clear that her reaction to her legs being handled stems from a larger issue than sensitivity and education. Rather than being reactive to the external injuries, Delaware’s left hip is causing her some pain. She is especially tight there, which is making her hesitant to lift her legs and may become a concern through the course of her training.

Of course, this isn’t being left unaddressed — some of Delaware’s sponsors jumped to the ready. Delaware has received massage therapy red light/infrared light therapy from Rustbelt Equine and had a full work up done by Kelvin Sharrenberger from Lick & Chew Equine Sports.

Throughout every step of the training journey, Brianna is taking time to make sure that Delaware is ready to progress. The first step has been addressing Delaware’s mental and physical preparedness, and she is well on her way to being a consistent mount. 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.