The saying goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Clearly that isn’t the case for Delaware and Brianna!
Earlier this spring, 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 ATFO horse Delaware. You can catch up on the previous pieces in this series here.
One of the main goals of the ATFO is to create adoptable horses that have bright futures in a suitable homes. For the trainers in the competition, that means getting the horses used to a variety of disciplines they may be exposed to post competition. Brianna Ivory and Delaware were both out of their comfort zone as they participated in a trick riding clinic in Belmont, Ohio. However, this experience showed that Delaware is eager to learn new things.
On June 22, 2021 Brianna and Delaware spent the day at a trick riding clinic at Pass the Torch Leadership Camp. Clinicians Shadow Montag and Shelly Lynn helped introduce horses and riders into the world of trick riding.
Brianna was excited to see how Delaware would behave in the trick riding atmosphere. For a horse with very little saddle time, Delaware was a rock star! Brianna stated, “Once Delaware figured out the routine, she was very willing.” Delaware carried Brianna around the entire day, proving herself to be a reliable mount. Delaware remained cool, calm and collected and was patient with Brianna as she was attempting to learn new tricks.
Of course, with any new discipline there were some challenges during the day, but none of these challenges were directly related to Delaware’s behavior or trainability. Countless times throughout the clinic Delaware proved herself to be a solid horse. Unfortunately for Brianna, the trick riding saddle was just as solid as the horse beneath her, leaving enough bruises for her to be mistaken for a leopard. You can teach an older rider new tricks, but you can’t give them an eight-year-old body to attempt them in. Brianna says this was the other negative of the day: the adolescents were out performing her in every aspect of the sport.
Overall, Brianna and Delaware had a positive experience. Brianna said it will be fun for the two of them to revisit and practice the tricks they learned, but that was not her main reason for participating in the clinic. Brianna wanted to put herself and her equine partner out there and try something that was out of both of their comfort zones. This experience created a more trusting bond between the two and really showcased the potential Delaware has to be a dependable equine partner.
Brianna wanted to show those who are following Delaware’s journey that it’s okay to try things outside your comfort zone, even if you’re not great at it. This gives riders and their horses opportunities to strengthen their bonds.
Sharing this experience with Delaware showed that Delaware is capable of making a trusting connection with her rider and Brianna made sure to enjoy those moments. Brianna was able to participate in something new with Delaware and made sure to enjoy her company. She places emphasis on the act of just enjoying the time you get to spend with your equine partner, especially doing something new. This is a time where you and your horse are going to grow individually and as a team.
This is another demonstration of why Heart of Phoenix does what it does and the importance of programs such as the ATFO. Based on her background, Delaware was the type of horse that, at one point, would have been considered unadoptable. However, with a little time, patience, and the skill of the right handler, she is well on her way to being a great riding horse and partner.
We will be following along on their journey up until and through the competition. You can read updates 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.