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The #ATFO Appalachian Trainer Face Off Challenge nears the end | my visit to Smoke Rise Ranch

Updated: Jan 8, 2020

Jessica and Hero #HOPTeamHero

"I fell in love with him when I saw his picture, not knowing much about him." Jessica said when asked why she picked Hero, her #ATFO horse.

Fast forward, halfway through this friendly competition, she now knows that this 5 year old gelding, once born feral, is the most challenging horse she has ever worked with. If you follow her posts on social media, you would understand that the above image, is an amazing breakthrough for this team: she finally can touch him almost everywhere.

The first 30 days were rough! Hero couldn't be touched at all, even in his stall. Taking a halter on and off was not an option. He was non reactive and had a big issue: bolting. As soon as Jessica lead Hero around in the arena, he made very irrational and powerful bolts which were so strong she ended up with several rope burns in her hand. She just couldn't win his trust, yet.

Finally, after an intense 40 hour training session with another horsemanship trainer Nelson Detweiler, she seems to slowly gain some trust of Hero and make progress. For right now, she can lead him in and outside the arena (without any trouble...WOW), saddle and sit on him, and also ride him while someone else is leading him. She also started with trailer loading and getting him used to cross ties. All these things that we, as horse owners take for granted.

Jessica is currently employed at Smoke Rise Ranch and is in charge of the day to day operations. She also teaches at Hocking College in OH the "Colt Starting Program", which is a very unique equine horsemanship program.

Her background with horses goes back to when she was a young teenager, having her first horse when she was 14 years old. She later worked on the track in the Harness Racing Industry.

Although Hero is not her first feral horse she had worked with, but he definitely is the one that stretches and tests her expertise to a new level every day!

I truly loved spending time with them, watching Jessica work Hero with her gentle hands. In return Hero rewarding her with soft eyes and a relaxed body, his way of saying THANKS! It was such a sweet moment.

Rachelle and Rembrandt #HOPTeamRembrandt

Rembrandt, another #ATFO competition horse is seriously such a flashy Appaloosa that when I saw him move, I just said WOW!

Rachelle said "he would be great for any fast competitions such as barrel racing because of his fast feet and energy," and is determined to find him his perfect home.

Rachelle, one of the Wranglers at Smoke Rise Ranch, spends almost every evening with him: grooming, tacking him up, ground work and riding exercises. She said, that Rembrandt is her first "real" problem horse and loves the challenge given to her, getting him ready for competition. This is also Rachele's first Trainer Face off.

She will be focusing on many hours in the saddle, and getting him exposed to as many obstacles as possible leading up to the August event. Although Rembrandt has great ground work manners for a 15 year old horse, he does need an experienced rider as he tends to pick up the rider's energy and gets nervous from time to time. Rembrandt loves to please and doesn't mind hard work!

I can't wait to see what they can do on competition day! Watch out for this awesome Appy!

Davie and Phineas #HOPTeamPhineas

Davie, a staple of Smoke Rise Ranch and Cowboy at heart, is a pleasure to talk to and probably has broken or hurt every bone in his body during his ranching career. I simply lost count after he went through his list, but I don't think he left any out. Actually, the day I was out to visit, he told me he wouldn't be able to ride because of his hips...BUT somehow he ended up on Phineas at the end.

If you are a gaited horse lover, out! This young 4-5 year old Kentucky Mountain Horse gelding moves so smooth, even Davie was impressed!

Phineas came to the ranch barely halter broke. He said that Phineas is a very natural gaiter, easy to work with and has very smooth gaits, even without much training. Davie has been riding him so far only 7 times. He basically started him from scratch and did most of the ground work training.

For the next weeks leading up to competition, Davie's goal is to make him as safe as possible to ride for any future adopters. Phineas needs a confident rider or trainer and someone, that can continue his training. He would definitely make a great flashy show horse!

To find out more about the Appalachian Trainer Face off horses and the upcoming competition with auction, please visit their website at #ATFO

You can find all images from my visit at Smoke Rise Ranch here:


Read my last and final blog about their journey here:

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