As spectators watched the horses perform at the Delta County Fairgrounds on April 4, they could not tell which had been rescued horses and which had not. Much of the credit goes to the Vision Home and Community Program students who have learned to train rescued horses at the North Fork Riding School.
Vision, the North Fork Riding School and Spirit Wind Horse Rescue formed a program last year to help abused and unwanted horses. The program is called "Education Join Up."
Spirit Wind or the Cocker Kids Foundation pays for the tuition for students to learn how to be trainers at the North Fork Riding School.
"This is such an awesome program having local kids work with our rescues and bringing awareness to the plight of the unwanted or displaced horse," said Vendla Stockdale of Spirit Wind.
Lily Stedman, a ninth grader at Vision, is training Equinox, a mustang that was on its third strike before Spirit Wind adopted him from a BLM roundup of wild mustangs. The Cocker Kids Foundation is paying the fees for Equinox and Stedman to participate in the program.
Stedman has been training at the North Fork Riding School for several years. Last year was her first year with the Spirit Wind program.
"It's always been a dream of mine to have a horse, train him and work with him. The more I work with him the more I thought it would be cool to be able to train a horse and have that connection," Stedman said.
What has she learned from working with this two-year-old mustang? "Quick reflexes," she laughed.
Spirit Wind has to keep ownership of the mustang until this October since it was rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Then Stedman will adopt Equinox.
The mustang was rounded up from the Sand Wash Basin area near Canon City in 2011. BLM does one of three things with the mustangs. They may choose to halter break the horse through a prisoner program at Canon City, break and train to ride, or not train at all.
Equinox was on his third strike. That means if Spirit Wind had not adopted him during the third time BLM had tried to find an owner for him, he would have gone into a long-term holding pen with no opportunity to be adopted. "They pretty much disappear in the paperwork," Stockdale said.
Spirit Wind's mustang program is sponsored by Cindy A. Lee who founded the Wags and Menace Foundation. Lee sponsors the adoption of the mustangs and their medical needs.
Vision eighth grader Eli Etter said before the April 4 performance, "I've always wanted to work with horses, at least be around them." He has trained three horses.
Etter builds a relationship with his horses slowly. "Mainly it's with petting. You just work with them slowly and slowly work up to different levels with your horse."
Etter is training Lakota, a rescue horse. Cheyenne is his own horse which was rescued two years ago.
Savannah Russell, an 11th grader, is training Comanche, a four-year-old spotted saddle horse. "This is my fifth horse I've trained," Russell said. She is training her first rescued horse from Spirit Wind. "With this one I've had to really build his trust. With the others I really didn't have to. It took awhile for him to trust me." Having to do that has created a stronger tie with Comanche, whom she adopted last December.
"The kids have done an amazing job with these horses, better than some adult trainers I've known," Stockdale said. "It's great for the horses, great for the kids. It's a win-win situation."
Many people think that Spirit Wind only has old and decrepit horses for adoption. "This goes to show that most of the horses we have are wonderfully adoptable horses," Stockdale said.
As for the North Fork Riding School, Helen Denison is very proud of all of her students. "Some of them are first-year students. Some of them are second-year students. Some of them, like the student trainers, are in their fourth and fifth year. They have just made incredible progress. And the fact that they want to help the whole horse industry by becoming trainers is my long-term goal for them. So, I feel very happy they are doing it," Denison said.
Stockdale added, "These kids have a natural art thanks to Helen with all her work and training."
But Denison shifts the focus. "It's the kids who put the work in."
And through this collaborative program with Spirit Wind Horse Rescue, The North Fork Riding School and the Vision Home and Community Program, the next generation is learning how to train abused, mistreated and wild horses.blog comments powered by Disqus