August 2014 | New PNHS Equine Challenge Focuses on Abused, Abandoned Horses
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New PNHS Equine Challenge Focuses on
Abused, Abandoned Horses

August 2014 - Stephanie Shertzer Lawson

Equine Comeback Challange

While the 1,200 horses that compete at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show are highly trained, athletic and valuable animals, many American horses are home-insecure. The plight of unwanted horses is a silent crisis--the American Horse Council estimates that 90,000 to 140,000 horses are sent to slaughter in Canada and Mexico each year. Many others are abused, neglected, starved and abandoned – just look at Pennsylvania Equestrian headlines in just the first half of 2014 –

“Boarders Charged, Horses Seized from Former Lycoming County Rescue”
“Owner of Seized Morgans Appeals, Care Tops $100,000 with No End in Sight”
“The Star Barn Saga: ‘Get Rich’ Scheme Costs Dozens of Horses’ Lives”


The number of local rescues has grown, but they can’t keep up with the number of unwanted horses, many of which are good, serviceable mounts who find themselves in desperate situations. Each Monday, representatives of rescues, local and out of state, travel to the New Holland, PA auction to try to pull some of the more serviceable horses out of the slaughter pipeline. They raise funds to euthanize others who are suffering and beyond hope.

Horses are big, can live for 30 years and require massive amounts of food, vet care and housing. Their care is a lifelong commitment, one not all owners can keep. With retraining and care, the castoffs could go on to be lifelong companions, riding horses, even competitive at any of a number of disciplines.

The Pennsylvania National Horse Show has teamed with A Home For Every Horse to address the unwanted horse issue. Ten trainers from across the mid-Atlantic region have been teamed with ten rescue horses that have had no previous under saddle training, but are halter broken and gentle for basic ground work. Six of the ten were seized from cruelty situations, the others were bought out of auction kill pens or surrendered by owners who could no longer afford to keep them.

The trainers met their horses, assigned to them, not chosen, the week of July 14. They will work with them for three months, then compete in a trail class designed to show the horse’s willingness while navigating obstacles and demonstrating aptitude for the next stages of training. The Equine Comeback Challenge will take place at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show the evening of Tuesday, October 14. Admission is free. The horses will then be available for adoption.

The ten horses and their trainers are:

  • Joel Miner and Dora, an intelligent but extremely distrustful 4-year-old Paso Fino mare, seized in an abuse case.
  • Todd Feaser and Red, a 4-year-old quarter horse cross, pregnant at the time, seized with 27 others in a cruelty case. The foal was absorbed.
  • Kimberlee Strauss and Rico Suave, an 8-year-old thoroughbred, recently gelded, who was seized with 14 other emaciated horses.
  • Shane Ogden and Scarlet, a nearly unhandled 3-year-old Standardbred mare seized due to extremely poor body condition.
  • Tammy Marsh and Neil, a 6-year-old handsome dark bay Standardbred gelding, possibly with some race training, seized in a cruelty case.
  • Courtney Vanderbrook and Louie, a recently gelded 4-year-old Standardbred who loves attention, seized in the same case as Neil.
  • Missy Morris-Rothfuss and Heston, a 6-year-old Arabian gelding, one of five purebred Arabians at a New York State auction who sold for $140 and who would have been purchased for slaughter.
  • Erin Zellefrow and Ruby, a 6-year-old Paint mare, herd-bound and a pasture pet. Heston and Ruby were purchased from the kill pen at a New York. state auction by a Good Samaritan and spent some time in foster homes.
  • Melissa Smithmyer and Apache, 4-year-old Medicine Hat Paint gelding with no training, surrendered by his owner who had two horses and could afford to keep only one.
  • Jessica Flaherty and Robyn, a 9 or 10-year-old Arabian gelding. Originally rescued from starvation, he was adopted then returned when his owner lost her job.

Trainers will be documenting their progress on Facebook and Twitter posts. Follow their progress at #EquineComebackChallenge, at and at