Enter The Trainer’s Challenge

The date for the 2018 11th Annual Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse has been set! The event will take place on Saturday, September 22nd, 2018 and will again be held at the beautiful Leatherdale Equine Center on the U of M St. Paul campus. Interested in applying to complete in the 10th Annual MHARF Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse?  Please fill out the 2018 Trainer’s Challenge Application! The application must be printed, filled out, and mailed to MHARF Trainer’s Challenge, PO Box 47, Zimmerman, MN 55398, along with a check for $25.00. Applications will be accepted starting January 15th and must be submitted by no later than April 1st.  Please note: Applying for the Challenge does not assure you will be chosen to compete. The $25.00 fee is non-refundable.  We generally like to wait for all applications to be submitted before choosing trainers, so you may not be notified of acceptance until mid to late March. However, you are welcome to contact us at info@mnhoovedanimalrescue.org to ask about the status of your application!

  • After horses are assigned to trainers, it will be the responsibility of the trainer to transport their equine student to their training facility.
  • Trainers who submit applications by March 15th will have the option to pick up their horses on April 1st, which is 15 days earlier than trainers who submit applications between March 15th and April 1st.
  • When horses are picked up, they will be weight taped and photographed. Each trainer will be provided a bio of the horse by MHARF explaining what the horse has been eating, who to call in the event the horse becomes injured or ill, and other pertanent information regarding the horse and the competition.
  • The horse and trainer team will be judged according to their breed standard and not against the other competitors.
  • The basic skills a horse should learn include: standing quietly for a farrier and veterinarian, load and unload quietly into a trailer, stand patiently for tack and untacking, trotting in hand, and being able to be ridden on the rail and on the trail. Going above and beyond these skills is encouraged, as they would be looked upon favorably by the judges.
  • Judges for the 2018 Challenge will be announced prior to the event.
  • All horses will be subject to a drug test on the day of the Challenge.
  • All horses are still considered to be in the care of the Rescue and will be checked at least once a month by a MHARF representative to ensure the health and safety of the animal.
  • Upon completion of the Challenge, any horses not adopted out will be returned to the Rescue, unless other arrangements are made.
  • Cash prizes are made possible by our very generous Event Sponsors. Grand Champion will receive $5,000, Reserve Champion $3,000, and Third Place $1,500. There will also be cash prizes fourth – sixth place with the amount still to be determined. Individual classes will have a payout of $500 per class which will be split among the placings!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is every trainer who applies guaranteed a horse?
Unfortunately we cannot guarantee that every trainer who applies will be accepted into the challenge. We have been lucky enough to have a lot of interest in the challenge and since it is a one day event, we have to limit the entrants to a number that will ensure we finish in a timely manner. The earlier a trainer applies, the more likely they are to be accepted into the challenge.

What qualifications do you need to enter the Trainers’ Challenge?
You do not need to be a professional trainer to enter the challenge. We always have a nice mix of both professional and amateur trainers. We do ask that all entrants have enough experience training horses to ensure a positive outcome for both horse and trainer, as this experience will be very formative for these horses and will shape the rest of their lives. Pairing them with a trainer who, even though well-meaning, may not be qualified to train that particular horse, will only be detrimental to the horse and unsafe for the trainer. We do not find that professional trainers have an unfair advantage when competing against amateur trainers. In fact, we find that professional trainers are more than happy to take on the more “difficult” cases, such as horses that have been handled very little and have trust issues. We feel this is in the best interest of the horses. We also often have some very young (and very promising) new trainers entering the challenge. In the interest of safety and to ensure everyone has the best experience possible, these trainers are often given the smaller, more mature horses that have possibly had more handling. Many amateur trainers feel that competing in the challenge is a perfect way to gain experience for a future career as a professional trainer!

Can trainers work as a team?
Yes, trainers can work as a team of two or more people (within a reasonable limit). Trainers working as a team need only fill out one application, but every team member has to sign his or her own release form.

Where do the horses that compete in the Challenge come from and how does MHARF choose which ones will be entered?
All of the horses and mules are the property of MHARF and have come to us either through humane cases where the owner has been ordered to give up possession of their animals or they have been voluntarily surrendered (in cases where the owner can no longer care for them or is deceased). In order to qualify as an entrant, the horse must not be broke to ride or drive and must have a minimum of ground work. Many of the horses who are placed in the challenge have had very little handling. Some of them have come from recent humane cases and will have their first long-term positive contact with people when they are sent home with their trainers. We do take a horse’s past experience and temperament into consideration when pairing horses with trainers (see next question).

Does MHARF assign horses to trainers or are they are paired randomly?
Although random assignment may seem to be the fairest way to go, it is definitely not the safest or most practical. When pairing trainers with horses, we do a certain amount of “matchmaking”. We are lucky enough to have trainers of all different ages, disciplines, methods, and experience apply to turn an “unwanted” horse into a safe and suitable riding partner. Making sure that each of these generous trainers is paired with a horse that fits their abilities is very important to us. Making sure that each horse has as positive experience as possible during their time in the challenge is also very important to us. Many of these horses have come from situations where they have been starved, injured, neglected, or handled inhumanely. Their interaction with their individual trainer will be the most important contact they have had with a human and will shape the rest of their life. We also feel it is important to match the size of the horse with the size of the trainer. While this doesn’t matter as much for the taller horses, we do often have pony-sized horses in the challenge that benefit from having a rider to match their size.

What condition will my horse be in when I pick it up?
Your assigned horse will be in good weight and condition to start training. It will have all veterinary work done and hooves trimmed. It will then be up to the trainer to maintain the condition of the horse throughout the training season, including routine hoof care.

Do you have to specialize in a certain discipline to qualify as a trainer?
The short answer to this question is no, you do not need to specialize in a certain discipline. However, when assigning horses we do like to take into account the individual preferences and strengths of a trainer. We find this is also in the best interest of the horse. A horse that is built and bred for a certain discipline will have a much more successful future if it is given the opportunity to follow that direction. However, we still believe that diversity is important and that horses should learn to do a variety of things. That’s why we have a variety of classes in which the horses must compete, including a trail obstacle class—an audience favorite. Trainers are also encouraged to make the horses as versatile as possible. In the past we have seen the same horses appear throughout the challenge in a variety of tack and showing off many different skills in different disciplines.

Do trainers ever get to choose their own horses?
We do take into account a trainer’s preference for a certain horse. While we can never guarantee that a trainer will receive a certain horse, we do feel it is in the best interest of the horse to pair it with a trainer who shows a preference for it. Trainers who apply to the challenge early are more likely to have some say in the horse they are assigned.

Am I allowed to promote my training business through the Challenge?
Absolutely! We ask that every trainer start and maintain a Facebook page for their horse. We will share these pages on our very active Facebook page and also on our website. Trainers can promote their business as much as they would like on their page. We will post trainer contact information on our website, as well as links to websites if the trainers have them for their business. There is a prize given to the trainer who keeps the best Facebook page! During the challenge itself, each trainer is given a table on which to display any materials they choose to provide (photos, newspaper articles, videos, testimonials, brochures, etc.). And of course, each trainer gets the arena to themselves during their freestyle exhibition to show off their abilities. There is plenty of time throughout the challenge for audience members to speak directly with trainers. We often find that people who adopt a challenge horse like to have that horse stay at the trainer’s facility for awhile so the new owner can take lessons and learn more about their new partner.

How are the horses adopted out after the Challenge and do the trainers have an advantage if they want to adopt their horse?
Anyone interested in adopting one of the challenge horses needs to be pre-approved. That is why we strongly recommend people watch the Facebook pages and contact the trainers throughout the summer. We ask that the trainers return emails and phone calls from potential adopters and also be willing to show the horse to anyone who may be interested in being pre-approved before the challenge. During the challenge we hold a silent auction. At the end of the event the bidding is closed and the horse is adopted out to the highest pre-approved bidder. If there are two or more people bidding on the same horse, we will then turn to a live auction format to make the bidding as fair as possible. A trainer is welcome to bid on a horse. If you plan on bidding, having someone else bid by proxy is usually a good idea because it may be difficult for a trainer to make it to the bidding table on time.