Who Won the Trainers Rally for Rescues? We All Did, Thanks to a Few Untrained Horses

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 Article and photos by Cecilia Kayano

L-R: Carol Clegg, Laurie Boultinghouse with Hope and Kirsten Clegg as the two await their turn in the Rally for Rescues arena.
Carol Clegg, Laurie Boultinghouse with Hope and Kirsten Clegg as the two await their turn in the Rally for Rescues arena.

The first Trainers Rally for Rescues held at Mortenson’s Arena on July 26, was nothing less than a high-drama tear jerker with many happy endings.  A benefit for The Horse Shelter, the Rally was one of the last events of the Day of the Cowboy. Who won?  Every trainer, every horse, every spectator.  Starting with Loal Tucker, whose horse Guerro, a shoe-in for first place was injured and recovering with a cast.  Sound sad?  Wrong.  The morning of the event two of Loal’s fans adopted Guerro.

Michelle and Blue 

Blue, with trainer Michelle DeCanditis; both smiling!
Blue, with trainer Michelle DeCanditis; both smiling!

With Guerro out of the running, that left six mares.  The first one to be shown was Blue, ridden and trained by Michelle DeCanditis.  Before showing her, Michelle was standing by her trailer with Blue, photos of her pasted all around.  “Blue just wants to be part of something,” explained Michelle. Before she started riding, Michelle went to bat for Blue.  “We are going to walk and trot, no canter, because it is in the best interest of Blue,” she announced to the standing-room only crowd.   Then she started the music on the big boom box she brought: Blue Bayou.  She walked Blue across a tarp, trotted her in circles.  At the end of the showing, the music changed to “We’ve only just begun.” “These are trained horses, but not finished horses,” said The Horse Shelter volunteers.  They had only 100 days of training.  Indeed, they had only just begun.

The versatile Jackie O and trainer Clint Mortenson took first place at the Trainers Rally for Rescues. Benefitting The Horse Shelter, the event took place at Mortenson's arena on July 26th. All the competing horses were adopted at the end of day!
The versatile Jackie O and trainer Clint Mortenson took first place.

 Clint and Jackie

The big question of the day was, “Where’s Clint?” He was up next, but no Clint.  Earlier, he said that he had “finally gotten attached” to his horse Jackie O.  A man of few words, he divulged nothing of his game plan, saying only, “I just hope she goes to a good home.” Just before another trainer was going to step in for Clint Mortenson, the man enters the arena riding his ranchy-looking sorrel mare, trotting like he had ridden her for years. Not a soul was thinking, “Poor Jackie O, I hope she goes to a good home,“ as they watched the duo jump into a trailer, do flying lead changes, cut some cattle, whack a polo ball, and open a gate flawlessly. As his ace in the hole, Clint removed Jackie’s bridle, then roped a steer.  Simple as that.


Joost and Pipi Longstocking competing in the Rally Arena
Joost and Pipi Longstocking competing in the Rally Arena. Puddle? What puddle?!


Erica, Joost and Pipi

Next up was Pipi Longstocking, trained by Erica Hess and Joost Lammers, and ridden by Joost.  An hour before, Erica seemed a little less stressed than Joost, saying “We just want her to shine,” while Joost was a few feet away saying, “I’m nervous, but I know I can ride as fast as Pipi can run.” A little background on Pipi. She was one of the most challenging horses in the competition.  She was born at The Horse Shelter, and had been treated like a pet her entire life.  She was an orphan, and had huge separation issues. Who would have known that the light red horse with the floaty trot and canter and flying lead changes was once a problem child? During the demo, A Horse Shelter volunteer got teary eyed.  Another one gasped OMG! The riding seemed effortless, but things went wrong:  Pipi would not go into the trailer.  The music didn’t work.  No matter.  At the end, Erica flashed a huge smile, and a thumbs up.  She knew the Pipi story.


Rootbeer, with trainer Ginger Gaffney
Rootbeer, with trainer Ginger Gaffney


 Recovery Center Clients, Ginger and Root Beer

Just when we thought it couldn’t get better, it did.  Root Beer was a horse you couldn’t touch.  “She would bite you,” said a Horse Shelter volunteer.  When Root Beer followed  Ginger Gaffney calmly into the arena, the volunteer almost lost it.  “That Root Beer can even do that, it’s amazing!” Apparently, Root Beer did not want to be pigeon-holed as a bad girl.  She rose magnificently to the occasion by trotting around poles, stepping over poles, backing around a corner, and pulling a parachute.  Root Beer was trained by clients of a recovery center.  They were there, smiling brightly because they knew Root Beer’s story. They had saved her. Maybe she had saved them.  “I love her because she is lovable and loving,” said one client.  Maybe Root Beer was thinking the same thing about the client.

Athena and trainer Rogelio Enriquez in action
Athena and trainer Rogelio Enriquez in action

Rogelio and Athena  

Rogelio Enriquez was next, riding his gorgeous bay mare Athena.  The pair trotted and cantered, doing flying lead changes.  A big steer was let out in the arena, and Athena moved it around with confidence.  Rogelio taught Athena to dance, but a decision was made to not show the dancing.  It would have been a beautiful sight, and would have shown the connection between this trainer and his horse.


Hope and Kirsten Clegg; just another happy moment!
Hope and Kirsten Clegg; just another happy moment!


Kirsten and Hope

The final pair was Kirsten Clegg riding Hope. Kirsten, her mother, her trainer and Hope were all color-coordinated.  Hope wore a purple saddle pad.  The humans had painted “Hope” on their faces with purple paint and glitter.   Maybe it was the heat, or the accumulation of horse and human drama, but watching this pair was a tearjerker.  Kirsten got Hope into the trailer with a suggestion.  She rode with no bit, yielding hind quarters and side passing with ease.  The crowd was whistling and cheering. Who would think that picking up a horse’s hooves would be cause for celebration?  We celebrated.  At the end of her demo, Kirsten draped a tarp over Hope’s body, then respectfully lifted it off her head, then planted a kiss on her forehead. So much high drama. The crowd was spent.

Crowded stands at the Trainers Rally for Rescues
Crowded stands at the Trainers Rally for Rescues


Winners All

By the way, Clint came in first, followed by Kirsten, then Ginger. The horses were auctioned, which turned into a complicated human-interest story of a group of clients buying a horse for a trainer (Michelle), a friend buying a horse for a trainer (Rogelio) and a bidder trying to buy a horse for the recovery center clients.  All horses were adopted. If you didn’t attend the event, maybe you are reading this because you want to know who won.  But if you attended the event, you know the real story:  Everyone won, horse, trainer and spectator.  It was an event imagined out of concern for living beings.  It brought hundreds of people together to witness kindness, good will, giving money, giving time, giving love. We all won because our hearts were changed, all because of a handful of rescue horses.

You can read the first part of this two-part article in the online edition of HANM July 2014: click here.

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6 Responses

  1. Thanks for the wonderful article and photos! I was among those fortunate enough to work with Root Beer at The Horse Shelter. She was a handful. She gradually came into her own, thanks to Ginger and the Delancey Street people. Anyone reading, if you want a positive change, consider volunteering with horses. It’s great fun and you meet cool people too.

  2. You are absolutely correct, everyone was a winner and in the long run rescue horses will keep winning because of this event. When people of NM want a horse an event like this will make them think of adoption first because they have now seen that anything is possible. Thank you for the fantastic coverage of this amazing event!

  3. As a Board Member and Gimme Shelter Trainer’s Rally for Rescues Committee Member, the event exceeded our expectations. Everyone’s interest, support and comments such as those above deeply touch our hearts. The horses won, the trainers won and The Horse Shelter’s mission to assist abused, abandoned and neglected horses was witnessed by over 1000 spectators this past Sunday. Spread the word, together we can make a difference for these magnificent animals.

  4. As a Board member and the one in charge of the Trainers Program at The Horse Shelter, I can say that this event, that had been worked hard on since January of 2014 with an amazing dream team and committee, finally came into its own on the Day of the Cowboy. It truly exceeded our expectations, and showed the public what happens when a community and a group of very talented trainers come together for the benefit of these beautiful horses. It was a win-win situation, and there are still many, many great horses waiting for adoption at The Horse Shelter; and now they are being trained in this full-circle program . This will now be an annual event; and on behalf of everyone at The Horse Shelter board, members and volunteers; we just want to thank everyone for their participation, professionalism and the part they all took in bringing these beautiful horses to their full potential and showing what these horses could do in 100 days. We thank you and the horses thank you.

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