Equine Comeback Challenge offers second chance for rescue horses in Colorado at Rocky Mountain Horse Expo | TheFencePost.com

Equine Comeback Challenge offers second chance for rescue horses in Colorado at Rocky Mountain Horse Expo

Kim Leonard rides Dewey at the Equine Comeback Challenge outside the National Western Complex in Denver.
Photo courtesy of Kim Leonard |

About the event

The Equine Comeback Challenge, in its third year, is an event at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo that features horses from Colorado equine rescues who have only gotten 90 days of training from area horse trainers. The pairs then compete in four events — Ranch Riding, Working Cow Horse, Trail and a final round of Freestyle. After the third event, the horses are available for adoption to qualified homes via auction. The point of the challenge is to showcase the ability of rescue horses and encourage potential horse buyers to think about checking a rescue when they look to make their next purchase.


Rescues involved in the Equine Comeback Challenge

Blue Rush Ranch, Springfield, Colo.

Colorado Horse Rescue Network, Berthoud and Rush, Colo.

Drifter’s Hearts of Hope, Elizabeth, Colo.

Far View Horse Rescue, Breckenridge, Colo.

Harmony Equine Center, Franktown, Colo.

Mountain Valley Horse Rescue, Eagle, Colo.

Northstar Horse Rescue, Pagosa Springs, Colo.

Safe Landing Horse Rescue, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Triple Acres Horse Rescue, Boone, Colo.


For more

To learn more about the Equine Comeback Challenge, contact A Home for Every Horse at (303) 625-5468 ext. 1468 or ahfeh@equine.com, or go to ahomeforeveryhorse.com. To learn more about the issues surrounding unwanted horses in Colorado, contact the Colorado Unwanted Horse Alliance at (303) 962-0621 or info@counwantedhorse.org, or go to http://www.counwantedhorse.org.

To read some of The Fence Post’s past coverage of unwanted horses and horse overbreeding in Colorado, go to http://bit.ly/1UF2aSi.


Equine Comeback Challenge winners

Of the 22 rescue horses to compete in the Equine Comeback Challenge, the overall winning trainer and horse pair was Jason Patrick and Cactus of Whispering Willows Ranch in Steamboat Springs. Patrick and Cactus won top honors in each individual event as well, and Patrick took home second place in Overall Horsemanship. The top five finishers in the challenge received a total of $10,000 in prize money, and the Overall Horseman winner, Zen Greenlee, took home a $500 award.

Top five Equine Comeback Challenge finishers:

Jason Patrick and Cactus, Whispering Willows Ranch

Brenna DeGeer and Wapiti, DeGeer Stock Horses LLC

Jim Cook and Trinity, J&J Performance Horses

Sam Wilson and Selena, Rock’N S Performance Horses

Brittnee Woodward and Lost Legend, Old Glory Ranch

Top three Overall Horseman finishers:

Zen Greenlee, Rusty Spur

Jason Patrick, Whispering Willows Ranch

Ben Grogan, Bibber Creek Stables

For ten horses and trainers, the Equine Comeback Challenge March 13 at the National Western Complex was a competition.

For Kim Leonard and four-year-old thoroughbred Dewey, it was like coming home.

So Leonard dressed as Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” — complete with sparkly red shoes. Her border collie wore a sign around his neck labeling him “Toto.” She slung a furry gold scarf around Dewey’s thick brown neck. He was the cowardly lion.

For a rescue horse that found his forever home because of the challenge, there’s no place like the arena.

Leonard and Dewey may not have been competing this year, but they still got to ride in the freestyle portion of the challenge as an exhibition performance to show just how far a rescue horse can come with a little TLC.

Last year, Leonard trained Dewey and brought him to the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo to compete. They didn’t bring home the big prize in the way of dollar signs and accolades, but instead, Dewey got a gift of his own. A few months after the challenge, through the work of his trainer, he found an owner.

This year, Leonard, owner of Bit of Honey Training LLC, trained a horse for the challenge, but right before the weekend of the competition, another horse kicked him. Though the horse, Touch A Prince, is doing fine, the injury left him benched for competition.

Luckily, she had an old friend chomping at the bit to come play again.

“Being able to take these rescue horses who, they’ve done nothing wrong, they just end up in rescues because they’ve had cruel humans, is sort of my way to give back to the industry and draw attention to the need for training for these unwanted horses to make them wanted,” Leonard said.

Dewey was born to be a racehorse. From birth he trained for it, but he never saw a track. His sweet disposition didn’t make for a race-winner, Leonard said, so he ended up in a rescue.

All the horses in the Equine Comeback Challenge have a story. Some, like the Arabian trained by Brittnee Woodward, Lost Legend, were found running loose.

Others, like Siesta, the horse trained by Justin Dunn of Dunn’s Horse & Mule Company, were neglected. Siesta was 160 pounds underweight and was very shy and wary of people. Even so, Dunn said she was one of the easiest horses he’s ever trained. Dunn and Siesta’s freestyle routine was done to the tune of “Let it Go,” from Disney’s blockbuster “Frozen.”

Dunn adopted Siesta after training her, something Joleen Goyins, a friend of Dunn’s, said is characteristic of his personality.

“He’s a softie,” she said.

Ben Grogan, a trainer from Golden, Colo., adopted his horse, Tivoli, as well, so he could continue to work with her. He said she wasn’t ready to go out and ride with anyone else yet, so he wouldn’t dream of selling her and putting anyone in that situation.

Plus, through getting ready for the Equine Comeback Challenge, the horse and trainer formed a bond.

As Grogan and Tivoli galloped around the arena, the crowd cheered. The Quarter Horse slid into quick stops and followed Grogan’s every tug of the reins, the trust between the two evident. She’d come a long way from the scared, neglected mare he started working with at the beginning of the challenge.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Grogan said. “I think she’s got a bright career ahead of her because she’s so athletic and talented.” ❖

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