4-H Youth Trainers Help Texas Horses in Transition
On the weekend of July 23, 13 Texas 4-H youth participating in the Texas 4-H Homes for Horses program presented their horses during the Texas State 4-H Horse Show at the Brazos County Expo Complex in Bryan.
At some point in their lives, each of the horses showcased was at risk, with an uncertain fate. The Texas 4-H Homes for Horses program collaborates with the ASPCA Right Horse program, whose network of adoption partners connects horses with 4-H youth who train and prepare them for adoption.
“Equines in transition frequently end up vulnerable to inhumane treatment as they move between careers or owners,” says Christie Schulte-Kappert, ASPCA Right Horse Program Director. The program helped develop the Texas 4-H Homes for Horses program which is funded by a grant from the Texas Thoroughbred Association.
“Pairing vulnerable horses with talented 4-H’ers allows the youth and the horses to gain valuable life-changing skills,” Christie says.
Matching Youth with Horses
Texas 4-H Homes for Horses was inspired by a similar program in Oklahoma. Rita Hoch, director of Nexus Equine Rescue in Oklahoma City, connected young people interested in animal husbandry with horses at her facility. Her brainchild, the 4-H Equine Makeover, was also funded by an ASPCA Right Horse grant, matching 4-H youths with horses of differing breeds, training levels and health scores.
ASPCA Right Horse adoption partners identify horses in need of training in their care and from various sources including the ASPCA Equine Transition and Adoption Center in Oklahoma.
Participating youth and their families were acquainted with their horses at a clinic day in September of 2021. Texas A&M/4-H Extension provided each trainer with a $1,000 stipend to supplement costs of training, veterinary and farrier care and feed for each horse. Trainers kept financial and management records and set goals and objectives.
“This hands-on program affords participants a way to help solve the problem of at-risk horses by training them so they’re adoptable,” says Lexi Romo, Homes for Horses Lead Graduate Advisor, Texas A&M/4-H Extension. “They’re also facilitating opportunities for new 4-H families to get involved with horses.”
Christie says that this year’s show—where in-hand and under-saddle techniques were demonstrated to showcase the transformation and progress. In total, 11 horses from two ASPCA Right Horse Adoption Partners—Humane Society of North Texas and SPCA of Texas—were adopted through the program.
“The whole purpose of the program is to serve Texas horses, and the 4-H State Show was a fantastic opportunity to show the equine community how amazing these adoptable horses are,” Christie says.
Learn more about some of these youth-horse pairs:
David K. & Haven
David K., 17, was paired with a seven-year-old Quarter Horse-type mare, Haven. Haven’s prior owners could no longer keep her and wanted to ensure she’d go to a safe and loving new home, so they reached out to the Humane Society of North Texas.
“She’s exactly what I had in mind and wanted from this program,” says David, who lives in Shallowater, Texas, and has been in 4-H for nine years. “I’ve worked with larger English horses, but I wanted a good, all-around ranch horse who is a good mover. Haven is just that—smaller, smart and athletic.”
At the show, David and Haven featured tasks common to the ranch lifestyle, including roping, opening gates and dragging logs.
“She’s taught me a lot about patience and communication,” David says, adding that Haven is attractive and level-headed. “I enjoy teaching her new things. A lot of our work is groundwork, nothing super fancy. I just wanted to make her a well-rounded horse.”
David and Haven placed first in the under-saddle competition, earning David a $2,000 scholarship. David decided to adopt Haven and officially welcome her to the family.
Madison C. & Exotica
Madison C., 14, was paired with Exotica, a 22-year-old Arabian mare, last September. Exotica, or “X,” came from a large breeding facility and was slightly underweight.
“She hadn’t been ridden in four years, and her last ride resulted in an accident, so she was relinquished,” Madison explains. “She can be tense with new things, like tarps rustling in the wind. She’s also strong-willed and high-spirited.”
The pair’s in-hand showmanship skills included trotting, pivoting, accepting a saddle blanket and ground tying—learning to stand still on command—at which Exotica excels.
“Exotica opened a lot of opportunities for me and taught me a lot about horses and myself,” says Madison, who advises new trainers to immerse themselves in all things equine, even cleaning stalls. “X started it all. She has truly been a joy.”
Madison and Exotica placed second in the in-hand category, earning Madison a $1,500 scholarship. Exotica was adopted two weeks later.
Micah B. & Scooter
Micah B., a 16-year-old high school junior, was paired with Scooter, a 12-year-old brown and white paint grade horse who was transferred to Texas from the ASPCA Equine Transition and Adoption Center pilot.
“He was the hardest case on paper from what we knew and had never been saddled or ridden,” says Micah’s mother, Megan.
But Scooter was a match for Micah, who got involved with horses in fifth grade. He is the fourth horse Micah has trained and is among 21 horses the family has on its 84-acre spread southwest of San Antonio.
Micah says it was a “little bit hard” to say goodbye to Scooter, who was adopted after the show. But he says the most rewarding thing about letting go was “watching Scooter get a new home.”
Micah and Scooter placed third in the competition, earning Micah a $1,000 scholarship.
Kendall H. & Logan
When Kendall H., 19, first heard about Logan, a 10-year-old Quarter Horse, she jumped at the chance to train the skittish mare.
“She was completely untrained and unridden,” says Kendall. “You couldn’t catch her, couldn’t put on a halter. She was completely green. But I can ride her now.”
Kendall, who has been riding English since she was nine, transitioned to western with the Colt Project, a 4-H program that provides yearlings to train. Her first horse was Phoenix, who was donated to the Montgomery County 4-H, where Kendall is a member.
Logan was adopted after the July show.
“It’s hard to see Logan go,” Kendall said, wiping away tears. Kendall and her twin sister Haley have seven horses between them.
“I like having a bond with an animal,” Kendall says. “Being around horses is therapeutic.”
‘Solving A Problem’
“Texas continues to have the highest number of horses—about 767,100—in the country,” says Lexi. “This puts Texas in a unique position to develop more opportunities and programs to mitigate the abuse, neglect and abandonment of our beloved equines.
“Texas 4-H youth are keenly aware of the issues surrounding the number of horses needing new homes and new purpose,” Lexi adds. “By facilitating alternatives for these horses, we’re working toward solving a long-overdue problem, one horse and one youth at a time.”