On the weekend of July 23-24, 2022, 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, Texas.
At some point in their lives, each of the horses showcased was at-risk—homeless and with an uncertain fate. The Texas 4-H Homes for Horses program, in collaboration with Adoption Partners of the ASPCA Right Horse program, connects horses with 4-H youth who train and prepare them for adoption.
At the show, specialized classes of competition were demonstrated to showcase the transformation and progress each youth achieved with their horse over the course of the 4-H year.
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. Each trainer kept financial and management records, as well as records of goals and objectives.
“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,” said Christie Schulte Kappert, ASPCA Right Horse Program Director.
Madison Chaloupka & Exotica
Madison Chaloupka, 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.
Madison’s interest in horses began as a toddler when she tagged along with her mother, Alicea, to 4-H meetings. She got hooked after meeting the trainer of a friend’s horses when she was five.
“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 remains available for adoption at the Humane Society of North Texas. While Exotica is no longer a riding horse, Madison says she’d make a wonderful companion horse.
Micah Bowen & Scooter
Micah Bowen, 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 in Oklahoma.
“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.
Scooter is the fourth horse Micah has trained and is among 21 horses the family has on its 84-acre spread southwest of San Antonio. The family operates a non-profit called SpiritHorse Horsemanship School, where rescued horses provide therapy and lessons in basic horsemanship.
“One of the first things I noticed about Scooter was how natural he was with stops and spins,” says Micah. “He doesn’t require a skilled rider and has a passion for working.”
At the July 24 show, Micah—outfitted as “Braveheart” in a tartan kilt and holding a shield in one hand—and Scooter demonstrated simple under-saddle techniques, lead changes, transitions between trot-walk-lope, and pivoting around a podium.
Micah advises would-be trainers and adopters to find the horse that best suits them.
“Understand the horses’ needs and know what you’re getting into,” says Micah, who has been around horses and farm animals most of his life. “Learn how to train, handle, ride, and understand their behavior.”
Micah says it was a “little bit hard” to say goodbye to Scooter, who was adopted after the show by Mya Stuart, 14, of Waskom, Texas, who has been riding for two years. But he says the most rewarding thing about letting go was “watching Scooter get a new home.”