Alex and Holana: The Journey to Equine Comeback Challenge

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Tell us about yourself.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Mariah Hammerschmidt, A Home For Every Horse

Credit: Photo courtesy of Mariah Hammerschmidt, A Home For Every Horse

I’m a Hawaiian-born, Wyoming-raised, Colorado cowgirl!

No, really!

I was born on the island of Oahu where I first expressed interest in the Equine species. My father would take me to a nearby barn where the teenage girls would prop me up on their prized horses. I’m told I would always try to take control and that I was virtually fearless. At two, my family decided to move to Laramie, Wyoming. At five, I trained with my first instructor at an Arabian barn and competed in several Arabian Horse Association breed shows on Arabs we owned. I later joined 4-H where I served upwards of nine years and then three years in the FFA. During my 4-H years, I interned with a ranch horse trainer that helped me train three of my horses. I did a lot of dirty work to earn riding time, but I cherish the values I learned that summer. 

My parents then bought an OTTB mare for me that was already a Prelim level jumping horse. I sought help from a French trainer to teach me three-day eventing with my new highly trained Thoroughbred. I also owned a Quarter Horse filly that I competed in everything from sorting to jumping to Western dressage on. When we moved to Loveland, I sought comfort in my horses and started Three Peak Ranch Performance Horses (TPR) on our Colorado ranch. TPR is home to rescue horses and pedigreed horses alike. I specialize in starting colts and offer tune-up services. I show at local AQHA shows when I have time. I’m currently a junior at Colorado State University where I’m majoring in Equine Science. I’m still starting colts and training outside horses while working part-time at my father's lab as a nanotechnologist and shipping manager.

What/who influenced you to turn horse training into a career?

I joke that I came out of the womb “hoof first.” I’m very focused, and even at 14, I knew I could make training a career. I thank my parents wholeheartedly for the opportunities they’ve provided me. I admire my trainers/instructors; I knew I wanted to be in the equine industry because of their positive roles in my life.

How did you become involved with the Equine Comeback Challenge, and do you have any prior experience with rescue horses?

I became involved in the Equine Comeback Challenge in 2014. I received an invite to participate and was eager to see what it was all about. This is my second year competing. My family and I have been rescuing horses for most of my life. My first rescue was an Arabian gelding named “Lucky.” We saved Lucky from slaughter. He had a history of abuse and I rehabbed him so that eventually I could teach lessons on him and let my girlfriends ride him.

What do you hope to learn from this experience?

Since I did compete last spring, I have an idea what to expect throughout the process. I hope to learn as much this year as I did last year. This experience really challenged me as a horsewoman as I dealt with the unique needs of horses with a history of mishandling.

Tell us about Halona.

Halona is a beautifully built, 9-year-old buckskin mare. She's a great representation of the American Quarter Horse, with a thick mane and tail that receives many compliments. She has a very independent demeanor. Halona came to Three Peak Ranch with a lot of baggage. She was genuinely scared of people in all forms. To gain her trust was a feat in itself. She’s slowly coming around and even had her first ride recently. She loves having a job and is one cool mover!

What are her strengths? What are some challenges that you've had to overcome?

Halona definitely came to me with a lot of challenges. Terrified, no inkling of trust, and a tendency to bolt and buck have made our journey an interesting one. As we’ve progressed in our training, Halona has conveyed that she has grit and vigor. She’ll head out on the ranch and easily do a full day’s worth of work. She’s become a new horse with a job, and I look forward to improving her skills and seeing what she can accomplish.

What type of rider would excel with her?

Because of her independence, Halona will require a skilled horseman/horsewoman that’ll be able to ride her to her fullest potential.

Be sure to follow Horse&Rider on Facebook to keep up with Halona's journey!

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