CEDAR FALLS — Morganne Reinboldt grew up surrounded by horses at her family’s hobby horse farm in the small Linn County community of Lisbon.
Her love of horses manifested itself at a very young age, after her mother promised a pony ride if she’d stop sucking her thumb at the age of six.
“From then on I was hooked,” said Reinboldt, 20, the daughter of Al and Melany Reinboldt.
Soon after that first ride she was given her first pony — Dusty, who still lives with the family — and she began to learn the ins and outs of owning, caring for and training horses.
When she left home to attend the University of Northern Iowa in 2016 her passion for the animals had to be put on hold.
This summer, as she continues to work toward her degree in religious studies at UNI, Reinboldt has found a way to reignite that flame. She is volunteering as a trainer for the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation’s 2017 Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse, a program that pairs experienced trainers with unbroken horses for the summer with hopes of a “forever home” on the horizon.
“I was looking for a way that I could incorporate (horses) into my summer without having to go out and buy a horse, take care of it and maintain it during the school year because I feel like that would be unfair to the horse,” said Reinboldt, a 2015 graduate of Lisbon High School. “I was looking at local foundations that worked with ... rescue or rehabilitation and I just happened across the Trainer’s Challenge.”
The Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation has been working to rehabilitate and find new homes for horses, donkeys and mules since 1994. Many of the animals come to the facility after they have been seized because of neglect, abuse or abandonment.
The foundation is based in Zimmerman, Minn., and the Trainer’s Challenge program works with trainers across the country. This year, 11 horse-and-trainer teams are participating in the challenge.
“This is our 10th year putting on the Trainer’s Challenge,” said Drew Fitzpatrick, director of the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation. “All the trainers have to apply to volunteer first and we pair them up with a horse based on their experience and style of training.”
Reinboldt is paired with a 15-year-old pinto named Radin, who had never been trained for riding.
“He came to the rescue in pretty good condition but he’d never left the farm that he lived on,” Reinboldt said. “Everything was new to him, the world was unforged. Everything was new and exciting or scary.”
Reinboldt has been working with Radin since April and said once she and the horse reached a place of mutual respect everything began to fall into place. She now rides on a daily basis with little to no issues and Radin has also become a lesson horse for the young children who live on the farm where she boards him in Cedar Falls.
“I feel like not all horses really get a fair shot at life,” she said. “It’s sad to see that people don’t always necessarily understand how much work is put into making a horse successful. To be a part of a second chance for a horse that maybe didn’t get their chance, either because of an act of violence or abuse or neglect, was something of interest to me because I’ve seen it my whole life.”
On Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Leatherdale Equine Center at the University of Minnesota, Reinboldt and Radin will compete against the other teams in the challenge. Trainers will showcase how their “unwanted” horses have improved for a chance to win prizes, while approved adopters bid in a silent auction for the horse they’d like to take home.
According to Fitzpatrick, this event is not only a way to find the horses new homes but also a chance to educate others about what a difference time and investment in training can make in a horse’s life.
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“All these trainers put their heart and soul into this. By the end, it’s a heartwarming success story with every single horse,” Fitzpatrick said. “I am just so thankful for these trainers. We wouldn’t be able to do this without them.”