Become a FACE OFF Trainer in 2023

If you wish to apply for 2023 to be a trainer, please SUBMIT no later than April 15th.

Are you a trainer that wants to Partner with Heart of Phoenix, even before the ATFO in 2022? Visit here to learn how

Change the future of an adoptable horse, reach as many as hundreds of thousands through the Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue social media audience, be part of the upcoming Horse.TV series on the ATFO and connect with a massive number of future clients by becoming a trainer for this event.

New Divisions are Diamond and Platinum!

Apply Here

Learn about doing a SHOWCASE Here

Remember, to apply, you will need a bio, your equine background, your vet, farrier, equine dentist, professional and client references ready (if applicable), as well as a video of you riding and working with a horse on the ground.

You need facility photos and photos of horses in your care sent to OR the ATFO facebook page here

The “ATFO” has grown to become one of the largest trainer exhibitions in the country, and we invite you to apply January 1st, 2023.

Featured multiple times in Horse Illustrated Magazine, The Appalachian Trainer Face Off enjoys between 1,000 to 2,500 attendees (and that number just continues to increase yearly), as well as thousands who tune in to watch online. The competition portion is judged by internationally recognized horsemen and women, and we offer a non competitive portion, too.

While trainers enjoy massive exposure, the most important aspect is that many horses without previous hope of finding a home become amazing equine partners and find adopters year after year.

We believe in a message that good trainers and good horsemanship make lasting partnerships.

We do not want a single awesome trainer to miss the chance to take part.

Diamond trainers will select a horse to train from a herd of feral or entirely un-started horses of various breeds at the start of May. They will train the horse for 110 days to compete in a 3 part event in August. Trainers in this division compete for a prize package and title, and all trainers receive 50% of the adoption fee of their horse.

Platinum trainers will work with horses up to a green broke level under saddle. They will train the horse for 100 days to compete in a 3 part event in August. Trainers in this division compete for a prize package and title, and all trainers receive 50% of the adoption fee of their horse.

Showcase Horsemen and women will not compete, but they have their own amazing portion leading up to and during the ATFO!

Preliminary SELECTION is based on The Board of Heart of Phoenix. Final selection is based on a committee outside of the organization.

PREVIOUS COMPETITORS: You will be required to re-apply this year, UNLESS INVITED. We will only invite back top performers, to give new candidates an opportunity to apply! If you’ve competed before, strength of previous year’s performances will be factors by the committee, as well as overall embodiment of the spirit of the competition and the goals of the ATFO.

All who apply will need a NEW 2+ minute BIO video submitted via email, youtube link or facebook. Please make sure this is submitted in a usable format, as these will be used on social media and possibly during the HORSE.TV series.

You will need client, vet, farrier, professional and peer references, facility photos, facility video.

You will need to provide income proof showing you’re able to support the horse’s basic care well while he/she is with you. If you need clarification of what is acceptable on this, email

You will need a training and riding video ready if you are applying, not matter the division

If you would like to showcase a horse, instead of compete, visit here

CHECK LIST for Trainers:

  1. Reference form for clients, peers and professionals HERE
  2. Vet, dental and farrier alerted that they will be called and given permission to discuss your care
  3. Photos / video of horses in your care now, as well as fence and facility / stalls / round pens / etc
  4. Training videos as explained for your division (ground work and riding)
  5. Email to
  6. Introduce yourself video (1+ minutes)
  7. Proof of Income / Clear explanation of ability to support the care of the horse you will be training
  8. Submit application here

For 2023, the tentative cash prizes are:

Diamond division:
$2,500 Champion
$500 1st runner up
$300 2nd runner up

Platinum division:
$1,600 Champion
$250 1st runner up
$200 2nd runner up

There will be an additional prize for the best Turned out horse (best groomed / tacked and conditioned horse) and the best BEFORE and After transformation (giving consideration to those who select horses in sub-par condition at pick up and rehab the horse).

Base adoption fees will be $1,200 for Gold Division and $1,500 for Diamond Divisions. Top 3 performers in Freestyle performances in each division will be able to set a RESERVE for their horses (if those trainers will accept those horses back for more training if they do not adopt).

Stay tuned, as prize packages may grow. Trainers receive 50% of the successfully adoption fees if the horse is adopted at the adoption auction following the event and the adoption finalizes (7 day period / fees must clear the bank. It is rare an adoption fails during this time, but if it does, the 50% fee is not payable). If your horse isn’t adopted, you may be given the option to take the horse back (if condition of the horse and performance with the horse were excellent) and set your own fee and receive 75% of that adoption fee when the horse adopts (all horses are property of Heart of Phoenix before and following the event, and all horses can only be placed through our screened adoption process).


In order to apply for either division:

  1. Easily be able to travel to the pick up in West Virginia in MID May and for the  THREE DAYS event at the end of August (August 18-20). If you cannot be present in May for selection, you must  be able to select your horse via livestream and pick up by the weekend after.
  2. Demonstrate an exceptional skill level with horses of a multitude of backgrounds.
  3. Show a history of sensible, humane horsemanship.
  4. Be willing to commit to consistent video and photo updates of your horse’s progress for 100 days.
  5. Have a network that will allow your to successfully secure sponsors for much of your horse’s care (or have financial resources that make caring for your training horse no burden).
  6. Be a great sport in a team environment
  7. Plan to work to market your training horse
  8. Be able to offer discounted 30-90 days of training after adoption to the adopters to encourage a lasting partnership

 There will be ONLY 30 Trainers between both Training divisions

Competitors can take a showcases horses on pick up day, as well

There are 2 Training divisions:

Diamond Division – this division will require:

  • an established history of equine training,
  • be trainer earns a substantial amount of their income from training,
  • have a large community following,
  • a business website or business social media presence.
  • A skill set of a professional as determined by the Heart of Phoenix team.
  • If you have competed in the ATFO before, to move up to the Diamond Division, the above requirements must be met, and you need to be in the top 2 spots in final scoring.
  • Extensive ground work understanding must be demonstrated
  • Have a proven history with feral or/and troubled horses
  • Have a facility and trailer able to safely contain a feral horse
  • Typically will need to be 25 years age and up, though exceptions are possible

Trainers that apply for this Division but do not meet the full jury requirements are eligible to be approved for the Platinum Divison.

We ask that you be very honest and candidate about the division you quality for to make the process smoother during our screening.

Age requirement for the Diamond Division is 25 and up. If you have competed before in the Am/Platinum division, you are ineligible to be considered for the Diamond division, unless you perform in the top 2 and also meet the above requirements.

This Division will have trainers required to submit 2 videos of their work to be evaluated by our judge panel (judges will be outside of Heart of Phoenix, as well as within our organizations. Panel is anonymous to applicants). Submission can be sent to the Appalachian Trainer Facebook Page via messenger. These can also be posted and linked to us from social media or youtube.

Ideally, submit video with an unhandled horse or troubled horse.

The videos should include ground work and W/T/C footage. This should be a client horse if you’re applying a a professional.

10-15 trainers will be selected.

Horses in the professional division will have an opening bid of $1,500.00

  • Horses for the Diamond Division will be unhandled / feral in type or particularly difficult horses for various reasons. Some will likely not be able to be haltered and may need condition.

Platinum Division – this division will require:

  • the trainer to have at least three years of verifiable training history being provided to their local equine community.
  • A solid list compromised of show history, client base and/or peer references to create a portfolio to establish your skill as a trainer.
  • Age requirement is 18 and up (exceptions considered for 17 year old entrants who are working with an approved professional type trainer with general liability business insurance that demonstrates solid training skill).
  • horsemanship skill beyond that of just a good rider
  • demonstrate good ground work skill
  • Ideally will have expertise in a paritcular type of training: Reining, Dressage, Hunters, etc
  • Does not need feral experience or a history of working with troubled horses

Approximately 10-15 trainers will be selected for this portion. Horses in this division will have an opening approved adopter bid of $1,200.00.

Platinum Division:
You must link to at least one full 5 minute training video showing ground and riding skill to the Appalachian Trainer Facebook Page Message system.

Horses for the Platinum division may already be undersaddle but green, at most.

All trainers will compete in Basic skills (with a ground work section required), Trail Course and Free Style segments over the course of competition in August.

A revised set of extended guidelines will be given out in a packet to selected trainers in May.

Follow the Journey on Facebook here

Author: T. Creamer

Director of Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue, INC HomesteadHer, Photographer, Advocate for kindness, common sense and freedom

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