Become a FACE OFF Trainer in 2020

Apply Today


Due to Covid-19 and the crisis we are all experiencing worldwide, the deadline to apply as a Trainer has been extended until May 1st.
Because of the large number of horses we have in the rescue, some ATFO candidates (not those that are feral) can receive applications prior to pick up and be adoptable to suitable applicants because we will have far more horses than we may need for trainers to select from at this time.
At this time, we plan to proceed with the pick up of May 12th in Winfield, WV unless things change. We ask you plan to only bring one family member or friend with you at pick up. Precautions will be in place to prevent / safeguard person to person contact.
The ATFO is August 20-22, and currently, we believe and trust the event date will be able to stay as is.
We truly hope this wonderful, valuable event in the horse world is able to take place, as it is something we can all safely enjoy from online while trainers work with their horses at their facilities for 100 days – what could be better?
Should anything change, we will be creative with the pick up process (there are lots of options if we need to take them).
Thank you for the support and please keep referring pro and amateur trainers!

Change the future of an adoptable horse, reach tens of thousands through the Heart of Phoenix audience and connect with a massive number of future clients by being an ATFO trainer in 2020.

This event has grown to become one of the largest trainer exhibitions in the country, and we invite you to apply today.

Featured multiple times in Horse Illustrated Magazine, The Appalachian Trainer Face Off hosted 1,000 attendees in 2019 and saw thousands tune in online. Many of the stories of previous horses competing reached 10-30k people through  our Instagram feed. The competition is judged by internationally recognized horsemen and women.

More importantly, it has expanded the reach of excellent trainers, sharing their talents nationwide, while helping re-home dozens of horses.

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

We do not want a single awesome trainer, be they amateur or professional, to miss the chance to take part.

Professionals will select a horse to train from a herd of feral or entirely un-started horses of various breeds in May (pick up tentative on the 13th). 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.

Amateurs 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 will highlight their journey with their selected horse through 100 days, and they will be able to show their horses during the Fun Show portion of the ATFO in August, as well as receive 50% of the adoption fee of their horse.

Sponsored, in part, by Heart of Phoenix, The ASPCA, Buckeye Nutrition and Excel Supplements.

For 2020, Applications will be accepted from August 2019 until May 1st 2020

You will need client, vet, farrier, professional and peer references, facility photos, facility video, as well as a training and riding video ready if you are applying as a Professional or Amateur trainer. 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 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
  5. Email to
  6. Submit application here

For 2020, the tentative cash prizes are:

Professional division:
$2,000 Champion
$800 1st runner up
$500 2nd runner up

Amateur division:
$1,000 Champion
$400 1st runner up
$200 2nd runner up

There will be additional items in the prize packages by the event date. Stay tuned. Trainers also receive 50% of the adoption fees if the horse is adopted at the adoption auction following the event. If your horse isn’t adopted, you have the option to take the horse back and set your own fee and receive 75% of the adoption fee (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 May (date to be determined) and for the  THREE DAYS event on August 20-22 in Winfield, WV. 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
  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 at least 25 Trainers between both Training divisions selected total, and there is no limited to the number of showcase horseman and women.

There are 2 Training divisions:

Professional – the Pro division will require:

  • a clear history of equine training,
  • the 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.

Professional trainers will be 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).

Trainers that apply for the Pro Division but do not meet the full jury requirements are eligible to be approved for the Amateur division.

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 PRO Division is 25 and up.

Professionals: you must submit several 5 minute (unedited) training videos. 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.

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. A portion of the Pro Division trainers may be by invitation; however, applications are welcome and encouraged. Horses in the professional division will have an opening bid of $800.00

  • Horses for the Professional Division may be unhandled / feral in type. Some will likely not be able to be haltered and may need condition. There will be NO points added in the professional division to horses.

Amateur – this division will require:

  • the trainer to have at least two years of verifiable training and lessons 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 a previously approved Pro trainer with general liability business insurance that demonstrates exceptional skill).
  • horsemanship skill beyond that of just a good rider
  • demonstrate good ground work skill

Approximately 10-15 trainers will be selected for this portion. Horses in this division will have an opening approved adopter bid of $600.00.

You must link to at least one full 5 minute (unedited) training video to the Appalachian Trainer Facebook Page Message system.

Horses for the Amateur division may already be undersaddle, but will be at least halter trained, and they will be pointed, through assessment. from our team, to even the playing field.

All trainers will compete in Basic skills, 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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