Put Your Skill and Knowledge on the line in this Competition!

The “Why”

The Appalachian Trainer Face Off is a concept that a handful of rescues have found massive success hosting.

One such event in New Mexico has become a 1,500 attendee event in just a few years!

Heart of Phoenix has a very large “online” audience in Appalachia between our Social Media pages, website, Youtube channel and blog, and we believe Appalachia has some very talented trainers. We know the Appalachian Trainer Face OFF is the best and most positive way you, as a trainer, can showcase your TALENT.

As a rescue and equine organization, we know a primary reason in our area that horses end up without a home is lack of a solid foundation. Another issue is really knowing who the gifted trainers are in our area when a horse owner is looking for a trainer because there are limited venues to showcase our trainers at their best.

The ATFO provides an answer to these issues.

Facts, Questions and Answers:

Where do you apply?

Please Apply Now with our ALL New Online Application here

Forward this link for your references to fill out here

2018 Applications are being accepted now through April 1st.  There is no submission fee for this year. Trainers will be selected based on the merit of their entire submission package.

You will submit a biography, a link to your website/social media pages (if applicable), photos of your facility, a training video and written application.

Upon selection to participate, You will attend a day event on May 15th to pick up Your rescue horse in Lesage, WV, which will be broadcast live on Facebook.

Heart of Phoenix will draw trainer’s names, and trainers will selected a horse from a group (which will have at least 2 horses more than the number of trainers, to allow a choice even for the last name drawn). Trainers will sign agreements with HOP that covers liability and care terms. Trainers will leave with a print out of the competition scoring and events. Trainers must have a safe trailer, come prepared to handle a potentially feral horse and cover their own travel costs to and from the pick up location.

Each horse will receive a point assessment on this day by our team. All horses will be sound and have limited to no previous training. Some will be halter trained to have allowed us to vet them before the horses leave our care. Some horses will not be truly halter trained.

They will come Up to date on vet, farrier and dental care, as possible. If a horse has received limited training, it will be noted and during the competition, the points system will allow for this to make all “grading” equal. Many horses will arrive from mine land as feral horses in order to continue to shed.

You will have the horse for approximately 100 days. During this time, you will be responsible for hay and grain costs (which is tax deductible should the trainer wish a deduction ). Heart of Phoenix will cover farrier costs, as well as any needed vet costs.

Should a horse turn up lame, HOP will provide a back up horse and based on when this occurs, as weighted / point system will be used to keep the contest fair. Horses will have to stay in excellent condition and at a body scale weight of 5-6 throughout the time they are in training. Trainers who allow a horse to drop to an unhealthy body condition will be disqualified.

Trainers will submit videos of at least 5 minutes long, several photos and a write up of several paragraphs on the dates listed here (2x monthly, at minimum, but the more you post online, the more interest your work and the horse generates) either on their personal social media pages, Youtube or directly to Heart of Phoenix. Heart of Phoenix will share all of your updates all of our social media and online outlets with links to the trainer’s website, email and social media pages. This is where you “market” your skill and your partner for the next 100 days. Heart of Phoenix will sponsor the best of these submissions to gain interest nationwide in the event.

We do require extremely compassionate horsemanship, AVMA Vet guidelines to be followed and we never allow marginally debatable training or care techniques during this competition or training  time period. Should trainers be found to previously or currently use training methods that do not line up with these requirements, they will be denied or removed.

USE this time well. It holds the potential of tremendous exposure. We have seen blogs reach 50k unique readers, youtube videos achieve nearly a million views and Facebook posts reach well over 2 million people. The exposure stands to be valuable, the bragging rights could be tremendous fun, but the effect you will have on a horse’s life that had no hope before you stepped in will be Priceless.

Chances are high that this will prove a fabulous opportunity for your TALENT to receive an unprecedented platform! Our hope is your work as a trainer will gain fans and followers during this process, while we find homes for horses in need and show others these horses have tremendous potential!

While trainers will offer their training services in exchange for the opportunity and exposure offered by the event, as well as for the potential of winning placement prizes (which will be announced as sponsors let us know their donation offerings), the perk is that during this 100 day event, trainers and the rescue will be providing exposure to these horses. During the time they are marketed, people across the USA will be able to submit an application to take part in an evening AUCTION where the horses that take part will receive bids both online and in person to adopt the horses on a HOP contract. 1/2 of the adoption fee will go to the trainer, so sky is the limit here.

This means all the video, information and exposure you provide will be an added benefit to YOU in the end.

Prize Packages will be awarded to trainers from 1-4th place. All trainers receive 1/2 of the approved auction bid for their trained HOP horses. Last year, the biggest adoption fee paid was $3,400.00!

Additionally, we will award an “online” fan favorite prize based on your submitted content.


The Face Off will be August 24 and 25 in Winfield, WV.  Trainers will arrive at Winfield Riding Arena in West Virginia to begin the jurying process on the 24th and stay through the evening of the 25th. Camping is offered at Winfield, and hotels are local.

Trainers are encouraged to offer demos and one on one training during their free time at this two day event. You are welcome to charge a fee. You are also encourage to set up a booth and market yourself to the crowd.

3 judges will be covering the event.

Patrick King, Tim Clyne and Adam Black will consider the following during each section of the competition:

Respect and Trust between horse and horseman/woman, Confidence and sensitivity of the trainer, technique and use of force.

Points will be assigned  based on:        

  • Unable to complete task,
  • able to complete,
  • able to complete well or
  • able to excel

Events will include:

Moving the horse 

  • Ability to get forward motion
  • Control of walk, trot (or gait), and lope (canter)
  • Difficulty of Horse

Desensitizing / Ground work of the horse

  • Ability of trainer to settle the horse
  • Tarps, flag and/or ropes, ground poles
  • Horses’s acceptance of the saddle & pad
  • Riding Portion
  • How prepared is the horse to be mounted
  • Horse’s willingness to stand
  • How horse turns and stops
  • Ridden both directions at the walk, trot and canter
  • Ability to load into and back out of a trailer
  • Willingness to stand tied

Following the end of the 1st days event, the highest scoring 8 competitors will continue on to Day 2 of the competition. 

Scoring from Day 1 will combine with Day 2 Scoring

DAY TWO  beginning at 10am


  • While navigating the course:
  • Ability to control spookiness
  • Walk, trot (gait) and canter around arena both directions while on the correct lead and against the rail
  • Ability to get forward motion
  • Stop their horse
  • Get the horse to back up 3 steps
  • Get off and pick up all 4 feet
  • Weave thru all poles
  • Walk thru zig zag poles
  • Cross tarp
  • Cross ground poles
  • Rope the barrel (they then drop the rope)
  • Drag the log (take rope from top of barrel)

FOLLOWING THE OBSTACLE COURSE, The scores from Day ONE and Two, until this point, will be tallied. The top 5 ADULT TRAINERS and TOP 4 Youth will advance to the FREE STYLE PORTION. 

Free Style Performance 

Free style competitions are entirely the Trainer’s choice following the end of the obstacle course portion. Pyrotechnics, blank gun fire, jumps and the link are all permitted, as well as trailers/trucks.

Trainers have 10 minutes total to set up and perform. Trainers may use as much of the time on set up or performance as they chose. 

For youth: 

Youth will place a feral to unstarted horse undersaddle and must do the the work on their own with an adult with knowledge offering in person guidance, but the adults must not do the majority of the training or riding. Parents need to be aware, these horses are feral, and youth taking part need to be able to the attend the event to pick up their horse in person, halter and load a horse that may have only been loaded once before. If the youth cannot manage this with limited assistance, they will not be able to compete.

Youth do need to be working with equines only at a location with equine facility insurance in place (traditional homeowners or farm insurance is not suitable, though parents may certainly expand coverage for their 100 days of training and submit verification of this). Any location operating as an equine business is likely to have suitable insurance but please check with us if there are questions.

Youth must, for safety and liability, have an adult present at all time with a minimum skill set of riding instructor in regards to equine experience.

NOTE: During these two days, the Heart of Phoenix Open Fun Show will be taking place in the second arena at the show grounds. Trainers may enter classes, as they have time.