Blog By Nikki Alvin-Smith
The crowds came out at the PA Horse World Expo, held February 28th through March 3rd, 2019, at Harrisburg, PA, to witness the conclusion of the 2nd Annual 90-day challenge to bring a horse from Rescue to Stardom. The culmination of a journey between rescue horses and trainers, the final competition drew a large audience and was an extremely popular event. The ultimate winning combination was trainer Jeff Michaels, and a horse named RPM (Rescue Performance Machine). The handsome black gelding was rescued as a stallion by Kelly Smith of Omega Horse Rescue based in Airville, PA.
Kelly Smith grew up showing horses and she founded Omega Horse Rescue as a result of her experience at a kill pen auction over 20 years ago, where a crooked legged donkey stole her heart. The sadness of the recent loss of a friend to cancer combined with the horrific nature and condition of the animals that Smith saw at the kill pen set her on a path that she had not foreseen.
“I consider it was divine intervention that set me on this road. At that first auction I could not believe what I saw and had to take action. Of course there have been many ups and downs over the years and winning the Rescue to Stardom competition was certainly a highlight,” explained an emotional Smith. “ I hope that this competition will showcase that many unwanted horses have lots of potential and that it will encourage people to adopt unwanted horses. There is a common misconception that auction horses are unrideable. For every horse adopted, it means room for us to rescue another one and give it a chance.“
Smith has been responsible for the rescue of over 2000 horses and she explained how she selects horses for rescue:
“We like to take horses that are least likely to be rescued at a kill pen. We evaluate each horse and select horses that we feel have a good chance of being rehabbed or repurposed but that others won’t want. For example with our rescue of the horse RPM, that won this competition, he was a stud in a pen and was unruly and unhandled and unlikely to be purchased.
I took him home and quarantined him last April. Then sent him to New Bolton Clinic for gelding before we started work with him. I had worked with Jeff Michaels before and he had done a good job, so I sent RPM to him and the horse has proved himself. We are always looking for good trainers in our area of PA to work with our horses and welcome trainers that are experienced with rehabilitation training to contact us.“
Trainer Jeff Michael has also been around horses since he was a kid.
Today he operates his horse training and rehab business, Split Creek Equine Solutions in Hagerstown, MD. Michael won the first annual Rescue to Stardom event held in 2018 with a paint gelding who was also rescued by Kelly Smith in 2018.
As a sponsor of the Rescue to Stardom Challenge, Horizon Structures continues its mission to support and spotlight the ongoing need for horse adoption and retraining for horses that are in transition in their lives.
Smith was delighted with the Horizon Structures hay feeder she won, although admitted she had not been able to use it yet as the fields were just too muddy to place it. With twenty horses to feed on her property and the need to keep all horses eating at a healthy pace and save money on hay costs, the feeder will be put to good use.
“By coincidence I have run-in sheds that I bought from Horizon Structures in use on the property so I was already familiar with the company. We are delighted with the new feeder,” said Smith.
“Horizon Structures To The Rescue” program supports many organizations throughout the U.S. with both the supply of modular horse barns and run-in sheds and also with sponsorship support for meaningful initiatives such as the Rescue to Stardom Challenge.
“We have been in business many years and throughout that time it has been wonderful to give back to the horse community and provide shelter and support for horses in need. Our run-in shed giveaway held last Fall, went to Flare Oaks Rescue in North Carolina. They had suffered damage to their shed during a hurricane and won it in the random drawing so it was kismet. We’ve shipped not just horse barns and sheds but also kennels out to rescues as far as away as California,” stated Jill Siragusa, Chief Marketing Officer at Horizon Structures L.L.C.
If you would like to donate to Omega Horse Rescue or become involved as one of their trainers, please visit their website at https://www.omegahorserescue.com