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The Appalachian Trainer Face Off

AUGUST 20-24

Winfield, WV 



Operating in one of the nation’s most economically challenged regions, Heart of Phoenix found through necessity there was a need to create innovative ways to get a large number of horses trained and adopted each year on a small budget.

Our answer to this was the Appalachian Trainer Face Off. It is training competition that began in 2017. The ATFO is currently one of the largest equine events in West Virginia, hosting 500-2,500 people in August yearly. The ATFO helped make a rescue organization an equine leader in the country.

The Appalachian Trainer Face Off is a unique event that brings together horse trainers from around the country to compete, showcasing the adoptable horses while providing an opportunity for trainers to showcase their skills.

The 2023 event marked the 7th year for the ATFO.


Since its inception, the program has: • Provided over 220 horses with 100 + days of training • Was a feature series on Horse.TV in 2021 • Has been featured in Horse Illustrated, Horse Nation and Chronicle of the Horse • Enabled 150 horse trainers to showcase their talents to an audience online and in person • Raised $350,000+ in funding used to both host the event and aid in HOP’s mission to rehabilitate and rehome the horses of Appalachia • Generated over $500,000 in training value for the horses of HOP • Was the 2021 largest equine event in the state of West Virginia with over 2,000 horse friendly attendees.


Some of our Judges have been: Josh Lyons, Noah TY (Steady Horse), Michael Lyons, Richie Wingfield, Carson James, Pat Roberts (wife of Monty Roberts), Sonny Garguilo, Carl Bledsoe, Colton Woods and Patrick King.

Heart of Phoenix believes when faced with uncommon adversity, all efforts should be make to create a great impact while ensuring that the multiple issues involve are being tackled simultaneously. We have found the Appalachian Trainer Face Off has accomplished this, leading to a better understanding what horse rescue means, what adoption should look like and how the horse industry can help us help horses in a meaningful way.


Event Photos

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