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Apply as a Trainer

Divisions are Diamond, Platinum and Showcase

The “ATFO” has grown to become one of the largest trainer exhibitions in the country, and we invite you to apply now for 2024.

Featured multiple times in Horse Illustrated Magazine, The Appalachian Trainer Face Off enjoys between 500 to 2,500 attendees, 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.

Competition trainers will select a horse to train from a herd of feral or troubled 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.

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 are required to re-apply yearly, UNLESS INVITED. 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.

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.

We offer a year long partnership with trainers you can learn about here, too!

In order to apply for either division:

  1. Easily be able to travel to the pick up in West Virginia in EARLY May and for the  THREE DAYS event at the end of August. 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 on social media.

  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. 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.

Competitors can take a showcases horses on pick up day, if they wish.

There are 3 Competition Training divisions:

All require trainers demonstrate a skill level that fits the level of horses expected to be in the division they enter, as well as:

  • an established history of equine training,

  • Extensive ground work understanding demonstrated in video

  • Have a proven history of quality training references can share about

  • Have a safe facility the fits the needs of the division level you apply for

  • Horses at their facility must be up to date on needed care

  • May be 16-17 with good equine support system if all other criteria is met

  • Vet and farrier history on your horses must be up to date

All  trainers must:


Submit 2 videos of your 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). Riding and ground work is required.

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 videos with an unhandled horse or troubled horses, if apply for the Outlaw Division.

Diamond Division – this division will have horses that:

  • Are Unstarted 

  • Under age 16

  • Expected to be relatively uncomplicated

  • May be unhandled or feral but lower level based on our evaluation, should be mostly simple blank slates, most will be handled / haltered / leadable.

  • Horses like Coolio from 2023 would fit this mold.

  • For 2024, the tentative cash prizes are:
    $1,000 Champion Placement and 50% of adoption fee of their horses. Typically, 1/2 a ton of feed is given to each division’s champion.

Platinum Division – this division will have horses that:

  • Under age 16

  • These horses have been ridden.

  • They are with the rescue and need more miles to find the right home.

  • Horses will not be suspected of a troubled past.

  • Judged expectation will be these horses can accomplish more during the training time and have a higher performance level at competition.

  • These horses may prove more adoptable to the average home.

  • Horses in this division will be horses we often saw as showcases, aka Lil Wayne from 2023 (good example).

  • These horses will have a more complex trail course, basic skills portion and so forth at the event.

  • For 2024, the tentative cash prizes are: $1,000 Champion Placement and 50% of adoption fee of their horses.. Typically, 1/2 a ton of feed is given to each division’s champion.

New for 2024 The OUTLAW Division – this division will have horses that:

​*In order to apply for the outlaw division, you do need to have a proven success history with feral and/or difficult horses.*

We strongly encourage past competitors who have won with difficult horses to consider this division (of course)

  • Will be under 16

  • May be started but troubled or simply very feral.

  • Difficult up one side, down the other describes these guys.

  • This division required a proven history of previous success with challenging horses.

  • This division will have horses less likely to find homes during the event, but it will carry a higher prize award for the champion than the other two divisions.

  • Horses like Valero and Guinness fit this mold.

  • For 2024, the tentative cash prizes are: $2,000 Champion Placement and 50% of the adoption fee. Typically, 1/2 a ton of feed is given to each division’s champion.

Approximately 10  trainers will be selected for each Division.

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

The Non-Competitive Showcase Division remains are it always has, unchanged.

These horses are all ages, started and unstarted, some head to trainers before the event starts in May 2024, some head to trainers after May.

New for 2024

The Whippersnappers

Tenatively, we expect to have a lot of foals, and this division we are working out details on.

This may be a special one day competition for trainers who take on a foal or it may just be a special part of the showcase division.

Stay tuned on this!

Awards are also given combining all divisions for:

Fan Favorite

Best Turned out horse (best groomed / tacked and conditioned horse)

Glow Up (giving consideration to those who select horses in sub-par condition at pick up and rehab the horse).

Best Social Media

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