Woman in Rockingham County trains unadoptable horse to find a loving home

A woman in Rockingham County spends 100 days training an unadoptable horse.
Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 10:51 AM EDT
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FULKS RUN, Va. (WHSV) - A horse trainer in Rockingham County helped a horse deemed unadoptable find its forever home.

Laura Lezotte started Pale Hollow Farms in Fulks Run just over a year ago to train unhandled horses and find them good homes.

“What I wanted to do was try and run a business and make income retraining these horses and finding good homes for them, so I could do what I love, maybe make a little bit of income on it while putting good back into the world,” Lezotte said.

The Appalachian Trainer Face Off is an annual national competition in West Virginia that works toward that same mission. It’s something Lezotte has followed over the years, but this year she decided to participate.

“It was literally the last day to apply,” Lezotte said. “I put in my application. I sent in all the videos. I was up super late trying to get it all together, and I did get selected for the amateur division.”

Each trainer is assigned a horse that would be unadoptable and has 100 days to train them to learn the skills needed to be adopted. Lezotte got Ferrari.

“For about a year, he sat in a quarantine facility, so he sat in a stall for a year,” Lezotte said. “He was mostly unhandled, and I think he was still a stallion when he went through auction. An unhandled stallion can be dangerous for even experienced horse owners, so there’s much of a chance to be adopted.”

Because of his past experiences, Lezotte explained how Ferrari was really shut down and didn’t want anything to do with people. She said training him was very challenging at first. He didn’t participate in is training, and Lezotte started to think the two would never connect. But one night, he finally came around.

“I was feeding the horses, and he walked up and he just really lightly touched my arm with his nose, and that was the first interest he ever showed in me,” Lezotte said.

So from there, the two really got to work. They went on trail rides, worked with beginner riders, and he began feeling more comfortable experiencing new things.

“He was just terrified of every object we would introduce, so we just had to love on him with everything and rub ropes on him and blankets and all of that. Just to get him used to being touched and exposed to the things that he was going to see everyday,” Lezotte said.

Lezotte and Ferrari spent at least a couple of hours each day training from May to August. By the time the three-day competition came around, Lezotte said Ferrari was a rockstar, and she was so proud of how both of them did.

In the days leading up to the competition, many interested adopters got to meet Ferrari before bidding on him at an auction after the big event.

10-year-old Natalie McFarland fell in love with him.

“He was the right fit. I could tell at the start because he was really fast, and that was what I was looking for,” she said.

“She was just cantering laps on this horse. I really, really liked the way that she rode him. She’s a fearless kid,” Lezotte said.

The McFarland family lives in Maryland and was not able to physically attend the event in the Mountain state. They live streamed it and had someone there to bid on Ferrari for them.

But there was someone else who also had their eye on Ferrari from the beginning. The woman did bid the highest to win the horse but later that night, she found out her boarding facility would not accept him, and she had to back out.

And while the McFarlands were not the next highest bidder, Lezotte really wanted Ferrari to go home with Natalie.

“For Laura to give him to us, she really took a big financial cut, too, so I think that really resonates with us just how kind of a gesture that was,” Jackie McFarland, Natalie’s mother said.

But Lezotte says the connection Natalie and Ferrari have is what this process is all about.

“Just taking a horse that was unadoptable and being able to home him with a 10-year-old who loves him is a really rewarding process,” Lezotte said.

Natalie already has a few lessons with Ferrari under her belt, and Lezotte said she’s looking forward to seeing their progress together.