Monday, February 3, 2014

Sydni Otteson at YRGP #3: Coach Others, Coach Your Horse, Coach Yourself

Editor's Note: This is the final part in a series of posts shared with us by Dressage competitor and trainer, Sydni Otteson. Sydi was selected to attend the USEF/USDF Young Rider Graduate Program in Florida, and shared her experience with us here and on her personal website. Thank you for sharing, Sydni, and thank you all for reading!

Sydni Otteson (second from left) and the other recipients of the grant award to attend the YRGP in Florida. 

Photo Courtesy of the USDF Facebook Page 

By Sydni Otteson

I have seriously received more information in the last 4 days than I feel I can even process. I'm not complaining but I think I am going to have to go back and read all of my notes over and over in order to get it all in my head. I feel like a snake that just ate a hippo... like I could digest this for the next few months :)

Just being able to watch so many horses and riders working at this elite level is so inspiring. Catherine Haddad- Staller uses the term "stealing with your eyes" and that's definitely what I have been doing! What are these riders doing? Why are they doing that? Former Olympian and founder of Dressage4Kids Lendon Grey encouraged the Young Rider Graduates to take videos of themselves and compare what we look like against our favorite top riders and figure out what we need to do to look more like them. So much of success in this sport seems to come down to a person's ability to not only analyze what their horse lacks and what it needs to improve but also where we need to get better as riders and trainers. FEI Judge Janet Foy told us that the second we think we know it all is the second that we will fail. I think that is so important to remember!

One my favorite things I heard was from FEI Judge Lilo Fore (one of the founders of the USDF Instructor Certification Program), who told us that in order to become a good trainer and instructor, we must first be a good student. She emphasized that no one ever made it to the top "by the seat of their pants". Quality education and lots of it. Get your instructor certification, attend the "L" program- if you want to be taken seriously, prove you are educated. Lilo also said that you don't ever have to tell someone you can ride; actions speak louder than words. Education will always show itself.

Sydni and her lifelong mentor and coach, Trisha Kerwin

As far as the FEI Trainers Conference, it was so great to be able to finally get to see some actual horses, and amazing ones at that! The whole theme of the 2 days was Suppleness and Simplicity. Steffen was so dedicated to making aids and clear and simple as possible, not only for the horse but for the rider as well! We don't have enough time in a dressage test to make complicated fixes. Scott constantly used to the term "coach" your horse. Not dominate, force, make etc... You are going to run into things that are hard for your horse and our job as a trainer is to make it make sense to them and to literally coach them through handling their frustrations and evasions. Steffen said he doesn't like to use the term "submission" but instead likes to think about "cooperation".

The whole week has been SOOOOOOO incredibly inspiring and motivating. At this point, I'm ready to get home and get back to work. What a phenomenal experience this has been, I encourage everyone to attend as many educational events as you possibly can. It might not be flying across the country to attend a trainers conference, but just find a clinic to audit, go to the USDF website and go through E-trak learning courses. There is no shortage of information out there. Go out there and get it. Be the master of your own knowledge and dedicate yourself to constantly improve. Don't expect your horse to give you 100% of what he has if you aren't willing to give 100% of yourself to being the best rider for him! Good luck and keep on keeping on!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sydni Otteson at YRGP #2 : The Traits of Successful Riders and Trainers

From the editor: We're continuing to share the wonderful blogging Sydni Otteson is doing at her personal website, and relaying her experience at the Young Rider Graduate Program in West Palm Beach, Florida. Continue to check back regularly for more of Sydni's notes from her time spent with the nation's dressage elite!

Young Rider Graduate Program- Day 1

Holy Cow, what a day! If I had a whole extra day for blogging I couldn't cover all the incredible information that was presented today! I truly cannot say enough about this Young Rider Graduate Program. The organizers did a phenomenal job of picking qualified and interesting speakers.

The first speakers were Jessica Jo Tate of Team Tate Dressage and Director of USEF High Performance Dressage Jenny Van Wieran-Page, who discussed career evolution and character traits of successful riders and trainers.

  • Hard Work- A great work ethic impresses clients and gets sponsors. Sell yourself and your program. JJ said to ride whatever you can, as often as you can.
  • Discipline and Endurance- Eat right and manage time well. Do quality work no matter how tired you are. Dig deep- whether you are riding, teaching, cleaning mirrors or pulling in the sides of the arena.
  • Self Control- Bite your tongue. No personal meltdowns at shows, treat everyone with respect. Be friendly and get over yourself. Learn to compartmentalize and put personal issues aside. Remember to treat every person as an opportunity- sponsors go with the riders who get along with others. Be your best every day. Practice doesn't make perfect, Perfect Practice makes Perfect.
  • Courage- Be brave enough to make the leap. Follow your dreams. Verbalize your goals and make a plan. Put yourself out there and ask for what you want. Every horse is a chance for opportunity, getting the "big" horse starts with the relationships you build with all the other horses.
  • Dedication and Perseverance- Decide what you are dedicated to- Young Riders? Training? Teaching? You ride for other people- they are worried about themselves and their horses. Every horse you ride is the best teacher. Keep on keeping on- "Be good enough for long enough and they will notice you"- Steffen Peters. JJ talked about how the judges learned to trust Steffen to show up at every show."Experience is what you get, right after you need it" Clients want you to be the expert and no one else is responsible to push you but you.
  • Physical Fitness- You are a professional athlete- No Body, No Job! Eat right, stretch religiously. Get to know your body and how far you can push it and then take care of it. Get sports for yourself like you do your horses. Jenny said- If you aren't the best athlete, then you aren't the best rider.
  • Knowledge- STUDY! You have to know your subject. People want educated answers. No shortcuts, know your training methods and stick to them. Read your books. Good clients want good answers. Good answers come from experience. Take the time to educate yourself!
  • Integrity- People need to be appreciated and acknowledged, they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Strive to be accountable for your actions, don't be afraid to apologize and build a good reputation. Be consistent and reliable. Show up.
  • Be self motivated- text owners updates before they begin wondering what is going on. Connect with your owners, make sure everyone feels involved. Know when to push and when to settle.
  • Be positive- People want to be around someone that is passionate and positive. Don't burn bridges. If communicate well, then people don't have to question you.

That is about as much information as I can manage to repeat after 8 hours of lecturing. Considering I only got through the first two speakers, I'm going to be blogging every day for the next few weeks. Once again I am blown away by the amount of quality information presented to us! Each speaker was clearly an expert in their field and had fantastic advice for us. I'm so grateful that these people were willing to take time out of their busy careers to come share their valuable insights with us. There are so many people who have worked hard to make this happen and I cannot thank them enough. Now I'm going to get ready for dinner with Robert Dover, Debbie Mcdonald and Scott Hassler...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Utahn Sydni Ottesen at Young Rider Graduate Program in Florida

Sydni Otteson riding The Major, photo courtesy Sydni Ottseon Dressage

Sydni Otteson, a Utah dressage competitor with significant local and regional accolades to her name, was recently selected by the United States Dressage Federation and United States Equestrian Federation to participate in the Young Rider Graduate Program in Palm Beach, Florida January 18-19th. The program is designed to help riders who are exiting the "young rider" stage of their career and teach them to blossom into successful professional. The program accepts only a limited number of exceptional riders from around the country, and Sydni, a USDF Bronze Medalist, was among them this year.  

Sydni kindly agreed to let us share excerpts of her experiences and some of the highlights from her lectures with the nation's best dressage professionals. While much of the knowledge she gained was specific to the discipline, there was also plenty of advice and information that is universal to the horse industry. Please check back frequently for new updates from Sydni, as she promised us it may take many posts to share the full breadth of knowledge and information she gained this past weekend! Thank you for sharing, Sydni, and thanks to all of your for reading.

USDF/USEF Young Rider Graduate Program, Arrival:
by Sydni Otteson, first published at Sydni Otteson Dressage

I made it to Florida!

It wasnt quite as easy as I had expected but I am here safe and sound and am ready for all the stuff I am going to be able to learn in the next 4 days!

It all started on my flight from SLC to Charlotte, which was a red eye; I got off the plane at 5:45 am and headed to my next gate for the flight that would take me to West Palm Beach. I sat down and was a bit chilly, so I put my coat on. Then I grabbed the great neck pillow my mom gave me and got comfortable and the next thing I know I open my eyes and I'm all alone. I jumped to my feet and just like in the movies, saw the man at the gate straighten some papers and walk away from the counter.... no plane in sight. I felt my stomach drop like a ton of bricks, I couldnt believe I had just slept through my connection!!!!! I missed my plane that was taking me to the holy land of winter dressage! I gathered my stuff and ran after the man who had just walked away from the gate and once I caught him, I asked him what to do and I started crying. I felt like the biggest idiot! He was so nice, he took me to the service desk and told me everything was going to be ok. He was right, I must be the luckiest girl on earth because they had a flight in an hour with one seat left on it. Needless to say I sat at the gate for the next hour with me eyes wide open and staring at the little door, waiting to be let on the place because I wasn't about to be left again!

The flight to West Palm Beach was short and sweet and the Hilton we are staying at sent a shuttle to get me and I checked into my room and just let it sink in. I made it across the country to participate in an incredible program tailored for up and coming young professionals and I made it! The months of applying, anticipation and excitement has all led up to this!

My wonderful roommate Kelly Gage is no stranger to Florida and when she arrived and heard that I hadn't been here before took me down the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington. It was awesome. The showgrounds are immaculate. Fantastic footing in all the rings and the weather is to die for. We went to the FEI ring and warm up and I just watched everything. The quality of horses down here is incredible but its nice to see that the riders are all still human. Mistakes were made and fixed and despite its grand setting, it was still the same dressage I know from back home and that was comforting. It's amazing to me how I can be in a totally new place, but when I get to the show grounds it just feels like home.

Kelly introduced me to some cool people, including Cesar Parra of Piaffe Performance Farms, Ken Braddick of and legendary show photographer Susan Stickle. It was so cool to meet people whose names you already know! My favorite by far was Ken Braddick, he was a well of neat information and knows everything about everything and everyone. He had very interesting views on some of the goings on in the dressage world and was just a stand up guy.

Once our little adventure was over, it was back to the hotel to change and meet the other YRGP participants for dinner. Not everyone was there tonight but it was fun to meet everyone and hear how far they had come. There are people from Alaska, Kentucky, Illinois, Washington, California and the list goes on. Everyone was great, dinner was good. I got to sit with Kathie Robertson who is the director for Educational Events for the USDF and it was so great to be able to pick her brain about Instructor Certification and the FEI Trainers Conference etc. She is a very cool lady who has done a lot for USDF's membership.

I'm already having a fantastic time and even if I went home tomorrow I would have felt that this trip was worth it, but the best part is that it hasn't even begun! Thanks again to everyone who has supported me in coming out here... Nance Allen, Patti Thurman and Donnette Hicks for their letters of recommendation that got me accepted to the program to begin with. All my amazing clients that helped me get horses taken care of so I could leave. Cathy Torlina, Judy Hicks, The UDS and The Dressage Foundation who all donated money for me to be able to make the long trip over here and of course to my family and Brandon who pick up all my other pieces and take care of my precious Sawyer so I can educate myself and become the best I can be. I'm floored by the kind words of encouragement and support I have gotten from all of you. Please know it is deeply appreciated.

One of many Grand Prix horses at the show grounds 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Utah January Horse Events

by Lorraine Jackson 

Utah Trainer Challenge Season is Upon Us! A Competitor in the 2011 Utah Trainer Challenge Finals. 
Photo by Lorraine Jackson

The coming weekend will be a busy one for the horse industry in Utah. Arctic vortexes are no match for organizers, trainers, and horse owners of all disciplines in the Beehive State.

January 11 is chock full of events around the state:

The Utah Horse Council will be hosting the semi-final competition for the Utah Trainers Challenge at the Golden Spike Arena in Ogden.  There are 11 competitors who will be whittled down to four, who will compete in the Finals at the Utah Horse Expo in March.  Competition begins at 8 a.m. and is designed to put trainers through their paces as horsemen and professionals. We hope to have a more precise schedule available soon.

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Keystone Equestrian in Bluffdale is hosting a Dressage Derby Ride-a-Test with USDF Gold Medalist David MacMillan, who was shortlisted to represent South Africa at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. Participants will ride a dressage test, take a mini-lesson with David, and then re-ride the test. The cost is $100 per ride, auditing is free, and lunch is provided for riders. (auditors may also purchase lunch). As of the publishing of this story Monday morning, there were still rider slots available.

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Pegasus Event Center in Granstville unveiled its new website over the weekend and started advertising its winter jumping series. This Saturday will feature jump classes 2'3" through 3'3" starting at 10 a.m. and trot poles through 2'3" starting at noon.

In addition, they are offering classes that qualify for the Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program, a national initiative developed to encourage second careers for former race horses. If you have a papered OTTB, registration is simple and owners can accumulate points for local, regional, and national high point awards.  Visit the TIP program website for more information.

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The Wasatch Range Eventing Association is holding its Annual Banquet to dole out High Point Awards and create buzz and excitement for the new year. The event will be at the University Park Marriott in Salt Lake City.  More information available on their (new and improved) website,

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HoofPrints Dressage of Herriman has lined up a series of lesson days with USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medalist Margo Gogan of Hilltop Dressage. The clinic days are January 11, February 8, March 1, April 5 at South Hills Stables in Herriman. Each clinic requires a minimum of 6 riders to be held, and the cost is $115 per ride. Auditors are welcome, but are encouraged to bring their own chairs and blankets. Ms. Gogan will have a mic with a sound system so all can hear her comments. A $5 contribution is encouraged to help offset the cost of batteries, which RAPIDLY lose their strength in the cold.

RESERVATIONS: Contact Nance Allen 801.274.1288 or 

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In addition to all the above January 11 events, there are plenty more events around the state for the remainder of the month. Another horse roping, which we reported on in December, is still on the schedule at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds January 18. We will bring you any information we receive in the coming days as that event draws nearer.  

As always, Utah horse events will be posted to our calendar, which you can bookmark and check back on frequently for live updates.  If you have an event that you would like added, please contact our editor at .

Many thanks to the continued support and interest in The Utah Trotter as we enter our second year of full time coverage. We hope to continue telling the stories and sharing the important updates that the Utah Horse Community deserves. Thank you for everything each of you does within this community and for the horses.  

Happy Trails in 2014!  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Controversial Horse Roping Event Held in Tremonton

From the Editor: The following story originally appeared on, and the author was kind enough to allow the Trotter to syndicate this story. It originally ran December 5, 2013.

A Young Horse Being Roped at the
Tremonton Horse Roping in November, 2013
photo courtesy of Robyn Van Valkenburg

by Robyn Van Valkenburg

Forty horses were unloaded from a double-decker livestock hauler on Nov. 23 at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds. They were young – only about a year old – and were brought to be used during Saturday evening’s sport.

These horses were not for riding, but for roping.

One by one, a foal was chased from a chute at the north end of the indoor arena by a man with a whip. Teams of two ropers on horseback pursued the loose horse until one threw a loop around the horse’s neck. The foal buckled down on the choke and hopped a few steps forward. The other team member roped the horse’s front legs and it stumbled to the ground with a thud. It laid there for a moment, caught its breath and regained its senses. The colt was then dragged out of the arena by its neck.

Horse roping, also called horse tripping, is a rodeo event banned in California, Florida, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

But it is legal in Utah, and many who attended the event believe it should stay that way.

“This is the Vaquero way,” said Boyd Udy, a volunteer who herded the roped horses into the chutes where their necks and legs were freed from the loops. “This is how the ranchers doctor their horses.”

Vaquero is a centuries-old tradition of horse training and livestock handling of Spanish origins. Some consider the tradition to be rougher than more modern practices. There is a considerable diversity of belief, however, of what the tradition entails.

For competitor Sonny Munns, the attraction to horse roping is simple.

“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s a hobby.”

Before the event began, Shawn Judkins, who owns the yearlings, gathered the ropers to discuss the rules. He said that he had not anticipated the 162 teams that showed up to rope two horses each, but that they would still rope the 40 horses that he brought. He outlined a few rules and told the competitors that they would be disqualified for handling the stock in a rough manner. By the mid-point of the event, many of the foals were missing hair around their neck and had rope burns across their bodies. One colt had a gash on his forehead. Another limped.

“I’m sure they had rules,” said Jason Romney, a ranch horse trainer from Logan, Utah, after viewing videos of the horse roping. “Whether those rules were enforced or not, I do not know.”

Romney is not against roping horses – he does it himself as part of his training program – but always in a small round corral to allow the horse to have a break from the rope’s pressure.

“Horse roping, done in the correct manner, is one of the safest ways to handle wild horses,” Romney said. “I’ve seen it done in many manners, but the problem with roping horses by the neck is that it easily cuts off the horse’s air because their trachea is exposed.”

Cattle roping events are popular among rodeo events, but “horses are built differently than cattle,” Romney said. “Even the horses’ hair and skin is thinner.”

Equine veterinarian Dr. Diana Wittkopf agrees.

“Horses have a longer more flexible neck and their legs are easier to break than cattle,” said Diana Wittkopf, who practices in Logan, Utah. “I’ve seen horses that flipped over – not necessarily on a hard surface – get severely injured.”

Wittkopf said horses that fall down hard can fracture skulls or necks and can damage their back muscles.

“Many horses with injuries like that are never useful as a saddle horse,” Wittkopf said.

Wittkopf said that horses often get hurt in various sports. Even racehorses or show horses can get hurt.

“However, many horse sports have a veterinarian on the ground,” Wittkopf said, “and hiring a veterinarian would add to the expense of the event.”

During the horse’s break outside in between being roped, they appeared to have no water or food.

“Feeding a horse during an event like that can cause problems with their digestive health like colic, but the horses should have had water,” Romney said.

Jim Keyes, a ranch roper and clinician who watched the footage of the event, said that the proper way to catch a horse is to gently rope it around the neck and then rope the front feet. Keyes ropes colts on ranches every July to brand and vaccinate them. Keyes said that Judkins should have limited the number of teams running because each horse should not have been roped more than two times each. With the number of teams that attended Tremonton’s roping, each horse was roped approximately eight times. Keyes said that what he saw in the footage was not significantly alarming.

“I didn’t really see anything that I thought was out of the ordinary or harming to the animals for this type of event,” Keyes said. “The main thing I saw was the lack of roping talent, but that is not uncommon.”

“The rope is just a tool for a buckaroo,” Keyes said, “but the goal is to handle the horses with the least amount of stress – both the horse being roped and the animal being ridden.”

Equine expert Colette Tebeau said young horses should not be handled in ways that could damage their developing skeletal system.

While acknowledging that she grew up riding English and does not have the experience in western rodeo events, Tebeau said she found the footage to be disconcerting.

“I respect the tradition of roping horses,” Tebeau said, “but it should still be done in a humane way.”

“As trainers, we do not even tie our young horses in order to prevent the risk of injuring their neck,” Tebeau said. “Someone should be there monitoring the injuries to the animals.”

Tebeau also worried that the horses may have suffered mental trauma.

“It will be difficult or impossible to train these horses to be riding horses because they see humans as predators,” she said.

Judkins disagreed,“I believe what we are doing is completely humane.”

He plans on holding another horse roping event at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds in January.

In reporting this story, Van Valkenburg arrived at the event at 3 p.m. The roping started at 4:30 p.m. after all of the teams had signed up. After watching and interviewing some contestants during the first four and a half hours of the event, Van Valkenburg was approached was approached by organizer Shawn Judkins, who asked her if she was a journalist. When Van Valkenburg confirmed that she was a journalist working on a story about the event, Judkins demanded that she erase the video footage she had taken of the event and immediately leave. Van Valkenburg agreed to leave but refused to destroy the event footage, which she later shared with veterinarians and equine experts to gather more opinions about the sport of horse roping.

Robyn Van Valkenburg has been around horses her entire life. She grew up riding in 4-H and junior rodeos and now rides with the Dirty Dozen adult riding team and competes in the Utah Western Riding Club Association shows. She has participated in a variety of events including English and western pleasure, barrels, poles, goat tying, breakaway roping, hide racing and many other events. Van Valkenburg started training ponies when she was eight years old and has trained “bigger-and-badder” horses ever since. She now works for the Bureau of Land Management as part of the Trainer Incentive Program where she gentles and breaks wild horses and places them into adopting homes. Van Valkenburg has participated in two mustang trainer challenges. In the first challenge at the Utah Wild Horse and Burro Association, she took first place on her sixty-day mustang, Champ. She took fourth in the Heber Cowboy Poetry Festival’s Impact of the Horse competition and adopted her mustang, Spitfire. Van Valkenburg is now studying at Utah StateUniversity in the Equine Science and Management program and Journalism department. 

Disclosure: Van Valkenburg was previously featured as a local profile for The Utah Trotter in conjunction with the Utah Wild Horse and Burro Festival.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

SLC Carriage Ordinances on the Table - No Proposal to Ban

by Lorraine Jackson

Following the controversy over the death of a carriage horse earlier this summer, the Salt Lake City government has opened the discussion period for their proposed changes to city ordinances for urban carriage companies. The changes do not mention any possibility of outright banning of horses in Salt Lake City.

The most notable changes to the current code include:

  • Horses pulling carriages must be at least three years old.
  • More detailed descriptions of expected conditions and safety measures for carriages, including padded gear and a properly oiled bit, with all equipment of high quality. Also, each carriage should carry a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, a blindfold, a cutting implement, a halter and lead, and any other emergency tools the carriage company deems necessary or useful.
  • Veterinarians providing care for the horse should devote a minimum of 15% of their business to equine veterinary services. 
  • Carriage drivers will complete a licensing application with the city that includes physical description, employment history, criminal background check, and a letter from a licensed local company that states they have received the necessary training. 
  • Drivers will carry a non-toxic deodorizing liquid to treat equine urination and clear manure.
  • Each horse should have identification papers with them at all times.
  • Instead of 9 hour days with 15 minute breaks every 2 hours, the horses should work a max of 8 hour days with 10 minute breaks every hour. 
  • Horses should not work in inclement weather such as icy roads, heavy precipitation, and thunderstorms. They also limited the temperature range; it was previously -10 to a heat index of 150, and is now 10 degrees to 104 degrees as recorded at the Salt Lake International Airport.
  • Horses should be blanketed while idle at 32 degrees rather than 20 degrees.

Residents can post comments now by going to

The Council will hold a public hearing on these ordinances Tuesday, January 7, 2014, at the City & Council Building, 451 S State Street, room 315, at 7:00 p.m. Any and all interested persons may attend.

We will continue to follow this developing story in the coming days, weeks, and months. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Justin Barrow Found Guilty of Animal Cruelty - Horses Were Fed Hamburger

Horses sold at Utah County Sheriff's auction this summer may be repeat victims of neglect 

Justin Barrow of Barrow Land and Livestock was convicted last week of seven counts of class B misdemeanor cruelty to animals and three counts of class C misdemeanors for failure to bury or dispose of a dead animal.

Barrow first made Utah horse headlines for his involvement in the Smokey Mountain Ranch cruelty case. Mother and son Trudy and Rory Childs have repeatedly insisted that it was Barrow, not them, who caused their herd of 100+ horses to be as thin as they were when they were found in a deplorable state by Utah County Sheriff's Office deputies in February 2013.  The Childs regained possession of most of their horses from Justin Barrows in September/October 2012 after they say he failed to properly care for the horses.

See a full timeline of the Childs/Barrows Dispute Here.

An attorney for Weber County states that at least four of the horses involved were from Smokey Mountain Ranch, though rightful ownership of those horses was not clear. Barrows admitted previously that he retained some of Child's horses from their 2011-2012 agreement, but the horses in question may also have been from the public auction held in May, as Barrows did buy several of the Smokey Mountain horses sold by the Utah County Sheriff's Office.

Weber County Attorney Jeffrey Thomson told the Salt Lake Tribune that Barrow was "really mistreating the horses," and "They were being fed bread dough, hamburger patties and a lot of other garbage."

Heart and Hoof Equine Rescue and Rehab, which took a number of the Smokey Mountain horses after Rory Childs was ordered to surrender the animals, stated on their Facebook page that they were going to be acquiring Barrow's remaining horses, which they state is around 20-25 head.  As of November 11, Heart and Hoof owner April Shaffer told The Utah Trotter that the rescue was up to 130 horses.

Barrow will be sentenced December 4th.  Rory and Trudy Childs are also scheduled to appear next month in a December 17th court appearance for a pretrial hearing, their last before their official January 22 trial date.

As always, we will continue to keep you updated on this ongoing story.