The Trainer Challenge, which carries the name of Prodigious, a hard-knocking ex-racehorse, seeks to raise awareness about the trainability and versatility of the Thoroughbred.
By demonstrating that a green racehorse can be re-trained for new disciplines, ranging from Extreme Trail and Western to Three-Day Eventing, the competition will feature five trainers from a variety of backgrounds putting one-time racehorses through the paces.
Each trainer has 100 days to complete their training in preparation for a Thoroughbred Only Horse Show planned for Oct. 5 at the Washington racetrack grounds.
Trainers selected for the competition are:
Mark Bolender, owner and operator of Bolender Horse Park, of Silver Creek, WA. The nationally recognized horseman and instructor is a three-time National Grand Champion and a leading expert in Mountain Trail, Extreme Trail and Competitive Trail. Bolender, 57, will train three-year-old filly Dakota Demon, owned by WilWin Stable, and bred by Allaire Farms.
Meika Decher, 43, of Polestar Farm, Lake Stevens, WA. Decher has ridden at the Advanced level since 1999 and was selected to ride with the United States Equestrian Team’s Developing Rider Team for two years. Decher has completed five CCI*** events, and has an extensive history riding and working with Thoroughbreds, including a stint with Washington Hall of Fame trainer Jim Penney. Decher will ride six-year-old bay mare The Last Say, owned by Dr. Jenyka Bergsma.
Ruel Johnson, owner and trainer, Blue Heron Farm, Poulsbo, WA. Johnson has long been involved in breeding (her family owns Allaire Farms) and in retraining Thoroughbreds. She started retraining Thoroughbreds for jumping in 1979, and has retrained dozens of OTTBs for new careers. Johnson and a team of her students will assist in retraining Underfunded Fun, a four-year-old chestnut mare owned by Petra Lewin.
Devin Robel, owner and trainer with Blue Rider Farm, Eugene, Ore., has 30 years of experience in the saddle, and has Evented for the last 19. She has an extensive background with Thoroughbreds, and has ridden at the Intermediate level and at FEI International Level One- and Two-Star Events. She will ride Summer Snow, a nine-year-old gray gelding owned by Terra Firma Farm.
Chesna Klimek, 26, of Rainier, WA, earned a United States Dressage Foundation silver medal for successfully competing at the Prix St. George level. In 2012, she won the Extreme Cowboy Race in Lynden, as well as the All Breed Challenge at the Northwest Horse Fair & Expo. In Three-Day Eventing she won the United States Eventing Association Area VII Championship at Training level. She will ride Solar, a seven-year-old dark bay gelding owned by Oak Crest Farm.
The Prodigious Fund Selection Committee made its choices with consideration given to the need for diversity of discipline, trainer background, and experience and trainer reputation, according to a press release.
They will ride in honor of The Prodigious Fund, which was established in 2008 by Emerald Downs as a way to help future ex-racehorses. Horsemen voluntarily contribute $1 per start to the fund, which raises funds for certified nonprofits benefitting Thoroughbred ex-racehorses.