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Woodbury teen Maddie Kanda has been fostering an 8-year-old Arabian mare named Raayna as part of the Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)

Horse’s tale completes Cinderella story

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The message of rescuing dogs and cats can be seen and heard many different places.

But one animal that is often forgotten when it comes to finding a good home are horses.

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Thankfully however, some people, like Woodbury teen Maddie Kanda, haven’t lost sight of that message.

Since last April Kanda, who is a full-time post-secondary education option student at Inver Hills Community College, has been fostering an 8-year-old Arabian mare named Raayna.

“I wanted to do something over the summer that would give a horse another chance,” she said. “I wanted to use my time and skills to help another horse find a forever home.”

Kanda is fostering Raayna through the This Old Horse rescue in Hastings.

As part of fostering Raayna, Kanda will be competing in this year’s Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse, a competition that challenges young horse trainers to showcase untrained rescue horses in hopes of becoming adopted.

“Any work I would put into it would definitely give a horse a better chance of getting adopted,” Kanda said.

A princess in need

Raayna, whose name means princess in Arabic, came from a farm in Crow Wing County where she was one of four Arabians on the property, including her foal Johnny.

All four horses were starved and neglected.

When the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation seized the horses in December of 2013 as part of neglect case, Raayna and Johnny were the only two horses to survive.

Horse body condition is ranked on a scale from one to 10 with one being extremely emaciated and 10 being extremely obese. Raayna was about a two. A healthy horse is ranked at about a five.

Johnny had a slightly better body condition than Raayna and the best explanation, Kanda said, is that the mother horse gave any food and water that she did receive to Johnny before taking any for herself.

“She put his life before her own,” Kanda said.

Also, Johnny, who is 3, was still nursing off of Raayna which was taking away a lot of her nutrients.

“Horses typically stop nursing after a couple months,” Kanda said. “But, because they weren’t separated and weren’t being fed, they didn’t have any reason to stop nursing.”

Raayna was also suffering from pneumonia when she was rescued.

Eventually Raayna and Johnny were moved to This Old Horse in Hastings since the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation had run out of room.

Raayna and Johnny not only received food and water, but both horses received medical attention in hopes of preparing both of them for the Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse.

Challenged as a trainer

Through the Trainer’s Challenge, inexperienced trainers are paired with a rescue horse for about 100 days, to work with and present at the University of Minnesota’s Leatherdale Equine Center.

The only criteria for the horses are that they have had minimal human contact, never been ridden and are halter broke.

Horses and trainers showcase in five different categories – halter, pleasure, trail and obstacle, freestyle and veterinarian/farrier.

The basic skills a horse should learn include: standing quietly for a farrier and veterinarian, load and unload quietly into a trailer, stand patiently for tack and untacking, trotting in hand and being able to be ridden on the rail and on the trail.

Trainers are awarded $10,000 in cash and prizes.

This year’s Trainer’s Challenge for the Unwanted Horse will be Sept. 20 at the Leatherdale Equine Center at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

Kanda, who has a horse of her own, first met Raayna in March after they were assigned to each other through the Trainer’s Challenge.

“When I first went out to meet her she was a little nervous,” Kanda said. “She was still getting used to the whole idea of being a horse again and having food and water.”

When Kanda first moved Raayna to her stable at Majestic Pines Farm in Afton, the two spent a lot of time just getting to know each other.

“She was still worried about food and water,” Kanda said. “That’s hard to get out of a horse that’s been starved and neglected.”

Besides just getting healthy, Kanda said she worked with Raayna a lot on moving past her worry.

Not only was Raayna worried for herself, she was worried about all of the other horses who came in and out of the stables.

Kanda said the worry probably was an after effect from leaving Johnny.

“It was hard leaving Johnny behind because they had gone through that whole ordeal together – there’s a pretty strong bond after that,” she said. “Now, she’s so worried about protecting everyone.”

On average, Kanda said she typically works with Raayna daily for about two hours.

“It’s nice to be able to watch her relax and not have all that worry,” she said. “She doesn’t even look like the same horse because her features have totally changed.”

For the Trainer’s Challenge, Kanda said she is very eager to showcase everything that Raayna has been able to overcome and accomplish. A few of her specialty tricks are jumping and dressage, or dancing.

Whether she wins anything in the challenge isn’t the priority for Kanda. The priority is finding Raayna a home.

The silent auction at the Trainer’s Challenge is specifically reserved for pre-approved owners.

“I’m sure there will be tears,” Kanda said, “but it will be so nice knowing that Raayna will be going to a good home and a place to live out the rest of her life.

“I’m sure I’ll be sad, but it will be so rewarding.”

Kanda said she might consider participating in the Trainer’s Challenge again in the future.

“I find it really easy to connect to horses,” she said. “The connection you get with your horse is different than with dogs and cats – the bonds are so strong.”

To follow Raayna’s progress, visit Maddie Kanda’s blog at www.mnhoovedanimalrescue.org/tc2014/blog16 or her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/raaynaandmaddie.

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
(651) 702-0976
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