The champion within: Horse rescued from kill truck ends up winning at state competition
The Teiken farm just north of Detroit Lakes is somewhat of a farm of rescues. They've taken in animals in need, like one of their cats they nursed back to health after finding him nearly frozen to death or the other feline who was nearly roadkill. Recently, though, the Teikens took on a much larger animal in need, a horse named Stella, and after quite a comeback, Stella actually went on to place in a state horse competition.
Val Teiken says they had been in the market for a new horse when her daughter, Julia, lost her horse; the animal passed away just before Christmas a couple years ago, leaving the family a little heartbroken.
"This friend of ours, he goes to a lot of auctions, and he tries to find good-quality horses," said Val, adding that he invited them out to look at a horse he had acquired, but the family didn't just go home with one horse that day. They went home with three. One was Stella, a horse a little worse for the wear.
"She was headed for a kill truck," said Val, remembering. "She wasn't much to love. When we first got her, she didn't look like a whole lot."
Stella had a bad case of worms, which caused her to be rail-thin. Her teeth were sharp and her hooves were cracked from poor care, but there was something about her that caught Val's eye.
While they were checking out the prospective horses, they went on a trail ride, and Stella, though she was in tough shape, was "a perfect angel," said Val.
"At the beginning of this ride, at the end of the driveway, a dump truck went by with a huge trailer, and it had trees on it, but they weren't tied down," said Val, adding that the noise and movement was enough to scare any well-trained horse. "Stella's standing there like, ya, I see that all the time."
Val says that wasn't the only obstacle they experienced on this two-hour trail ride. They came up against numerous plastic bags—the noise and color again a common cause of fear for most horses—but Stella just kept trekking, past barking dogs, wild turkeys, a grouse, and deer, she was unphased by it all.
"We had a McDonald's cup holder come scooting across the road, and she just stepped on it and kept going," said Val with a laugh.
The Teikens fell in love with Stella's sweet demeanor and decided to take her home, expecting her to make a good trail horse after she was back in shape—but they had quite the shock when they actually started working with her.
"We started to figure out this horse knew some stuff," said Val. "With her cues, we just started asking more and more of her, and she knew what we wanted."
Julia worked with her, finding her "buttons," or command cues, and Stella responded positively. She was willing to work, and she never got feisty when they pushed her to see what she could do.
"We put her to work in the arena. We set up obstacles that they do for trail class in shows, and she knew a bunch of that," recalled Val.
Eventually, Julia decided Stella was the horse she wanted to show at the Becker County Fair, and she did quite well there, ending up going on to the state competition where Julia placed eighth in trail riding.
"I did all the work with her," said Julia. "You know, tried to bring her back from basically death, and then find where her buttons are and kind of critique them. You know, you get to state, and there's some people who just pay for that, and she did excellent for not probably being anywhere near that. She was an angel."
The Teikens are now using their "angel" as a training horse on trail rides because she doesn't care who rides her, being that she's so easy-going. They just can't believe how far she's come in the past year since they got her, coming back and filling out after being all skin and bones—and she's not a young mare by any means. The Teikens estimate she's about 18 years old.
"Our expectations of Stella were minimal at best," said Val, adding that even though she was in tough shape, they knew she would at least be a gentle horse to ride. "I mean, you can just see it in her eyes...but a state show? Not even close to the picture—that wasn't our intent."