Heavenly Horse Haven hosts annual Chili Cook-Off and Anza Trail obstacle practice

Franklin Davis enjoys a ride on Lady at the annual Heavenly Horse Haven Chili Cook-Off and Anza Trail Obstacle Practice, Saturday, Oct. 28. Michelle Hunt photo

Anza residents enjoyed a perfect day of visiting horses, honing riding skills and having a bowl of award-winning chili at Heavenly Horse Haven’s annual Chili Cook-Off and Anza Trail Obstacle Practice, Saturday, Oct. 28.

Horses and riders, both young and old, took part in the riding practice events and Halloween-themed costume contests. Vendors sold collectibles and jewelry at their booths, completing the festival atmosphere.

Mike Hitchcock, who was dressed as Wyatt Earp along with his faithful mount Bertoli, won a $25 gift card for best costume. Renee Bentson earned the coveted $100 cash prize for her mouth-watering “Three Boys Chili” and a 50/50 raffle was won by R. C. Miller.

Heavenly Horse Haven owner Gina Perrin said she was pleased with the turnout.

“We brought in about $1,000 in donations,” Perrin said. “I thought it was a really fun event, and I loved meeting the people that came out to do the obstacles.”

Besides chili, obstacles and costumes, Heavenly Horse Haven’s adoptable horses were presented in hopes of finding new homes. Many of these animals are acquired by the rescue in poor condition and in need of rehabilitation. Others are owner relinquished in perfect health and in various phases of training. The horses are assessed and vetted, and their individual needs are met. Additional training is provided if needed. When they are ready, the horses are offered for adoption to loving homes.

“It is our mission to help meet the need for a ‘safe haven’ for horses or other farm animals who are at risk, neglected, abused, too expensive to keep, unwanted or otherwise in need of special care,” according to the Heavenly Horse Haven website. “We are a diverse team of donors, supporters and volunteers from all walks of life who have stood up and said, ‘Not on my watch!’ We are united in the belief that ‘I can help save this animal.’”

The horses housed at the facility were in good health and beautiful to look at as they trotted and jigged in reaction to the festivities occurring for part of the day.

Even the pair of rescued emus seemed to enjoy the occasion.

“I really enjoyed every minute seeing everyone enjoying their horses. I truly enjoy being a photographer of horses and seeing rescues being loved and ridden,” Donna Stauffer said; she has been a volunteer photographer for the rescue for the past seven years.

Laurie Stanton said, “We had 26 riders for the Open Trail Obstacle section. Everyone performed well with no accidents.”

Stanton volunteered to setup and to manage the trail obstacle event. She supplied the obstacles, such as the wooden “bridges” for the horses to walk on and even a neat contraption made from foam “pool noodles” that extend toward the horse and rider. The purpose of the obstacle course was to improve the bond of ultimate trust between animal and human, as the horse must trust the rider that the thing it is walking on or near is not harmful.

Volunteer Patty Kendall organized and performed registration duties, entry direction and parking.

Denise Nelson-Finster of Daan Sport Horses oversaw the obstacle exercises as the arena and safety monitor. She is a certified riding instructor with the American Riding Instructors Association and has won silver and bronze medals with the U.S. Dressage Federation.

“I would love to do this a couple of times a year if people would like to help us build new obstacles and get all the equestrian groups in Anza involved,” Perrin said. “In fact, we are going to have a big community event this year for the ASPCA ‘Help a Horse Day’ in April, and I am hoping to get all the equestrians in Anza involved.”

Heavenly Horse Haven is located at 58290 Marlis Lane in Anza. Their phone number is (951) 551-3561. They can be reached by email at info@heavenlyhorsehaven.org.

For more information about Heavenly Horse Haven, visit www.heavenlyhorsehaven.org or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Heavenly-Horse-Haven-Inc-249695083829.

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