[Guest Blog] This is the story about a very special lady, her pride and joy – a Haflinger – and me.

Emilie is passionate about Haflingers and when I heard that she needed help with promoting her Avanti Project, a fundraising attempt linked to the Haflinger stallion Avanti, I was happy to give her the possibility to write something for our blog. But let Emilie tell her story:

In June of 2009 I was in Lexington, Kentucky, and I started working as head trainer at Deer Haven Farm, for Rachel King. Avanti of Cedar Lane was one of the horses I worked with. For the next few years, we got to know each other inside and out, and we had tons of fun showing, training, learning, and traveling. He was (and is) my best equine friend. Likewise, I got to know Rachel, and we became like family to each other. After a few years of working with the Haflingers of Deer Haven, it was clear to me that I loved the breed and that the peaceful, beautiful farm was like my second home.

Then everything came to a halt when Rachel was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer in July 2012. I had never experienced this terrible disease from so close at hand. When it seemed like everything was too overwhelming, it was nice to know I could always rely on Avanti to be the same horse, day in and day out. If I needed to relax and unwind, I’d hop on him and take him for a bareback ride. He never let anything faze him.

Like many horse people, Rachel had always found the barn to be her place for solitude and rejuvenation. While she was ill, she would often sneak out to spend time with Avanti in the evenings, just the two of them. When the farm was sold and we found good homes for all of the horses, Avanti was the last one left. Rachel and I never wanted to talk about selling him, and when we did, we usually ended up changing the subject, because it was just too difficult to entertain the notion.

On April 11th, 2013, Rachel passed away. Although it was the worst day of my life, I was glad I got to be there to say goodbye. The time came for Avanti to officially find a new home. At that point, it was unrealistic for me to keep him, since I would’ve had to find a barn that accepted stallions and I wasn’t able to afford board on an extra horse. Thankfully, he found a new home in Ohio, where I was able to keep updated and ride him for a couple of events.

Now, things are starting to shift. I made the move to Wisconsin a few months ago, where I now have the space and ability to take care of an additional horse. With the encouragement of a few friends, and after discussion with Avanti’s current owner, I began looking for sponsors in order to buy him back!

But this isn’t just the story of a girl trying to reunite with a horse she loves. Rachel left an impact on the Haflinger community and on me – her efforts to promote the breed in the best light possible, and her love for her favorite stallion, are a part of the legacy I hope to continue. Her generosity, kindness, integrity – these attributes got me thinking, too. How can I give back?

My biggest goal with Avanti, beyond training and showing, is to use him as a “poster pony”, if you will, to raise funds for cancer research. I’d like to start by organizing a few smaller events, such as trail rides where the entry fees will go to a specific charity, and will be looking into what it takes to start a non-profit. Eventually, I envision us raising awareness by performing a musical freestyle during the lunch break at a show, and even selling merchandise while donating the proceeds to charity. I would like to set up a table with information at every show we compete at, so that spectators can see that Avanti is there for more than just ribbons! One of my biggest ideas is to organize an event where teams of riders can put together their own musical routines, and the audience can vote on their favorite performance by contributing a dollar in a jar with that team’s name on it. At the end, the money can be added up and donated to a specific charity. I could even get vendors to attend and perhaps agree to donate a portion of whatever they earn selling merchandise – there are so many possibilities!

I’m only in the starting phase of this dream, and I have a detailed plan on how to get us headed in the right direction. I’ve put together a sponsorship proposal, which can be downloaded here: http://goldenheartdressage.wix.com/goldenheart#!sponsor/c1c7c. This PDF contains a detailed story of me, Avanti, and our history together, as well as an introduction for those who are new to dressage. At the end, I’ve included some supplemental information, including videos and blog posts that are relevant.

My goal for this portion of our adventures is $20,000. This will cover Avanti’s purchase price, the cost of travel from Ohio to Wisconsin, his care for the year, as well as our training – it may sound like a big number at first, but when you look at all of the different components, what a huge value! I would like to raise $9,000 of that total by June 14th, and the remaining $11,000 by September.

Right now, I have $525 earned via GoFundMe, and two generous donors have each pledged $3250. This gives me $7025, just $1,975 short of the first part of my goal! So, while I am nearly halfway to my total fundraising goal, there is still a long way to go. Any gift is appreciated, no matter how large or small.

This is a big endeavor, and I thank you for taking the time to read all about it. I hope you’ll follow us on our journey, although I understand that some people may have more questions – if so, I’d love to talk to you about what my plans are and where I’m at with my goals. Please feel free to email me at goldenheartdressage@gmail.com. This project is my passion, and I am always glad to have the opportunity to share!

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