In 2019, The Equiery launched a new annual feature to celebrate those people and horses that contribute greatly to the non-profit community. Anyone can nominate a non-profit staffer, volunteer or horse for this annual award. The award committee reviews nomination essays and picks three to print in the November Charity issue with all nomination essays being posted on throughout the month. This year we received nominations for six people and three horses. Read all of their stories on this month!

Leigha Schrader & Vinni the Mini
submitted by Sara Strauss (DEFHR Head Trainer)

Leigha Schrader started volunteering at DEFHR 11 years ago, at the age of 12, assisting with basic barn chores and horse handling. Through her dedicated work as a volunteer, as well as lessons at another farm, Leigha eventually joined the DEFHR volunteer training team. When it became evident that an assistant staff trainer was needed to keep up with the steady flow of training horses and adoption appointments, Leigha was the perfect fit for the job. Since then, Leigha has worked with a countless number of horses, facilitating their training and eventual adoption. Leigha has provided DEFHR horses with the exposure they need to find horses homes by taking them to shows, clinics, trail rides, and expos. But where Leigha truly stands out is in her ability to break the stereotypes of the typically harder to place equines, such as small ponies and miniature horses, to more easily place them into good homes. She does so by using unique, out-of-the-box techniques such as trick training and liberty work to demonstrate how versatile and talented they can truly be.

One of those such equines of smaller stature was Vinni the Mini. Vinni arrived to DEFHR from Frederick County in April 2018 as part of a 12-horse seizure. At just 9 months old, Vinni arrived thin and infested with lice and internal parasites. After full rehabilitation and castration, Vinni entered into training with Leigha. After providing Vinni with a basic foundation of ground manners, Leigha quickly dove into liberty work and trick training, recognizing his natural talent and love to work. Over the past year and a half, Vinni has become an Equine Ambassador, participating and performing in various on-site events at DEFHR, including field trips consisting of 200-300 middle school children, volunteer trainings, open houses, and other various educational classes. When Vinni and Leigha started taking their show on the road, thy were an immedite crowd favorite! Vinni has made appearances at Horse World Expos, the Maryland Pet Expo, Horseland, and county and state fairs, entertaining the crowds and demonstrating the talent and versatility of miniature horses. Prior to COVID-19, Leigha and Vinni also made multiple visits to local nursing homes and elementary schools, literally bringing joy to people of all ages. During their visits, they’d see the children’s faces light up with questions and the seniors’ faces equally expressive as they reminisced about horse memories of their younger years.

Leigha and Vinni are DEFHR’s star team. Their work together has been both entertaining and educational for hundreds of people of all ages, not just at locally, but statewide and beyond.