Taylor Backus exercises her horse with a ride around her family’s farm. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Taylor Backus exercises her horse with a ride around her family’s farm. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Some horses participate in show arenas year after year during the annual 4-H fair, but one horse participating in the horse show at this year's Jefferson County 4-H Fair wasn't so accustomed to the spotlight.

It was the horse's first time to show off the skills his new owner taught him in the three months since his adoption from a foster home.

Taylor Backus had begun to look for another horse earlier this year to show during her third year of 4-H when she and her family learned about several horses that needed homes.

But there was a catch.

The horses needing homes had been mistreated and underfed by a previous owner. They had been among 90 horses rescued from an area farm after the owner was charged with animal cruelty in January.

Still, the Backus family went to see two of the horses at a foster home. One of the horses, now known as Camo, immediately caught Taylor's attention.

"I really liked him, so I got him," Taylor, a Canaan 4-H Club member, said.

Taylor's mother, Missi, said there was a connection between the girl and the horse the first time the two met. After all the horse had been through, he immediately seemed to trust the 13-year-old girl.

"She was done the first time she saw him," Missi said.

Taylor brought Camo home in April. When she began working with Camo, he would allow someone to ride but that was about it. He didn't know how to canter or trot. The horse hadn't even been properly shoed.

Just months later, Taylor and Camo participated in several 4-H horse shows at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. They participated in barrel racing, pole bending, keyhole race, flag race and showmanship competitions.

Taylor had worked with Camo for three months to teach him all that he would need to know to participate with her in the shows.

She said the duo did well enough to earn a few ribbons at the fair. They placed second in pole bending in their category, fourth in the flag race and fifth in barrel racing.

"He was very trusting," Taylor said, still it took a while for the 4-H member to teach Camo the proper techniques. "I had to do a lot of work."

Missi said Taylor grew up around horses most of her life, but her daughter had never attempted to compete in some of the shows prior to this year. Both Taylor and Camo learned the techniques to barrel racing in the few months after the horse's adoption.

"They're learning together," Missi said. "He's very patient and willing."

Recently, Taylor set up a small jump for the horse to bound over. Much to the family's surprise, the horse jumped over after just a little coaxing.

"I think because he trusts me, he's willing to do whatever I teach him," Taylor said.

Missi admitted she had some worries about adopting a rescue horse that had been mistreated by a former owner, but the family decided to take a chance.

It's a chance they haven't regretted.

"We wondered if there would be any issues, but there haven't been any that we've found," Missi said.

With the Backus family's help, Camo continues to gain weight and adjust to a much healthier life with the family's other horses on the farm.

The horse does seem to be a little skittish once in a while when around other people, Missi said, but he isn't aggressive.

No matter his past, Camo seems to have found his forever home and put his trust into a teenager who is just as willing to teach him as she is to learn from him.

It didn't really matter how much the horse cost or what the markings on the horse looked like, Taylor said. Instead, she based her decision to adopt Camo because of how they instantly trusted each other.

"You've got to go by a horse's personality," Taylor said, noting a successful rescue adoption depends on the how well humans and horses get along with one another.