The sunlight hitting the blonde mane of the Rocky Mountain horse caused the golden hues to shimmer as the breeze swept it to the side when Melissa Wilhelm, of Canal Winchester, trotted Majestic Max into the Royalty Ride-In at the Franklin County Fair.

The sunlight hitting the blonde mane of the Rocky Mountain horse caused the golden hues to shimmer as the breeze swept it to the side when Melissa Wilhelm, of Canal Winchester, trotted Majestic Max into the Royalty Ride-In at the Franklin County Fair.

It was unimaginable to think that Melissa once had to use a crochet hook to remove the knots and burrs from the horse's mane, tail and forelock when he was first rescued along with five other horses.

Parts of his mane were clumped together and his ribs were showing the first time Melissa saw Max.

It took two or three hours with the crochet hook to free the mane of its tangles.

"He fell asleep while I was doing it," she said.

Melissa's mother, Kim, headed off to the feed store one day thinking she and her husband, Roger, might need to get their 12-year-old son, David, a horse since he was finally showing an interest after riding a rented Tennessee Walker.

When she got to the feed store she learned about six horses that needed to be rescued.

The owner of the horses had gone to Alaska in search of work and the people taking care of the horses had not ridden them. They were feeding the animals bags of apples, carrots and ears of corn.

Kim went home and called to find out about the horses, knowing her husband would say they could not afford another horse, let alone six.

Roger walked in and wanted to know who she was talking to. He surprised her when he told her she should have set up the appointment earlier, because the horses could not be left in that condition.

Melissa began imagining the breed and colors of the horses, but when they arrived at the property where the animals were housed she was shocked to see them out in the cold. She eyed what looked like a bullet hole in the water bucket.

"The Tennessee Walker was skin and bones," she said of one of the other horses.

When the Wilhelms expressed an interest in the horses, they were told that all the tack would be thrown in for $2,500 if they took the two Palominos, the black and white, the gaited horse, the Tennessee Walker -- and Max.

"We didn't have $2,500," she said, thinking the deal was off.

Then a woman who buys eggs from the Wilhelms said she would make a $2,500 donation and give Melissa show clothes if they took the horses, under the condition that they allowed her to ride and train with them.

They were amazed and thanked God for their good fortune.

Kim and Melissa said the Tennessee Walker has an abscess on his rump. Caring for him has proven to be costly following a couple of trips to see veterinarians at Ohio State.

Half of the horses were not broken. The Palomino quarter horse had some training while the others were less than impressive.

"We started from the beginning," said Melissa.

When she first began bathing and conditioning Majestic Max, she said, he was a little antsy, but he got used to it with time.

Max was rude and disrespectful at first, according to Melissa, who had to teach him not to push and shove while trying to get to the food.

"They didn't know they were big animals," Kim said.

Since December the training has proven beneficial and Max definitely looked majestic as he entered the arena at the Franklin County Fair for his unlikely turn in the Horse Royalty Ride-In.