The Time to Ride Challenge, a grassroots competition offering $100,000 cash and prizes to stables, clubs and businesses that introduce new people to horses, reached a grand total of 41,428 new horse enthusiasts throughout the summer-long program. Participants in 49 states hosted beginner-friendly horse events to stimulate interest in riding and grow their businesses. In its second year, the Challenge marked an amazing 63% increase in reach over the 2014 program.
Participants planned, promoted and hosted events designed for newcomers who are interested in horses, but have minimal riding or hands-on experience. These beginner-friendly events included riding, grooming or petting horses; many offered crafts, games and educational components.
“Research suggests that as much as 30% of Americans have positive feelings about horses or riding, but that doesn’t mean they are currently involved with horses” stated Patti Colbert, Time to Ride spokesperson. “Our hosts do a fantastic job of bridging that gap. By specifically reaching out to ‘non-horse’ people, they’re growing their own client base by making horses more accessible to local families who may need some guidance getting started.”
While the majority of competing hosts were riding stables and instructors, other participants such as trail ride businesses, 4-H and regional clubs, rescues, youth camps and veterinarians also took up the cause.
Small division champion is Namaste Equine Rescue LTD, a volunteer-based organization that works with law enforcement to rescue horses in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area. Throughout the Challenge, they introduced 3,402 newcomers to horses through 19 beginner-friendly events. Michelle Rivera, who founded the rescue in 2013 and runs a holistic veterinary practice with her husband, said “The best part of the Challenge was being able to help families find the perfect horse experience. We have a great network of local barns, and we met families who didn’t know where to take their kids for riding lessons. It’s our job to direct them, and we loved helping these new families find the perfect place to get more involved with horses.” Namaste also gained several new volunteers and valuable community networking.
The medium division was most competitive, and 16 Acres Equine Educational Complex emerged as the champion. Located in Union Grove, Wisconsin, 16 Acres teaches riding lessons, trains horses and offers horsemanship programs for all ages. Throughout the Challenge, they provided an astonishing 8,955 new enthusiast with a first-time horse experience via 34 events. By providing hands-on opportunities such as teaching kids how to measure themselves in hands and relating that to the horse’s height, 16 Acres ensured each visitor had a meaningful and fun experience with horses. In addition, all participants were entered in drawings for a free riding lesson, resulting in even more new clients. Owner Jody Halladay reported, “We have so many new lesson students already that my assistant trainer and I are totally swamped! These new riders are buying 10-lesson packages–they’re excited about horses and making the commitment to riding.”
Winning the large division was the Tri-County Trail Association, a club based in East Sparta, Ohio. “Trico” is a non-profit horse club established in 1967 for the preservation and protection of trails for horseback riding pleasure. The club engaged 964 newcomers with horses through six events held throughout the summer, including their AQHA- and Ohio Quarter Horse Association-sponsored Trail Challenge in June. Most events took place at their campground/trailhead and used horses owned by the club members. Their best event was held during the Canton, Ohio, Hall of Fame festival, a week-long celebration of the National Football League Hall of Fame. Trico had riders in the parade, passed out flyers in the streets and welcomed parade-goers to their nearby horse event. Cynthia Bauman, club editor and leader on the Challenge efforts, said, “Our main purpose is to promote horsemanship, youth involvement in horses and education. Our group is a great outlet for people who just want to have fun with horses, feel comfortable and ask questions when they’re getting started with horses, so participating in the Challenge was a perfect fit.”
Trico emphasized involving the whole family in riding, so adult club members can bring kids to their events for free–which helps gain more youth participation and makes for a fun and inviting environment for newcomers to horses. Cynthia stated that the Challenge has benefited her club in many ways. “Not only has it been really fun getting closer to all our members, we’ve opened ourselves up to new members who didn’t even know we were here. We have great memories from every event we’ve held in the Challenge.”
Champions in the small, medium and large divisions each took home $10,000 cash. A total of over $70,000 cash was awarded to winners through 10th place; with the remainder of incentives including gift certificates, feed, apparel, stable supplies, event tickets and other in-kind products provided by Time to Ride Marketing Alliance members. To see full results, please click here. To see photos from Challenge events, please click here.