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Time to Ride: Introducing Children to the Love of Horses

Time to Ride welcomes participants and kicks off its pilot year.

Photo by Alisa Rich.

Most of us come by our passion for horses naturally. Whether we were exposed to them from an early age or decided to ride as adults, the love of horses seems to be in our blood. It’s something we can’t help. Time to Ride, a program of the American Horse Council’s Marketing Alliance, is working to spark this same passion in young riders.

The aim of the new Time to Ride program is to familiarize kids with horses by offering a series of six to eight lessons, which will cover everything from basic horse care to riding. The lesson opportunities will be presented through schools, youth organizations and recreational leagues. “This helps put horseback riding on a level footing with other athletic activities available to kids, and makes it easier for parents to find appropriate facilities for their kids who are interested in horses,” said Molly O’Brien, Time to Ride Program Manager.

Time to Ride recognizes that learning to ride and care for horses can benefit children in myriad ways. Doing so teaches responsibility, perseverance, patience and goal setting. Further, kids have the positive experience of building a bond that can only come from caring for and riding a horse. “The primary goal of Time To Ride is to introduce children — and their parents — to horseback riding and horse care in a safe, welcoming environment,” O’Brien continued.

Photo by Lisa Yarborough.

In order to be considered for the pilot program, equine facilities and instructors had to meet a very specific set of requirements. Passing a criminal background check and receiving SafeSport training were among those requirements. Further, all instructors need to be certified through a recognized program such as the Certified Horsemanship Association or licensed as an instructor through the state in which they teach. Instructors also need to be current members of one or more breed or discipline organizations.

Time to Ride was astounded by the number of applications they received. “We were expecting to get 20 – 30 qualified applicants for the pilot program,” said O’Brien. “To our delight, we received over 100 inquiries and applications, and narrowed it down to the 62 selected.”

Photo by Valeria Capdevila.

The 62 facilities participating in the new program are representative of the diversity we find in the equine industry, both in terms of geography and discipline. The facilities are spread across the United States and instructors range from AQHA professionals to dressage riders and hunter/jumpers. Their foci are on numerous breeds, including Morgans, Paint Horses and Saddlebreds. Their affiliations include Arabian horse farms, United States Pony Clubs, the Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship and more.

O’Brien said, “It’s very encouraging to see the support we received promoting the program from so many breed and discipline organizations, and the response from their members. This points to the ongoing need for a program such as Time To Ride to help lesson barns bring new kids into the horse world in a structured, supported fashion.”

Photo by Valeria Capdevila.

The barns and instructors that have been designated Time to Ride Program Facilities are being provided with marketing tools, techniques and assistance in order to generate interest in their programs. Time to Ride is using The First Tee as a model for their program. The First Tee is a program in which school offer children a series of lessons at a local golf course. It has reached over 15 million children since its inception in 1997.

The pilot program will continue through the end of this year, at which time the results and methods will be analyzed so that any necessary changes can be implemented. The goal is to roll out a larger scale program next year.

About Time To Ride
Time To Ride is managed and funded by the American Horse Council Marketing Alliance. The Marketing Alliance was founded by a consortium of equine-related corporations and organizations to encourage and support the growth of the U.S. horse industry. Current members of the Marketing Alliance include: Active Interest Media/Equine Network, American Horse Council, Morris Media Network, Platinum Performance, Purina and Zoetis. Additional support is provided by the American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Paint Horse Association, American Quarter Horse Association, National Reining Horse Association, Troxel Helmets and Weaver Leather. Educational support is provided by Certified Horsemanship Association, United States Equestrian Federation and United States Pony Clubs. To learn more about Time To Ride, visit TimeToRide.org.

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