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Trail and Recreational Riding

Why You Should Participate in Horse Breed Association Recreational Riding Programs

There are many benefits to participating in a breed association’s recreational riding program. Photo Courtesy American Morgan Horse Association

Recreational riding programs have long been an essential part of most horse breed association’s offerings, because they help attract and keep members. Program participants often praise the tracking logs as a way to keep track of time spent with their horse, and, once milestone achievements are reached, fun and useful prizes are awarded to riders.

Unfortunately, many such programs suffer from low participation levels. Breed associations would like to change that by making horse owners more aware of the diverse range of activities in which they can take part with their horse. Regardless of your chosen breed, here’s what three of the country’s top breed associations had to share about their recreational rider programs.

Why Participate in Horse Breed Recreational Riding Programs?

There are a variety of reasons a fan of a particular horse breed should participate in these recreational riding programs.

  • Horse ownership is not required, and multiple horses can help earn hours toward milestone achievements.
  • Participation time logs help participants keep track of their hours earned.
  • While some associations make a distinction between competitive and non-competitive hours and which ones can be included, typical examples of eligible hours encompass those spent trail riding, training, participating in parades, taking part in riding lessons, etc.
  • Reaching a milestone achievement level offers practical prizes different from those typically earned at horse shows.
  • There is often no time limit to reach milestone goals.
  • Any fees involved are usually nominal.

Examples of recreational riding programs from breed associations include:

Appaloosa Horse Club

Keri LeForce, performance department supervisor with the Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC), feels that her organization’s Saddle Log/Driving Log program is of most benefit to those ApHC members who don’t regularly participate in organized events.

“It’s an opportunity for them to be involved with the association and receive recognition for the things they are doing,” she says. “It’s a way for them to maintain a connection with the breed association.”

Participating adult members pay an annual fee of just $25, while youth are assessed a one-time $20 fee. Appaloosa Horse Club membership is required and, while ownership of the horse is not necessary, hours logged must be earned while riding or driving a registered Appaloosa. Hours are tracked online or via a printable log.

All program participants receive a patch. Thereafter, chevron bars are earned at milestone achievement level. While milestone achievement levels differ between the riding and driving programs, common examples include 25, 50, 75, 100, 200, 500, 1,500, 2,000, and 2,500 hours. Examples of prizes earned in addition to the chevron bars include brushes with engraved handles and achievement-level embroidered items. Any time spent riding or driving, including competing at shows, training, and trail riding, is eligible for inclusion on the log and counts towards prizes.

Arabian Horse Association

Current members of the Arabian Horse Association who enjoy riding their registered Arabian or Half-Arabian horse are eligible to participate in the association’s Frequent Rider Program. Members are assessed a one-time $25 fee and log their hours online or via a printable log. Similar to other breed associations, participants are not required to own their own horse, but instead may log their hours on any number of registered horses.

Current members of the Arabian Horse Association who enjoy riding their registered Arabian or Half-Arabian horse are eligible to participate in the association’s Frequent Rider Program. Photo Courtesy Arabian Horse Association

According to Abby Carpenter, awards and show results coordinator at the Arabian Horse Association, participating members earn prizes at such milestone achievement levels as 25, 100, 250, 500, 1,000, 2,500, 5,000, 7,500, and 10,000 hours. While each achievement level earns a bridle tag, as the number of logged hours increases, so too does the value of the prizes starting at travel mugs and moving to picture frames, leather portfolios, accessory bags, coolers, and even a jacket at the highest level. Like most breed association representatives, Carpenter sees the benefit of allowing Arabian horses to promote themselves in a wide variety of recreational riding activities and would like to see even more members take part in the program. As an incentive, the AHA has an updated recreational riding program in the works where members will be able to log competitive hours from open shows, along with non-competitive hours.

American Morgan Horse Association

Some key differences in the American Morgan Horse Association program are that membership is not required and any time with a Morgan horse, not just time spent riding or driving, counts toward milestone achievements. Photo Courtesy American Morgan Horse Association

Known as My Morgan and Me, the American Morgan Horse Association (AMHA) takes a slightly broader approach to its recreational program. Following some trial and error to find the most workable solution to host the program, the AMHA’s newest program guidelines now have members submit a $25 payment only when milestone achievements are reached. Gone are the days of a one-time enrollment fee.

“We had program participants not submitting miles because they weren’t eligible for an award,” says Carrie Mortensen, executive director of the AMHA. “It was confusing. Now, when you reach a milestone, you send in $25 whether it takes you three years or three days to earn the achievement.”

Participants can download the My Morgan and Me brochure, which includes a printable log, from the association’s website. But it isn’t mandatory to use this form.

“When I was doing it, I made my own spreadsheet,” says Mortensen.

Different from other associations, the AMHA does not require that the logs be turned in when reporting a milestone achievement. The logs are more for the participant’s records and benefit.

“It’s an honorary system for us,” Mortensen explained.

Once the achievement has been reported, the participant receives awards directly from the association’s headquarters or an electronic coupon for the AMHA Marketplace where they can purchase t-shirts, sweatshirts, and jackets.

“You can decide on the color and if you want to have your name embroidered on it,” she adds.

When a participant reaches the highest levels of achievement, such as 10,000 hours, they receive a small write-up and are featured with their photograph in the association’s magazine.

“We do love for people [of any achievement level] to submit electronic photographs with their application,” say says. “When an applicant puts in for a milestone, we always feature it on our Facebook page if they include a picture.”

Other key differences in the AMHA’s program are that membership is not required and any time with a Morgan horse, not just time spent riding or driving, counts toward milestone achievements.

“The majority of people that participate are not competing, they are trail riding,” says Mortensen. “They are hanging out with their horse at home. The majority, if they are doing a show, it’s at the local level.”

She said that Morgan horses often have long life spans, and the more relaxed program requirements allow members to record time spent with a horse who is older and may no longer be serviceably sound but their owners still want to feel as if they are a part of a greater organization.

Have you participated in a breed organization’s recreational rider program? Tell us more in the comments below.

Hope Ellis-Ashburn

Hope Ellis-Ashburn lives with her family on a century farm in the Sequatchie Valley of southeast Tennessee. Her latest book is Kimbrook Arabians: How an Unlikely Midwestern Couple Influenced an Ancient Breed.

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