Rider Insider: Bring in the Newbies

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Bring in Newbies
You’ve undoubtedly heard people in the equine industry lament the dwindling interest in horses in America. Horseback riding is competing with more accessible school-sponsored sports and activities—not to mention the ever-present video games and other indoor pastimes—for the limited attention of younger generations. Meanwhile, adults who want to ride often believe it’s too dangerous or too expensive to get involved with horses when work and household responsibilities are already so demanding.

Suburban sprawl has taken over much of the land that used to be hayfields and horse country. Zoning laws keep horses out of residential areas in some places, which means that many people rarely see horses, much less have access to them.

The stereotype of equestrians as elitist, snobby and filthy rich persists even as research has shown that most horse owners’ household incomes are close to the average for all Americans. Many people who don’t have a personal connection to the horse world believe that in order to ride, they must own a horse, and in order to own a horse, they must have a barn and pasture in the backyard.

Introducing new people to the wonderful world of horses has become an uphill battle. For this month’s Rider Insider, we want you to share your solutions. How would you help get non-riders interested in horses and riding? How would you combat the stereotypes about our sport and get newcomers out to lesson barns or trail stables to see what it’s really all about?

Click “Submit a Comment” below and share your thoughts. Some of the responses may be selected for a future issue of Horse Illustrated.

Noble Equine
Throughout 2013, Noble Equine will be sponsoring the Rider Insider column in Horse Illustrated with a prize for the selected featured response. If you’d like to be considered for a prize, make sure to include your contact info in the email field of the contact form (emails will not be publicly displayed.)

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32 COMMENTS

  1. If I could get more people to get into horses, I would offer free riding lessons. I love to teach and just a smile from someone really enjoying themselves would be worth more than pay any day of the week.

  2. I think if we wait a couple more years gas will be soo expensive that people will look for an alternate transportation. Then I would “convienently” say that riding a horse is better than a bike or walking!

  3. I think I would try to advertise all of the local horse activities. We have lots of horse people in our community but there are always new people moving here so we need to keep advertising our local horse activities.

  4. Many people dont want to ride because they think its just pointless. I have several friends who argue with me that all we do is sit there, and the horses do all the work. So, i ask them what they believe is a sport and then tell them that it looks like nothing, which makes them see that even though it may look easy its not, and in the end its very rewarding.

  5. I would like to see more accessibility for kids that want to learn about horse and more parent involvement even if they don’t ride they can encourage the kids. I live in an area where there isn’t much access to horses unless you know someone I’d like to see that change. I agree with person who said until the gas gets too expensive a horse will become a cheaper mode of trasportation than a vehicle.

  6. I believe that riding horses needs to become cheaper. I know that for many people( including me), we love horses, but they are just too expensive for many families to afford.

  7. Well, first of all, I’d tell them they don’t really need a horse. I’m in a 4-H club where everyone thinks they need to have a horse, when in truth, they don’t. 4-H offers many ways to get involved with horses, even though you don’t have one. For example: we have people in our club with more than one horse, so when we have an event, they bring their extra horses for the horseless ones to ride. Also, we provide a mentor ship program which teaches kids who want to be involved with horses all the basics and then how to ride (emphasizing safety especially) on one of the mentor’s own horses. But, if 4-H isn’t an option (like say if you’re an adult), then there’s always going to be generous people out there who are willing to let you borrow their horse just so someone else will enter into and enjoy this wonderful world few people know.

  8. I am part of a medieval re- creation group and I am the recruiting person for our equestrian program. The medieval games we do needs more than just riders. I used a local equestrian event , the western ny equifest , to interest people, we did a horseless demo, to lead into how much fun it could be with horses!! Grounds crew are crucial to these events!

  9. I would love to own a lot of horses and sell them as cheaply as possible so that people could get a better outlook on the fun and responsibility of owning a horse. Perhaps then more people would become more interested in horses.

  10. They call it the “horse world” for a reason (or at least I think so), because the horse world is a little bubble-world set off from the rest of society. We need to find a way to get horses out of the “horse world” and into the “real world.”
    If we want to get new people into the horse world, we need to pop our bubble, find ways to get the horses to the people rather than getting the people to the horses.
    And I am living prood. I never found the horse world…the horse world found me.

  11. I’d love to help special needs/therapy programs expand to incorporate equine therapy, so many families don’t understand how beneficial horses can be. Not only for their loved one but for the entire family. Also at-risk youth programs and summer programs for children in general. Horses give us such joy and honesty in our lives that those experiences can be truly transformative.

  12. I like to show people my horses, and invite them to meet them, and go for a ride if they’d like. My kids are always telling their friends about my horses, and they inevitably ask if they can come over and ride. Whenever I talk about my horses, my face shines and the happiness they bring me is very evident to whoever I’m talking to.

  13. I’ve been involved in the horse industry as an adult in various capacities for 40 years now. There is no doubt our industry faces an uphill battle, and it’s one we may not win.
    When I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles County, we had Saturday morning westerns, the Mickey Mouse Club’s Spin and Marty, there were rent stables lining every river bed, Hollywood stars were prominent the races at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar, and once in a while, we’d still see a horse pulling a plow getting small plots of land ready to plant. They were still making westerns in the movies, and we had Bonanza and other western-themed TV programs on prime-time. Additionally, we sure didn’t have the negative press we now have about starved horses, racing injuries and deaths, and other portrayals of cruelty in the horse industry. Plus, my generation was a lot more aware of the role horses played in developing our nation.
    We probably can’t get back to the good old days, but we do need to encourage all of our media outlets to help keep positive portrayals of horses out there in front of the public. That means spending money attending movies, horse performances, and anything else we can find to convince media that things to do with horses are a viable market. Horse clubs should send news of their events to local newspapers and ask to have them included in calendar items and to have them covered as local news items.
    We can say we’re not elitist all we want – and in many ways we’re not – but it’s hard to convince young parents to spend $500/month or more for board, shoes and veterinary services FOR ONE HORSE. Note I did not include the cost of a trainer. Most young families can’t afford a car payment that high, and they’d be astounded if you suggested they spend that much each month for clothing or entertainment. It’s a conundrum: Young people don’t have the money to afford horses; older people have the resources, but we’re unlikely to attract older people that are new to horses. As to renting horses, in my area, that’s $40-$60 per hour for the most part. I doubt many young families of four are going to spend $200 to $300 to ride rent horses for an hour, not to mention that rent stables are few and far between. The cost of land, hay and insurance has seen to that.
    Another option we have to encourage more people to take an interest in horses is for breed associations to subsidize horse rental and lesson programs and to ask well-known members to be more public about their involvement in the horse industry. Without good marketing on a large scale, I doubt individuals can do much to “grow” the industry back to what it was between 1940 and 1980.

  14. If I had the money I’d build a huge stable with lots of breeds of horses in it and it would have an enorous riding area where I would take one or two people out a day and lead them around on a horse or two.

  15. My personal involvement with horses is the draft and working horse. We are a carriage company that also farms with our horses. We love sharing our experience and knowledge with “newbies”! We have numerous ways that we do this: through our local draft horse club (Eastern CT Draft Horse Association) and the public events it sponsors; by way of offering draft and working horse clinics, privately and through a local University; through working horse competitions (shows and plow matches); we plow and disc harrow numerous community and CSA gardens, which, because they are well publicized, bring in crowds of people to watch and learn; and through our blog and FB pages. It never ceases to amaze me how many calls and emails we receive, people wanting more information about attaining a draft, or just wanting to “stop by” and watch us work with them. Although we, personally, no longer do that much riding, we are a commercial carriage business, and every time we go out on a job, we are “educating” people. I love that about this business. There is something so gratifying to know that you have brought something very special to an inner city kid, for example, who has never had the opportunity to see, much less pet, a live horse! And to know that the horse is a large draft horse in harness, makes it even more special. I think the most important thing to bringing more people to the world of horses (any discipline) is the willingness and patience to teach through good example, and to remember that somewhere, at some point, you yourself were a “newbie”, too.
    If you would like to see more of what I am talking about, you can visit our blog and FB page. This is our blog: http://cedarknolldrafthorses.blogspot.com/, and this is our FB page:https://www.facebook.com/cedarknolldrafthorses

  16. After a friend spent some time in Honduras herding horses bareback, he came back enthusiastic about horses. His friend, who had ridden horses before but had never cantered through the country-side, joined us just a couple days ago to canter through woods and fields. He came back enthusiastic about horses and ready to join the equestrian realm.
    I still believe that whether taking a realxing ride through the forests, or galloping full speed through the fields, those that are prospective horse lovers will find their love and joy!

  17. I don’t know if this would work but I’d love to see local stables partnering with their local, respective school district to offer students there discounted or free (if possible) riding lessons under the condition that the kids compete as part of the school’s equestrian team.

  18. I have already turned two of my great friends into horse crazy people an am now working on teaching them how to ride in my horse, Diesel. I think if you introduce anyone to a kind horse that they will immediately fall in love. With my friends I just kept brining them out to the barn and teaching them all about caring for horses and what to do. After watching me IDE and jump they both wanted to start riding.

  19. I wouldn’t do anything. All I’d have to do is show them a horse and let the horse do all the teaching. One interaction with a horse is all it takes to create a new horse-fanatic. Horses are like a magnet. Once you get close, you never leave.

  20. I have always loved horses, but because of inaccessablity and cost, I wasn’t able to ride growing up. When I enrolled at Rhode Island College and began looking for activities to join, I came across the equestrian team. I immediately knew that this was the group for me, and signed up. I had never been on a horse before, other than a pony ride or two, and after a couple of years, I am now competing at a walk/trot/canter level through the IHSA, and have worked on jumping. I couldn’t be happier. The best part is that other than a small fee, lessons and competing are free during the semester. It has been a fantastic experience, and I am able to be at the barn, working, riding, and spending time with the horses. This opportunity should be available to all, and it’s never too late to start riding. Equestrian is no more dangerous than football or hockey, and as long as you are properly protected, treat the horse with the proper respect, and are attentive, any potential risk can be minimized.

  21. People are always looking for fun things to do in the summer! Having a family vacation at a dude ranch gets the younger kids in the family interested in horses as he/she gets older.Just bringing your child to a horse show, or a fair with showgrounds can make a big difference in the way a child looks at their future! I have also noticed that everyone, no matter what their experience with horses is, has some sort of story to tell about horses. Share those stories to people! Get the word out, that horses can change your lifes and put the world in a new perspective!

  22. I’m not really that big on introducing random people to the amazing world of horses, but if I’m friends with them and I’m comfortable enough, I’ll take one of two approaches. If I know they like animals, then I’ll say “Horses are animals so I bet you’d really like to be around them.” Or if they only kind of like animals (like a lot of guys do), then I’d probably make a bet with them. They ride a horse, and I do something I’ve never done before or I’m just not good at (like basketball. I suck at basketball.)

  23. I think most non-horse people think horseback riding is something you have to start when you’re 2 years old in order to be successful. This is completely wrong, and I think is the main thing that keeps people from beginning to ride horses. Another thing is everyone thinks horseback riding is insanely expensive, which it can be, but doesn’t have to be necessarily. If only people could see riding like us equestrians see it, an amazing sport and lifestyle.

  24. I have always been very positive whenever I am speaking to a non-horsey person about horses and riding. I tell them how much fun it is, etc. Then if they would like to try horses but are too afraid of them I start them out handling my miniature horses before we move onto riding. I think if we would share more of the highlights of horses instead of the difficulties or things that only horses people can understand, more people would be interested.

  25. I am always one to emphasize that riding is a sport! I tell all non-equestrians, “What I do is a sport, it just so happens to be that my ball is alive.” I love to invite non-horsey people to watch me ride, but I have them come when I’m grooming and tacking up so they can see the relationship I have with my horse, and how much personality he has. I encourage them to take lessons, or I even let them get up on my horse while I lead him around. By the time we’re done, they want more!

  26. I think the best way to get people involved in our sport is to show them what it’s all about! IHSA has been introducing college students to the horse world for many years, and has allowed students with financial hardship a way to show. I would love to see a program such as that in high schools around the country. This would not only let newcomers the opportunity to ride, but it would also open new doors for the sport.

  27. I know a lot of people who will argue that riding isn’t a sport. I just have to tell them that, like any other sport, you shed blood, sweat, and tears; you start work in the early morning and you finish up when it’s dark; you spend your weekdays training and your weekends competing. But at the end of the day, we horse enthusiasts realize that our sport is the most amazing of all. We get to ride off into the sunset with our horse: our partner, our best friend, the one we’ve trained and the one who trained us. And in those moments, the sore joints, the early mornings, the late nights and the time and money spent all seem to drift out of our minds. In the end, everything is worth it.

  28. I think the very best way to introduce people to the world of horses is to ride! It’s a simple as that. Ride your horse into town. Bring your horse to events. Stop and say hello while riding. So many people have never seen or touched a horse. Just introducing them to the scent and presence of such an amazing animal is bound to foster interest.

  29. I introduce all my non-horsey friends to horses by simply letting them come to the barn with me, pet the horses, get them out and brush them, teach them little things about the horse and kinda let the person bond. Then they normally get curious and want to ride so we go out and right before I give them a little lesson and they catch on. They then begin to relize how relaxing and amazing it is to control and bond with an astounding creature thats capable of so much and they want to continue!

  30. I only started riding a year ago, but before that I didn’t think of the stereotypes but only of the horses. Once I did start riding I realized that when people asked me what I did for fun that riding horses was either too snobby a sport or too dirty. My love for horses overshadows others doubts and I have showed my friends and family that horses are wonderful to be around.

  31. I think a lot of people who want to ride only see the cute fuzzy stuff like the Saddle Club and don’t realize how much work it really is. Also I think too many new riders are held back by the supposed danger of riding and don’t know that most people who get hurt do so because they’re doing something stupid.

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