The Time to Ride Challenge, a grassroots competition that rewards stables, clubs, and businesses for connecting new people to horses, awarded additional cash and prizes for winners of its “Best Practices” contest. Contestants submitted written entries detailing the innovative, effective, and engaging strategies they used to plan and promote fun, beginner-friendly horse events throughout the Challenge.
Jester Park Equestrian Center, of Granger, Iowa took home top honors for their “JPEC Carnival,” a free, public event welcoming local families to their equestrian center. They took advantage of local “moms” groups and family bloggers in the area to promote the event. Approximately 450 visitors enjoyed opportunities including pony rides, face painting, horse-themed carnival games, a horse coloring contest and pony painting.
JPEC staff member Lela Mullen described the promotional strategy they used to make this event a standout success: “I believe that one thing that was creative about our strategy throughout the Challenge was two-fold. We set up a calendar of Time to Ride Events in May, and we also set up a different horse-related “theme” for each event. This allowed for us to plan well in advance and to give us plenty of time to promote the events. We did have to cancel one event due to severe weather, but all other events ran smoothly. Setting up different themes for the events, and also utilizing holidays during the timeframe to help with this aspect, gave us opportunity to market to different groups of newcomers. Some of our events catered towards the younger crowd with pony rides and kid-related activities. Other events were marketed to new horse enthusiasts and featured ride demonstrations and safety topics. We also formulated plans to draw in school crowds, military veterans and other community-based groups. Finally, once we hit it off with families in the area, we realized the benefits of marketing to ‘moms’ groups and family bloggers in the area and promoted our events as “family friendly” weekend activities, which helped us tremendously as the events progressed. All in all, we loved participating in the Time to Ride Challenge, and enjoyed introducing newcomers to horses and our facility. We hope to participate again next year and help to keep our industry alive and growing!”
Jester Park Equestrian Center won $300 plus prizes provided by Time to Ride Alliance Members.
Shepherd Youth Ranch, of Franklinton, North Carolina took second place. Their success was a result of directly contacting local Girl Scout troops and YMCA Guides groups and inviting them to visit the ranch and earn their respective horse badges. The two-part event began with worksheets, fun facts and learning in each group’s regular meeting. Then, the groups visited the ranch for hands-on grooming, safety, leading, saddling, and bridling to earn their badges. Staff member Amy McCabe reported, “Not only did this give us an opportunity to share our horses with 60 people, but also gives us a platform to reach out to the other five Heritage Girls groups in our area. This event allowed us to create a template that can be repeated for Heritage Girls, Girl Scouts, Y-guides and more! We will see many of these girls again as volunteers and clients.”
Shepherd Youth Ranch learned first-hand the effectiveness of contacting club leaders and parents directly to involve youth groups. Shepherd Youth Ranch won $200 plus prizes provided by Time to Ride Alliance Members.
Taking third place was Cooperstown Equestrian Park Ltd., of Hartwick, New York, which invited the local summer recreational program kids to their farm and promoted the event with a “Boarder Challenge Week.” All boarders were invited to participate; whoever could attract the most people to the farm won a free riding lesson. On the day of the event, more than 50 kids and adults enjoyed a barn tour, petted the horses, met the farm’s Fjord pony, Lude, and learned how to groom. Farm owner Cody Pritchard explained, “the whole summer was geared toward introducing people to horses… people loved being able to come to a farm, they loved being able to meet a horse, they loved that the horse was available! My students really enjoyed the challenge, too. They all became excited and started helping to promote the farm when our ranking went from fifth to second. This is when the Boarder Challenge idea came about… once we started promoting the Challenge and that the prize went back into the farm, the public, friends and family have all stepped up to come help us out. We had a wonderful summer and plan to implement a few of these programs in the following summers.”
By involving current clients and spreading excitement about the Challenge, Pritchard was able to amplify her outreach efforts. Cooperstown Equestrian Park Ltd. won $100 plus prizes provided by Time To Ride Alliance Members.
Honorable mention awards went to Allegheny County 4-H Club (North Ridge Riders), of Gibsonia, Pennsylvania; Cross Road Stables, of Elverta, California; and Tri-County Trail Association, of East Sparta, Ohio.
Award winners will receive gift certificates, vouchers and/or magazine subscriptions provided by AHC Marketing Alliance Members including Dover Saddlery and Smith Brothers, SmartPak, Purina, American Quarter Horse Association Outfitters, United States Equestrian Federation, Active Interest Media, Morris Communications/Cowboy Publishing Group, and more.
The Time To Ride Challenge awarded more than $70,000 cash to finalists 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 view the full results, visit www.timetoridechallenge.com.