OK. I admit it. I was Pokémon obsessed as a pre-adolescent in elementary and middle school. I remember it like it was yesterday. I handed over a wrinkled dollar bill in exchange for my first card – Ponyta. Ah, the butterflies…
Unlike all my guy friends, the idea of battling my classmates for cards and “training” my Pokémon in “gyms” seemed like a waste of time. But building a zoo of cool characters that usually started out as cute little critters? That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout! (Not to mention the holographic cards were sparkly… and diamonds ARE a girl’s best friend.)
Now that Niantic’s Pokémon GO is taking over the world one augmented reality Pokéball toss at a time, I am reminded of how intriguing these types of cultural phenomena can be and how they can also be used to promote something we all know and love – horses!
I have to send out a big kudos to the American Paint Horse Association (APHA). I interned with the organization before graduating from college, and I have always admired their willingness to take risks with promotions that may capture the heart of yet another horse-interested person. I believe the word is innovative.
The APHA didn’t miss a beat when the Pokémon GO craze presented an opportunity for the APHA to increase registration numbers – and true to form, they are hoping to “catch ’em all.” They created a Pokéstop graphic with an image of their headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, complete with every horse lover’s favorite Pokémon… Ponyta!
Not only did the APHA generate interest in registering Paint Horses, but they also got members talking and interacting on social media. In this day and age, camaraderie will keep people coming back for more. For example, check out the photo sent in by Jennifer Hershberger, who found her very own Ponyta in the pasture with her Paint Horse one morning!
And she’s not alone! Michelle Henry posted to the Official American Paint Horse Association Facebook page that she located a Pidgey in her horse’s stall. And Amanda Miller even shared her heartbreak with fellow horse lovers after missing the chance to catch the Ponyta she found with her app.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably mention I haven’t downloaded the Pokémon GO app (partly because my ancient iPhone 4S probably couldn’t sustain such fancy witchcraft), but I have snatched a friend’s phone to throw a few Pokéballs when a Rattata or Weedle showed up during lunch. I have to admit it’s pretty fun and addicting.
With all that being said, remember to look up from your phone to kiss your real Ponytas every now and again. When your data plan runs out halfway through the month, they’ll still be waiting for you to come find and catch them.
Kelsey Pecsek is the managing editor for Quarter Horse News. The multiple American Horse Publications Award winner began working for QHN in 2011 after graduating with honors from Virginia Tech. Kelsey enjoys spending time with her American Paint Horse “Lucky,” a sorrel overo mare who won the 2015 APHA Novice Amateur Pole Bending Reserve World Championship at age 24. With a background in reining and cutting, Kelsey hopes to continue her involvement in the Western performance horse industry for years to come.