I am on a number of horse focused Facebook groups and the majority of my friend circle is made up of horse owning and horse-riding people. A topic of discussion that frequently comes up is that of decreasing participation in any horse related activity and particularly, a decrease in youth participation. While it seems that everyone can wax eloquently on the reasons for this, kids just want to play with devices, no one wants to put in the work, and on and on, very few people seem to want to brainstorm ways to make a change. I am a firm believer in a few things. The first is the philosophy that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. The second is that change starts from the ground up, meaning that the grass roots folks can often make a bigger impact than larger organizations. I have spent quite some time thinking about this and offer a few thoughts.
Have a lesson program. Most people who have an interest in horses don’t run out and buy one right away. They start by taking lessons somewhere. A beginner lesson program is the beginning of the pipeline to horse ownership. Not everyone who starts riding lessons is going to continue, buy a horse and maybe start to show. That is not everyone’s goal. If, for example, 5% of those who start to ride in a riding program go on to buy a horse that is good for the industry. The more people that are taking lessons, the higher number that 5% becomes. I know that giving beginner lessons is not really fun or exciting for a lot of people. There isn’t much glory in it and there are no big belt buckles that come from it. The goal here is to develop new riders, to foster the love of horses in new people and maybe inspire someone to get a horse, show and win those big buckles.
Create new innovative riding programs. We need to make riding fun. Let people know that, though we horse people might be a bit crazy, we are good crowd to spend your time with. This means that we have to get our thinking caps on and come up with some fun ways to get people involved. Off the top of my head, two programs come to mind. Jennalinn Show Horses in New York offers a Sip n Ride program for their adult riders. Riders sign up for a group lesson and then afterward spend time socializing with some finger foods and a glass of wine. Amy Wunderlich Performance Horses offers a Mommy and Me program for mothers and young children. This is a great program that exposes young children to horses and horse related activities, combining horse content with other fun activities.
Create an Interscholastic Equestrian Association Team: The IEA is an organization open to riders in 4th through 12th grade. The riders do not need to own their own horses. There are local, regional and national IEA horse shows where these students compete. This organization has the same type of structure as intercollegiate horse showing. This is not just a great way to introduce young people to riding, but also to horse showing. This makes showing horses much more affordable as the rider does not need to own the horse or the tack. They need to have appropriate attire and membership. This is a great building block for a student to prepare to either show at a higher-level show, get their own horse, or ride for a college team.
Host an intercollegiate college riding team: Before the days of NCEA teams, there only were intercollegiate equestrian teams. Post NCEA riding teams, smaller schools do still have these programs. This is another great way to promote horseback riding and showing to those individuals who may not own their own horses. These riders will take lessons at your farm and then show at the intercollegiate horse shows. As someone who rode on the Purdue University Intercollegiate team in the early 1990’s, I can attest that this is a ton of fun!
Market your riding programs to schools: These days parents may primarily focus on sports where their children can obtain scholarships for college (think soccer). Well, the horse world has NCEA teams now too which means that we have scholarships. I would venture to guess that many families don’t know this fact. They won’t know until we tell them. Contact grades schools and high schools and find out how to let the parents of the world know that their child can get a college scholarship from riding horses too!
It is likely true that our non-horse friends might be over our Facebook and Instagram feeds being constantly filled with pictures of our horses. However, some might not be. Some of our friend’s kids might think the horses are pretty cool too.
Invite them over: If any of your friends or your friends’ children show interest in your horses, invite them to visit. I am not saying that we must let them ride or turn into eternal givers of pony rides, but we should take steps to foster their interest. For some people just being in the presence of horses is enough to spark their interest. Sometimes if we just let them hang out and brush our horse it can be meaningful for them. It is very hard for anyone to express an interest in something they are not exposed to. Most people do not have any exposure to horses. We can’t make horse enthusiasts out of people who have never seen a horse in person.
Everyone in the equine community:
Be Nicer: Let’s have a moment of vulnerability here. If we are all really honest with ourselves, we have had moments where we were not that nice to people when it comes to our horses. Maybe this means we were annoyed when a non-horse person asked to pet our horse. Maybe we got offended when a friend asked for a pony ride on our World Champion horse. Maybe we were snobby or rude to the new people on the show circuit because their horses weren’t as good as ours or they weren’t as good riders or competitors. Let’s be honest. People are not going to stick around the horse world if they don’t feel welcome.
Be Ethical: The term horse trader didn’t get its negative connotation out of nowhere. Unfortunately, historically, our industry has a reputation of being less than ethical. I have heard way too many stories of people in this industry who had bad experiences with aspects of the industry, whether that be bad experiences with trainers or paying way too much money for a horse that is lame or dangerous. This is the type of experience that can make a person change breed or discipline or leave the horse industry permanently. It’s just not ok and it does great damage to the industry.
Let go of your ego: I know a lot of good horse folks who don’t want to work with beginners or give lessons. Though I respect their decisions, I wonder, where are the great youth and non-pros going to come from? Where are you going to get these great training horses from when no one is trying to bring more people into the industry. I wonder do we need a mind set change. If the only reason we are in the horse industry is to win trophies and money, we are missing a big part of the point of horses. The journey. Can we learn to find as much satisfaction from cultivating progress in a new rider? Can we feed our horse trainer esteem by helping a person make progress in their relationship with their non world caliber horse? Can we learn to find satisfaction in many aspects of training horses and people and not just from trophies and belt buckles?
Think long term: If you are a trainer or barn owner, have a plan. I don’t know many people who are equine professionals that have a formal business or marketing plan. We tend to rely on word of mouth or clients just arriving on the doorstep. This may have worked years ago, but it doesn’t work today. We need to think farther down the road. How do I make my business sustainable? How do I bring in more clients? How do I market my services in new and innovative ways? If we all don’t start to or continue to think long term, the industry will continue to dwindle. The pool of clients gets smaller. Your income gets smaller and it gets harder to get new clients and make a living. If you want your horse business to survive, and hopefully thrive, a change of mindset is needed. We must be much more proactive and get the word out to the world that they need horses and horseback riding in their lives.
To summarize, I want to say that I am not a horse trainer, riding instructor or barn owner. I am just a nearly life long horse owner who truly understands the value of having horses in our lives, whether that be for the innumerable great things kids can learn from riding or the general mental health and well being benefit from just being around or casually riding horses. I want future generations to know the gift of being raised around horses that I was afforded as a child.
We were privileged today to visit No Where But Up Performance Horses which is owned by Cody Crow in Colorado. We visited in preparation for an article for the Appaloosa Journal about Cody and You CD Signs who, in February, won the National Reined Cow Horse Association Limited Open Bridle World Championship
As a very short preview, here are pictures and videos of Cody and his gorgeous facility. He moved in less than a year ago to this training facility that he designed and it is perfect!
Here’s a little video of his gorgeous new facility.
It’s May Appaloosa friends and most of us in the US still are not released from state mandated isolation practices so there are still no horses shows! We hope you are enjoying some good rides in the spring weather. As there are still no show results to report, we plan to continue our Meet Your Neighbor series.
This week’s neighbor is Amanda Check. Amanda is a long-time Appaloosa owner and enthusiast from Pennsylvania.
Amanda started riding at Hope Lock Farm in Easton, PA around 1984. Her aunt had ridden horses when she was younger and influenced Amanda’s desire to ride. As her parents were not horse people, her father asked a friend in the horse business, Fred Klotz (a farrier in the area) for a recommendation and he suggested Gayle Matson at Hope Lock. Amanda took lessons at Hope Lock from Anne Mabus when she was 6 and 7 years old. Amanda’s parents were supportive of her desire to ride but never really understood her love of riding.
A number of years later Amanda went to girl scout camp, where she rode. This reignited her desire to ride consistently. At the age of 12 she went back to Hope Lock Farm to start riding again. She would clean stalls and tack or do chores around the farm for extra riding time. As a teenager, Amanda worked summers at the girl scout camp and would return to riding when camp was over. When she turned 16 (driver’s license age in PA) her parents offered her an option. They would either buy her a car or pay for a lease on a horse. Of course, Amanda chose the horse figuring her bicycle could get her where she needed to go. Amanda leased a quarter horse on the farm named T.C. Somebody. She showed T.C. in the all-around events on the local Penn Jersey show circuit.
When she graduated, Amanda attended Penn State where she would earn a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology. She didn’t ride while she was in college, focusing on her studies. After graduation she got back in touch with a friend from Hope Lock, Kate Lonergan, and started to ride Kate’s horse Corey (Ups n Downs). Amanda had an incredibly rough senior year of college. Her mother passed away her senior year and Amanda says that being back around the horses after her mother’s passing was extremely cathartic for her. Amanda rode and showed Ups N Downs on the Penn Jersey circuit when she could as she traveled often for work during at that time. While at the barn riding Corey, Amanda was introduced to Bert (Zips Hot Rox) whom she later bought and has owned for the past 18 years
Amanda and Bert have had an extremely successful show career. Bert turned out to excel at Saddle Seat and Pleasure driving. Under the guidance of Ray and Connie Burchett, with Zips Hot Rox, Amanda has won three World Championships in Non-Pro Saddle Seat Equitation and one World Championship in Open Saddle Seat Pleasure and Non-Pro Saddle Seat Pleasure. She and Bert have two Reserve World Championships in Open Saddle Seat Pleasure and a Reserve World Championship in Non-Pro Saddle Seat Pleasure and Non-Pro Pleasure Driving. They have won the Year end High Point in Non-Pro Saddle Seat Equitation three times, Non-Pro Saddle Seat Pleasure four times, Open Saddle Seat Pleasure two times, Open Pleasure Driving and Novice Non-Pro Western Horsemanship once. Bert has also achieved his Supreme Champion award as well as a Superior event horse in Open Saddle Seat Pleasure and a Non-Pro Superior Event Horse in Non-Pro Saddle Seat Pleasure. Amanda also achieved her Non-Pro Versatility Champion award on Bert.
Amanda’s favorite memory showing horses happened at the 2016 World Show. This was Bert’s last show at the age of 17. His last class of the show was Non-Pro Pleasure driving. Amanda describes this class as a perfect moment. It felt like just her and Bert in the pen. Bert was in his zone and she was singing to him as they were going around the pen. They were both in their happy place. The result of this completely gelled moment was a Reserve World Championship in Non-Pro Pleasure Driving.
The achievement that Amanda is most proud of is obtaining her Non-Pro Supreme Champion award on one horse.
So, what is next for Amanda? Several years ago, she purchased Moose (Love My Look) and changed disciplines from Saddle Seat to Ranch. Additionally, she recently bought a small farm and brought her boys, Bert and Moose, home in the fall. She has transitioned from lifetime boarder to farm owner. Now that they are home, she is finding a different balance in life. Having the horses at home means she has to learn how to balance extracurricular activities with what has to happen on the farm. She was planning to take this year off from showing to continue to get her farm set up to her liking.
I always like to ask our neighbors why they enjoy horses and specifically why Appaloosas. Amanda says she loves riding horses because you can always learn more. No matter how long you have been riding, there is always something new to learn to help make you a better rider and horseperson. She does not ever want to stop learning. The challenge, though sometimes frustrating, is always rewarding.
As to why Appaloosas? The honest answer is that she started riding Appaloosas because they were the horses that were at the barn where she started to ride. She stayed with the breed because of the people. The people that she has met through riding and showing Appaloosa horses have become her family. Her Appaloosa family are what keeps her in the breed.
Welcome to the first installment of our Meet Your Neighbor blog series!
Since it is April now, we were hoping to be able to start sharing stories of horse show successes and events. However, given the global health crisis, that is on hold. While we hope that show season will resume at some point this year, we thought it a good time to start to focus on the people who love and support the Appaloosa breed.
Our first Meet Your Neighbor spotlight is on Nicole Twiss of Sport N Spots Appaloosas. Nicole hails from Pennsylvania and she and her equine offspring can be seen at all types of horse events from 4-H to the Appaloosa Youth World Horse Show. Let’s learn more about Nicole….
Nicole grew up in rural Pennsylvania and recalls that her mother told her that her first spoken word was pony. At 6, her mother would catch her luring the neighbor’s horse to the fence with carrots and crawling up onto her back to sit there. Nicole started as a “barn rat” at the farm of Rick and Ruth Crist who bred and raised Appaloosa horses. They had a stallion named Mr. Red Rum. Nicole fell in love with the stallion and spotted horses at the Crist Farm. Nicole continued her childhood horse obsession with other neighbors and their horses whether they be Icelandic, Arabs, Quarter Horses or Off The Track Thoroughbreds and she credits the OTTB farm for teaching her to ride.
Nicole found her permanent barn home as a child at TWH Farm with John and Norma Criblear. It was here that she caught the horse show bug full force and loved traveling up and down the east coast showing horses. In her late teens she was given an Appaloosa mare, Frosted Red Wine (Dixie), to ride and train. Dixie was an athletic mare who started in the hunter ring and they ended up showing jumpers. Nicole and Dixie loved jumpers but, unfortunately, Dixie came down with heaves at 13 which ended her jumping career. Unsure of what to do with her mare next, Nicole decided to breed her. This decision altered the trajectory of Nicole’s involvement in horses. From the moment that Dixie had her first foal, Nicole’s passion moved from riding to breeding. Under the guidance of Christine Brady, who stood the stallion King Goer, Nicole built a breeding herd of 6 mares and a stallion and focused on the Appaloosa Sport Horse Industry.
Over time, Nicole’s breeding focus has evolved from breeding Appaloosa Sport Horses to breeding quality youth and non pro all-around horses. Nicole feels that there is a large gap in the Appaloosa market. There is a need for sound, good minded horses that can be maintained at home, be family members, and also perform well in the show pen. Her current breeding priority is to put foals on the ground that can help to fill that gap.
When asked about her favorite memory with Appaloosas, Nicole said that it has to be her first trip to the Appaloosa World Show. She took NL Seeuraiseumoonu, a gelding that she bred and raised to show in halter. Despite feeling overwhelmed by her first experience at a World Show, Nicole and Moon brought home a 6th place in the Non Pro Halter Geldings and a 6th Place in the Open Halter Geldings where Moon was shown by Ray Burchett. When not dominating the halter classes, Moon served as Nicole’s son’s leadline mount.
Nicole and the horses she has bred have accumulated an impressive list of accomplishments. She is most proud of last year’s show season. Nicole is a “do it yourself” Non-Pro. Last year her goal was to show her mare NL One Sugar Inmyte (Charlotte) to her superior in the halter events. She did this and more. Charlotte ended up Year End High Point in the nation in Aged Mares and Non Pro Mares. She also won her territory in these classes.
What else goes on Nicole’s best moments list? Often, these are the accomplishments of horses she has bred and sold to owner’s who have gone on to do great things. She has bred/raised a Dressage at Devon Champion. She has also bred horses that have gone on to achieve over 25 4-H State Championships, a Colorado Rangerbred National Champion, Youth World and World Show tops 5s and top 10s and too many regional awards to count.
As much as Nicole loves halter horses, she is passionate about her breeding programs newest focus of all-around horses. She will continue to breed sound, good minded horses that will be prepared to take youth and non pro owners to the show pen in the all-around events while becoming part of the family.
On February 8, 2020 the Keystone Appaloosa Club held it’s annual awards banquet to honor the year end high point award winners for the 2019 Appaloosa Breed show season. The event, held in a private banquet room at the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Track afforded members and their guests the opportunity to have a direct view of the paddock and the races while they socialized with friends.
The 2019 Winners are:
Reserve NON PRO‐NEZ PERCE STAKE RACE
Brooke Kuronya & Beautiful Mess
Overall High Point‐YOUTH 13 & UNDER
Reserve Overall High Point‐Youth Novice
Champion YOUTH‐ENGLISH SHOWMANSHIP‐‐Youth 13 & Under
Champion OPEN‐GREEN TRAIL
Champion YOUTH‐WESTERN SHOWMANSHIP‐‐Youth 13 & Under
Champion YOUTH‐HUNT SEAT EQUITATION‐‐Youth 13 & Under
Champion YOUTH‐WESTERN HORSEMANSHIP‐‐Youth 13 & Under
Champion NOVICE YOUTH‐WESTERN PLEASURE‐‐18 & Under
Champion YOUTH‐WESTERN PLEASURE‐‐Youth 13 & Under
Reserve YOUTH‐TRAIL‐‐Youth 13 & Under
Reserve NOVICE YOUTH‐WESTERN HORSEMANSHIP‐‐18 & Under
Reserve NOVICE YOUTH‐HUNT SEAT EQUITATION‐‐18 & Under
Melissa Astrin & Good Timin Charlie
Champion 35 AND OVER NON PRO‐WESTERN PLEASURE
Reserve 35 AND OVER NON PRO‐WESTERN HORSEMANSHIP
Reserve OPEN‐GREEN WESTERN RIDING
Gretchen Stein & Designed to be Red
Champion Overall High Point‐English Horse
Champion Overall High Point‐English Halter
Champion NOVICE YOUTH‐HUNTER UNDER SADDLE‐‐18 & Under
Champion YOUTH‐YOUTH GELDINGS‐‐18 & Under
Champion YOUTH‐HUNTER UNDER SADDLE‐‐Youth 14‐18
Champion YOUTH‐HUNTER IN HAND GELDINGS‐‐18 & Under
Champion OPEN‐HUNTER IN HAND GELDINGS
Champion OPEN‐JUNIOR HUNTER UNDER SADDLE
Champion OPEN‐AGED GELDINGS
Reserve YOUTH‐HUNT SEAT EQUITATION‐‐Youth 14‐18
Alexis Grogan & Silver n Chocolate
Reserve Overall High Point‐Western Halter
Champion YOUTH‐TRAIL‐‐Youth 14‐18
Champion OPEN‐MOST COLORFUL
Champion OPEN‐TRAIL JUNIOR
Reserve YOUTH‐WESTERN SHOWMANSHIP‐‐Youth 14‐18
Reserve YOUTH‐MOST COLORFUL‐‐18 & Under
Reserve Youth Western Riding 18 & Under
Emily Manna & S.R. Lil Bit Of Love
Reserve Overall Performance
Reserve OPEN‐RANCH HORSE RIDING
Reserve YOUTH‐RANCH RIDING‐‐Youth 14‐18
Reserve YOUTH‐RANCH RAIL PLEASURE‐‐Youth 14-18
Amanda Check & Love My Look
Reserve NON-PRO RANCH RIDING
Reserve OPEN‐RANCH HORSE RAIL PLEASURE
Reserve NON PRO‐GELDINGS
Reserve NON PRO‐RANCH RAIL PLEASURE
Evelyn Bitner & Charlsey & Lopin Like Lazy
Champion Overall High Point‐Youth Walk Trot
Champion OPEN‐GREEN WESTERN PLEASURE
Champion WALK TROT‐HUNTER UNDER SADDLE‐‐10 & Under
Champion WALK TROT‐TRAIL‐‐10 & Under
Champion WALK TROT‐WESTERN HORSEMANSHIP‐‐10 & Under
Champion WALK TROT‐HUNT SEAT EQUITATION‐‐10 & Under
Those of you who have been members of the Appaloosa Horse Club for a number of decades will recall the name Appaloosa News from one of the two magazines published by the Appaloosa Horse Club many years ago. The Appaloosa News magazine has not been published since the 1980’s. (to the best of my knowledge).
As a nearly lifelong Appaloosa owner and lover, I wanted to do something to promote the breed I love. I also wanted to do something that is positive and all about good news. There are enough sites on Facebook groups where ApHC members talk about, debate and sometimes bash decisions of the ApHC. Appaloosa News will NEVER be one of those sites.
The Mission of Appaloosa News
Provide an outlet to share the stories about Appaloosa horses and horse lovers whether they are in any type of show pen or not.
Highlight the diversity of the Appaloosa breed.
Share the stories of great Appaloosa horses and Appaloosa horse owners.
Share with others all of the positive aspects of the Appaloosa Family
What types of blogs stories will you see here?
Photos from around the rings at ApHC breed horse shows and other shows where Appaloosa Horses are present.
Stories about youth members, non-pro members, breeders and other Appaloosa lovers that highlights their love and commitment to the breed
Stories about equine health and well-being that directly relate to the Appaloosa Horse
Anything else that involves an Appaloosa and makes brings good vibes!
Thoughts on how to share our love of horses and Appaloosas with others.
If you have a story idea, please feel free to share it with me and I will try my best to get the story out there.
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Thanks for checking out Appaloosa News and I look forward to sharing good news with you in the future