*Re-published/re-printed with permission. This article originally appeared in Issue 3 2018 of Arabian Horse Life magazine.
Ask most people why they chose for their farm to become a Discovery Farm, and they will tell you they did so as a fun and casual way to promote the Arabian horse. After all, who can resist seeing the wide smiles on faces or eyes sparkling with excitement the first time someone meets an Arabian horse? Choosing to become a Discovery Farm is a low-cost investment that can pay big dividends in terms of promoting the breed.
But some farms, interested in doing more, are building upon the success of their Discovery Farm programs and are arranging for opportunities above and beyond those already offered. Bay View Riding Academy and Hope Reigns Arabians are two of many farms that are doing an outstanding job of taking the Discovery Farm model a step further.Bay View Riding Academy
Denise Lineberry, owner of Bay View Riding Academy in Ooltewah, Tenn., counts an Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) team based at her farm, an Adaptive Riding Program, Summer Camps with riding lessons, and two-in-one open houses and local open shows among the ways that she has successfully augmented her Discovery Farm program.
Lineberry initially made the decision to become a Discovery Farm because she wanted others to get a sense of the true nature of the Arabian horse. After competing her off track Arabians in a few local Open shows, she came away feeling as if her horses were not receiving due consideration because of pre-conceived notions about the breed. She feels as if becoming a Discovery Farm has allowed her to help dispel the myth of the “crazy” Arabian.
Lineberry’s parents, Dr. Kinsman and Cheryl Wright, started Bay View in 1992 when they purchased the ninety-two-acre facility and began to breed and race Arabians. Lineberry became involved in 2010 when she and her husband, Brian, began offering riding lessons to young riders. “One of our greatest joys is bringing Arabians down from the racetrack and helping them find new careers. The majority of our Academy’s horses are off the track,” she says.
Lineberry describes one of her most successful promotions. “We host the open houses and horse shows two to three times per year, in the fall and spring. These are well attended with approximately one hundred fifty to two hundred participants. We are connected with the local school system who generously allow us to promote these events through the schools.”
“The shows offer fun [gymkhana type] classes in addition to classes for the Hunter and Western disciplines. While we open the shows to any breed, we feel that they really help us to showcase the true nature of the Arabian horse when exhibitors and spectators can see a side by side comparison of the various breeds.” By hosting shows, opportunities are provided for young or green horses or riders to gain valuable show ring experience in a low-stress environment and can be excellent opportunities to draw visitors to your farm.
Show Hosting Considerations
While local Open shows or open houses can be a good way to increase traffic at your facility, the expense involved with hosting and staffing them can be unsettling. For this reason alone, many farms have not hosted an event, and some Arabian owners have steered clear of showing. However, that need not be the case. Just a few methods to help minimize the host’s expenses, and thus also participants, include seeking sponsorships from local businesses for class prizes, awards, or door prizes and making use of collegiate equestrian or local youth groups, such as the 4-H Club’s horse project members, to fill staffing needs.
Stacey Bailey, Equine Program Manager for Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio and formerly the Equestrian Team Coach at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, Colo. clarifies. “As coach, I strongly encouraged volunteer opportunities for my team as a service to the community. When these opportunities came up, they provided students with a chance to positively interact with the members of the public from all age groups,” she adds. Of particular importance, Bailey says, was the opportunity for her equestrian team members to “be role models” for any youth participating in the events.
She went on to say that “I always saw volunteering as a great team experience and a way to fill the experiential learning component that is such an important part of team membership.” At shows, Bailey has had equestrian team members run the gates, hold horses and serve as show secretary. They have even supported local Open shows by riding in them for further practice. While many equestrian teams are willing to fill show staff positions completely free of charge, others may ask for a nominal contribution as part of the team’s overall fundraising efforts.
Hiring the judge is one of the largest costs of hosting a show and is always near the top of a list of concerns. One idea for reducing this expense is to involve colleges with equine studies programs who also boast competitive horse judging teams. Though not licensed judges, these students have often completed a rigorous training program covering class specifications for Halter, Showmanship, Hunter, Western, Working Western and more in addition to the various rules involved for judging these types of classes. Due to their backgrounds, students completing this training can be well-qualified to judge unrated, local shows.
According to Holly Spooner, MS, PhD, associate professor, graduate program director and horse judging team coach for the nationally recognized program at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn., judging opportunities such as these are a “tremendous opportunity to apply scholarly knowledge in a real-world setting.” She says that “these students will often accept being paid a lower rate than a licensed official in return for the experience. Those students interested in maintaining their amateur status may even agree to judge for the experience alone.” If a student isn’t available, well respected local horse breeders and trainers can make good options for smaller fees than a licensed or recorded judge. Licensed judges are not required for non-recognized shows.
Hope Reigns Arabians
Laura Cronk, manager of Hope Reigns Arabians in Franktown, Colo., chooses other options to promote the farm’s Arabian horses. Her methods include open houses, clinics, a therapeutic riding program and private showings.
Cronk, has worked with Arabian horses for more than thirty years. In the past, she has been an amateur rider/exhibitor and a professional trainer. She now managers the forty-acre facility, owned by Ken Schuessler, and chose for it to become a Discovery Farm because of her “deep love for the Arabian horse.” She explains that her initial goal was to “open doors so that others could discover the Arabian horse for themselves.” She also enjoys promoting the family atmosphere and lifestyle that Arabians have to offer.
The largest of Cronk’s promotions, the open houses, are hosted two times per year. She says that they are well attended with “several hundred participants.” She promotes them to the public by hanging flyers in such places as local feed stores. She explains that “these open houses are mainly about introducing new people to the Arabian horse. Primarily, these are non-horse owners who are thinking about horse ownership or are sometimes those who used to have Arabians and are interested in getting back into ownership.” While the events are mainly about introducing Arabians to the public, they are also about education in horse ownership and are a good way to informally teach about horse care and management, something Cronk considers a worthwhile component.
Open House Assistance
One inexpensive method of staffing such events is by involving local youth groups such as the 4-H Club or FFA organization. Jennie Ivey, MS, PhD, assistant professor and extension equine specialist at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture says, “Youth involvement is down across the horse industry.” Inviting youth to actively participate in these events “cultivates their future involvement.” She elaborates, “These youths already have a vested interest [in horses] and programs such as these help them to apply their knowledge.” Ivey works with 4-H Club youth involved in the horse project as a part of her programming efforts at the UTIA. Just some suggested roles that youth group members might fill include working gates, holding horses and helping with parking.
Youth group involvement need not be a one-way street. Ivey explains that by their involvement the students “get experience with different breeds and disciplines.” She further describes that involvement allows youth to improve their communication skills and provides good exposure for the local 4-H Club program. In return for their help, aside from donations, many youth groups who work with horses are always looking for horses to participate in their judging team training sessions or competitions, or for locations to hold educational meetings which can provide further opportunity for promotion of your farm. These groups may also be willing to host concessions stands at events in exchange for part or all of the profit. Donations given to these types of groups can also sometimes be a tax write off.
Finally, if fees for promoting your activity are an obstacle, word of mouth advertisement, well placed, inexpensive flyers and press releases submitted to your local newspaper are a good place to start. Templates are a part of the Discovery Farm packet, located on the Discovery Farm website (www.arabianhorses.org/discoveryfarms). In addition, if your event is a show, other local Arabian exhibitors could be enticed to participate if it becomes recognized through the Arabian Horse Association’s Open Event Incentive Program or OEIP. The application process is both simple and free of charge and recognized shows are listed on the organization’s website. By registering, exhibitors showing Arabian horses are afforded the opportunity to earn points and recognition.
While many Discovery Farms, including Bay View, offer more traditional programs in boarding, lessons and sales, Lineberry says, “Regardless of which one of our activities parents and children choose to become involved with, after their initial experience they overwhelmingly come away wanting to do more with Arabians. That’s what it’s all about.” Everyone wins when we explore low cost and fun ways to promote and enjoy the Arabian horse.