The future of the horse industry relies on bringing along the next generation of riders. Traditionally, stables had limited options for after school and weekend clubs for young riders. Pony Club, 4-H and the FFA were the only choices unless a barn owner started his or her own program. Those established groups remain good choices for barns interested in after school and weekend programs. If one of those isn’t a fit for your situation, stables can choose among multiple organizations to find a match for their barns and youth riders. The Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA), the National Jr. And High School Rodeo Association and the Youth Equestrian Development Association are just a few examples.
These programs can really benefit young trainers and barns owners who want to supplement their incomes as they build their businesses. Plus, these activities give older trainers the opportunity to stay active without hauling on the show circuit for weeks at a time. Trainers that maintain lesson horses as part of their regular businesses can use those same horses to generate additional income through instruction and even leasing arrangements.
For parents, allowing their children to participate in an after school or weekend equine program can be a low-cost introduction to the horse industry. They don’t need to buy a horse and all the tack to go along with it. It gives the youth rider and the parents a chance to “test the waters” before making a significant investment. It’s a great way for parents to see where their kids’ passions lie.
Once you introduce a new after school or weekend youth program, it’s necessary to devote the time, energy and resources to producing it on a regular basis. Whether you choose to host a 4-H club or a competitive youth team, it takes time to plan activities, advertise the opportunity and provide instruction. It also takes time to build momentum for participation, so you have to be committed to holding the program on a regular basis to keep kids coming back and giving parents a steady spot for their kids to be supervised.