Time to Ride Challenge Best Practices Contest Rewards Savvy Marketers

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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 describes 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, won 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.

Winning third place is 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, over 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 5th to 2nd. 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 go 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, AQHA Outfitters, USEF, Active Interest Media, Morris Communications/Cowboy Publishing, and more.

The Time to Ride Challenge awarded a total of over $70,000 cash to winners 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 see full results, please visit www.timetoridechallenge.com/news. To see photos from Challenge events, please click here.

The American Horse Council’s Marketing Alliance

Time to Ride is an initiative of the American Horse Council’s marketing alliance, formed to connect people with horses. It is designed to encourage horse-interested consumers to enjoy the benefits of horse activities. The AHC marketing alliance is made up of the following organizations: the American Association of Equine Practitioners, Active Interest Media, the American Quarter Horse Association, Dover Saddlery, Farnam, Merck, Merial, Morris Media Network Equine Group, Purina Animal Nutrition LLC, Platinum Performance, SmartPak, United States Equestrian Federation, and Zoetis. Program Partners are Absorbine, the American Paint Horse Association, Equibrand, i-5 Publishing, the National Cutting Horse Association, the National Reining Horse Association, Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, and the Texas A&M University Equine Initiative.

About the American Horse Council

The American Horse Council is a non-profit organization that includes all segments of the horse industry. While its primary mission is to represent the industry before Congress and the federal regulatory agencies in Washington, DC, it also undertakes national initiatives for the horse industry. Time to Ride, the AHC’s marketing alliance to connect horses and people, is such an effort. The American Horse Council hopes that Time to Ride will encourage people and businesses to participate in the industry, enjoy our horses, and support our equine activities and events. The AHC believes a healthy horse industry contributes to the health of Americans and America in many ways.