Last month we explored the importance of keeping horses woven into the fabric of our daily lives, not just for horse enthusiasts, but for all people to be able to have access to the many therapeutic benefits of being around horses as well as to enjoy them in our landscape. Horses in our communities gives way to open spaces, aesthetic landscapes and the connection to that wild freedom that all horses have.
As we discussed last month, we are in a disruption in the horse culture calling for horse people to take a hard look at our current structures and organizations. Nothing brought the disruption as quickly into the spotlight in the past few weeks as did the potential closing of the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. The fact is, no matter what the agricultural tradition was in the past in our communities and counties, the voices for the horse and agricultural are in the minority. The most important question now is, what can we do now to advocate to keep horses in ALL of our lives?
Get involved with organizations that support the entire horse community like the Jefferson County Horse Council and the Colorado Horse Council (CHC). The CHC advocates for the social, economic and legislative interests of all horse breeds and people within the State of Colorado, the US and worldwide. They also put on the annual Rocky Mountain Horse Expo. An annual membership in organizations like these ensure that the equestrian voice is heard on a larger scale. Membership in the CHC provides horse owners with a liability insurance, not to mention the ability to get the cool “Support the Horse” license plates!
Additionally, get involved with national and local organizations that support your discipline. For a nominal fee every year, join that organization annually to help support local events like shows, rides, clinics and other educational opportunities. Being a member of these groups, whether you ride at one of their events or not, keeps you up to date on what is going on and shows the organization your support. Or join a local board like the Jeffco Advisory Committee the oversees the Jefferson County Trails to advocate for equestrian use of the trails.
Volunteer for trail stewardship, shows, events, clinics, and expos to keep them viable. Those on the inside know that these events are not money makers by any means but are there to support horses in general (RM Horse Expo), disciplines or activities in our area. Not to mention, you will a great time and meet a lot of great people. Plus, they are very important gateway events to promote and invite the up and coming horse enthusiasts to.
Show up to ride on the trails and park in the oversized parking spots to show that there is a need for them. Go to the trail forum meetings put on by Jeffco Open Space for all trail users. Currently, the number of equestrians that show up to have a voice in trail use is about 1-3% of the room full of bikers and hikers. If we want to be able to continue to ride our horses on the trails, enjoying all of the beauty that surrounds us with them, we need to show that we are interested.
When on the trails, be an ambassador for ALL trail riders. Clean up horse poop in the parking lots, keep your dog on a leash and stay on the trails, or if they are muddy, horses and bikers should stay off of them to help sustain the trail condition and prevent erosion. For up to date trail information, go to: www.jeffco.us/1531/alerts-closures. For ideas for trail, arenas and other riding opportunities, go to: www.jeffcohorse.com/trailsarenas.
Enter trail rides, events, clinics and shows put on by local people and organizations. Go to the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo coming up February 28-March 1,2020. For $15 you can spend the entire day with 450+ horses, watching 40+ clinicians and a plethora of disciplines at 7 venues throughout the NW Complex in Denver. Not to mention the horse vendors, art, and organizations that you can learn about, support and join. The line up this year is not to be missed, go to www.rockymountainhorseexpo.com for the full schedule.
If you have horses, invite those horse interested friends or kids you know over just to brush and be around the horses. Sometimes we forget that you don’t need to ride, just being with horses is a surreal experience.
Stay Informed and support current issues like the fairgrounds. There is a website set up for the most current information regarding the Jeffco Fairgrounds at www.jeffcohorse.com/alerts. Attend the critical meetings. Regarding the trails, the Jeffco Advisory Committee meets at 6pm on the 1st Thursday of every month at the Jeffco Open Space Admin Offices in Golden. Sign up for the Jeffco email list to learn about upcoming trail forums at www.Jeffco.us/814/Open-Space.
It is critical we Work together with ALL horse people to advocateto keep horses in our communities. One key issue that seems to come up often is the need to collaborate across all disciplines to not schedule over each other’s events. For example, if there is a local event like a poker ride in your community, it would be short sited to schedule another trail ride, gymkhana or event at the same time. Plus, the sight of a bunch of friendly equestrians showing up at a trail or event makes an important statement to the public. This schedule issue begs the need for a statewide horse calendar that would need to be updated by each and every organization, taking some effort, but it would benefit all of them. Horse people don’t typically have a problem traveling a distance to attend something they are interested in and a general calendar would help everyone bring in more participants and awareness.
Without our own individual and group efforts to advocate for the importance of the horse in our communities, horse people will lose the privilege to ride on public trails, across private lands, access to local boarding facilities, access to public riding facilities and ALL people will lose access to the majestic horse. What can YOU do to support the horse in our community? Heather McWilliams © 2020.“When I bestride him, I soar. I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes” — Shakespeare
Heather McWilliams (c) 2020