Horse professionals utilized the 2016 Challenge to revitalize their marketing efforts and grow their businesses.

Georgetown, TX, December 6th, 2016 – Time to Ride congratulates the winners of its 2016 Best Practices Contest, a written-entry contest that rewards Challenge contestants for their innovative and effective outreach strategies. First place winner is Ashwood Farm of St George, Kansas; second place is Equine LEAD of Olney, Illinois; and in a tie for third are Cross Roads Stable of Elverta, California and Heavenly Horse Stables of Pinckney, Michigan. The contest judged entries on creativity and innovation; effectiveness at reaching new horse enthusiasts; quality of newcomer horse experience; and efforts made to reach beginners.

Mary Ann Funk of Ashwood Farm formed partnerships with local schools through parents of her current students, some of whom are teachers, to get a “hoof” in the door for her riding programs. “One school took us up on [our educational programs], and now, other schools have heard about it, and they want us to come. The public schools in our town no longer pass along our flyers to students, but by coming and talking to several classes, we were able to introduce horses and send home our information with about 200 students.” The students were thrilled to meet horses at their school, and many have become lesson students or participants in the Weeride program that Ashwood Farm offers to pre-school kids. By combining science education with fun, hands-on activities, Funk’s programs delighted both teachers and children, made it easy by bringing the horses directly to the schools, and successfully interested many students in further horse activities. For her outstanding marketing strategies, Funk won $300 cash in the Best Practices Contest.

Second place entry Equine LEAD, LLC of Olney, Illinois brought their National Meet-a-Horse Day event to their hometown’s anniversary event, the Olney Dodransbicentennial Celebration. When asked what was unique about this event, farm owner Debi O’Brien shared that “This was our first event where we came to the public, instead of inviting the public to us. This was highly successful because they didn’t have to drive to the country to have an experience with a horse. I had many people say they have been wanting to contact us, and were excited to meet us to make that connection and learn more about horses and our business. By joining in on a city wide celebration event, we were able to reach an entire scope of people we would not have had the opportunity to otherwise.” Equine LEAD also partnered with a sno-cone truck and offered a free sno-cone to everyone who came to meet their lesson horse/ambassador, Apollo, which further generated interest. “Many people had no idea where we were located or that we even existed and offered so many events and services to the community. It also created an interest in future activities such as day camps, field trips, etc,” said Debi. O’Brien won an additional $200 cash for her entry in the contest, and concluded by writing “This was by far the most people we have ever reached. It was a lot of work, and a long day but in the end worth it for the exposure it created for my business.”
In a tie for third place was Cross Roads Stable of Elverta, California and Heavenly Horse Stable of Pinckney, Michigan. Cross Roads Stable owner Tina Renison wrote, “The Cross Road Stables Open House offered activities for the whole family to take part in. After registering, newcomers got to enter in a free raffle for prizes like riding lessons, stuffed animals, plants and crafts!” This is the first year Cross Roads Stable has participated in the Challenge and Renison reported picking up thirty brand-new lesson clients as a result of their outreach efforts.

Heavenly Horse Stable held a pre-school open house and drew upon current pre-school riders to invite their fellow young horse lovers. At the event, “Participants were able to have a lead-line ride around the arena, hands on grooming stations were set up, ‘how to draw a horse’ whiteboard with markers were out, and an English Saddle and Western Saddle were set for kids to sit on and feel the difference. We also had a sensory table filled with grain, and a hay wagon treasure hunt (filled our wagon with straw and mixed in a couple bags of wrapped candies).” Stable owner Jenn Gay showed moms and families exactly where and how to be get their kids involved from a young age, nurturing an early love for horses and ensuring that riding will be an easy choice. “Being geared directly towards the youngest generation, families were very excited in the area. Kids are interested in horses at an early age and having the opportunity for them to get hands-on was great!” said Gay. When asked if the program was a success, she shared, “We wanted our lesson student numbers to rise and I have had 2 pre-k kids join our class already!” Each third place winner took home a $100 cash prize.

Event ideas, promotion tips, and successful outreach strategies from the Best Practices Contest will be shared with future Challenge Hosts in the marketing toolkit that is provided to all registrants. The Challenge continues to encourage and incentivize hosts to try creative marketing strategies that effectively welcome brand-new enthusiasts to horses while growing their own businesses. For more information, please visit or


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, United States Equestrian Federation, and Zoetis. Program Partners are Absorbine, the American Paint Horse Association, Equibrand the National Cutting Horse Association, the National Reining Horse Association, Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, and the Texas A&M University Equine Initiative; Lumina Media, Pyranha Inc., the America’s Mustang Campaign, and Colorado State University Equine Sciences Program.

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.

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