Quick Home Search

Archives for February 2020

We ALL Need Horses – Part 2

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.

Horse ranch in Rural Alberta Canada

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

We ALL Need Horses – Part 1

 “Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride, friendship without envy, or beauty without vanity? Here where grace is laced with muscle and strength by gentleness confined.” —Ronald Duncan

Since the beginning of man, any culture that found and tamed horses rode to the front of civilization.  They were faster, could move farther and had the muscle to farm the ground.  The horse was a necessity to life whether you lived in the city or country.  Over time, in civilian life, the automobile and train took the place of the horse.  In farming, the tractor and in the military, tanks and trucks.

Just within the last 50 years, our own mountain community had numerous horse breeding farms, boarding facilities, and horseback riding stables, horses in back yards were commonplace, boarding facilities were thriving with boarders, adults and youngsters eager to be with the horses.  When Troutdale in the Pines was in its hay day, horse races were held on Upper Bear Creek Road.

But there is so much more to horses than their utilitarian uses.  Their majesty, beauty, energy, raw reflection of our own energy, connection to the earth.  As Sharon Ralls Lemon states, “The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom.”  The truth is, the more technology we have and the more urbanized we become, the more critical it is to have horses woven into the fabric of our communities.  No other domestic animal can instantly transport anyone to the present and wash the rest away. 

As we would expect, the U.S. horse community as a whole has morphed and transformed over time.  Horse people understand the necessity of the horse and they are integrated into their lifestyles.  Although, not everyone understands the important of horses in our communities or economy. 

To understand the impact of the equine industry, the American Horse Council in conjunction with The Innovation Group conducted The 2017 Economic Impact Study of the U.S. Horse Industry.  The $122 billion equine industry is a growing segment of the U.S. economy, employing 1.74 million people,

Grazing horses at sunset, plateau Ukok, the junction of Russian, Mongolian and Chinese boarders

The study found that the care, business and recreation surrounding the 7.2 million horses in the country generated $79 billion in total salaries.  Additionally, around 80 million acres of land is reserved for horse-related activities.  In other words, the horse industry is doing well and has an important impact on our communities.

At the same time though, clubs and organizations are losing members, equine events struggle with volunteers and entries, boarding facilities are being sold or are strained by development and water issues, non-horse people are buying horse properties, trail riding struggles with parking and safety.  We are in a “disruption” of our local horse industry, but the disruption does not have to be a bad thing.  If looked at in the right way, a disruption can cause us to re-evaluate and re-organize our existing systems and transition them to succeed in the current climate.  If we want to keep our local horse facilities – public and private, trail access, and open fields adorned with horses, horse people need to respond to the current disruption and not just realize what we had once it’s gone. 

Having horses in our communities enhances the landscape.  When people come to visit the west, they expect to see broad expanses, blue skies, mountains and horses.  Farms and ranches that keep horses and cattle work to care for and steward the land and create a healthy ecosystem.  Those open spaces increase the value of the homes and communities around them.  Check out and join the Equine Land Conservation Resource (elcr.org) for resources regarding trails and horse community models throughout the U.S.

The economic study also found that 38 million, or 30.5%, of U.S. households contain a horse enthusiast, and 38 percent of participants are under the age of 18.  In a recent study in Colorado, 640,000 people that did not have a horse were interested in having an equine experience.  How do we get horses in front of the 30.5%?

It has been scientifically proven that horses help humans physically, mentally and emotionally.  Equine therapy has become a critical treatment and therapy for PTSD, learning disabilities, physically disabilities, emotional and social learning.  Urban and sub-urban communities must be able to be within reach of horses and horse facilities to utilize the benefits of the horse, not have them crowded out for more houses.

What is it going to take to keep the horse woven into the fabric of our communities?  It will take horse people committing to the horse community to keep it healthy.  Disciplines and riding interests need to be set aside, and horse people need to come together as one united community.  We have to see the big picture of the entire horse community that ultimately affects all of us.  We need to get involved, stay informed and show up.

Come back next month to explore solutions and ways to respond to the horse industry disruption and where we go from here.  Please email me at heather@mtnhomes4horses.com to share your ideas.

Heather McWilliams © 2020