The Promise of Youth. This adorable picture of little cowboy Craig Miller started me thinking about the future of the equine industry. At 22 months this pint size cowboy is all in, but where will he be with horses 22 years from now? Will he be trail riding, competing, training, or maybe graduating from an Equine studies program? Will he still be involved with horses in any way; or will the demands of his young adult years make a life with horses impossible, allowing for only his memories to be tied to them?
The American Horse Council reports that there are 6.9 million horses in the United States for both commercial and recreational use and the total impact of the industry on the gross domestic product (GDP) is 112.1 billion dollars. These are impressive numbers but we all know that the industry is in trouble. When looking at predictions for the future, experts agree that land loss and the lack of interest and involvement of young people are the two greatest threats it’s facing.
What can you and I do to help keep little Craig and his peer’s actively involved with horses? What can we do to introduce people who have never known a horse, both children and adults, to the industry? Please consider joining your state’s horse council, farm bureau or one of your many local equine clubs if you aren’t already a member. If you enjoy politics, join one of the national horse associations. These organizations not only provide camaraderie and a fun social atmosphere, but address topics such as land use, including development and loss of feed and pasture land, unfavorable zoning, the environment, and trail access and repair. Clubs and organizations are also cognizant of the need to attract young people to the horse industry. Marketing is important to all aspects of the industry, including attracting new people. After all, it can be hard for a horse to compete with a dirt bike, ATV or some of the extreme sports out there. But as we all know, when partnered with a horse, people can experience some of the coolest and most exciting events there are, including extreme types of riding. And what a variety to choose from! Horses provide physical and cognitive activities for people of all ages and abilities and we need to do a better job of marketing that message.
Like it or not, every one of us is an ambassador for the horse and the equine lifestyle we love. So let’s make sure we encourage our little equestrians to stay in the saddle. Let’s invite as many people as we can, children and adults, and even those that aren’t involved with horses, to come on out and see what we do. Let’s join clubs, write articles and volunteer; but most important or all…Lets Ride!