$8,000 for Oak Crest Farm in Harwood (pictured owner Tina Emmerich)

WE are not surprised!

WE know that Maryland has some of the best, most savvy and sophisticated owners of lesson stables in the U.S.

But we are delighted and proud of the two Maryland stables that took top honors – and brought home cold hard cash – in the 2017 Time To Ride Challenge.

This grassroots contest distributes thousands in cash and prize rewards to horse professionals who introduce new enthusiasts to horse activities, expanding access to horses while growing their own businesses.

First launched in 2014, the 2017 Challenge resulted in over 22,000 new horse-human interactions, bringing the four-year total to over 117,000. “Our amazing hosts created a record number of events – 1,008 – throughout the summer period,” shared Christie Schulte, Marketing Manager. “Their tireless outreach efforts are promoting and growing equestrian sports, and expanding access to the wonderful benefits of being around horses.”

Phase I rewards the top ten hosts in three divisions – small, medium, and large – while Phase II rewards the top ten hosts in two individual categories. Wild Card and 100 for 100 winners also take home cash and prizes, making for a total of over sixty ways to win.

Winning first place in the large stable division is Rolling Hills Ranch in Cecil County won first place in the large division. Rolling Hills provides riding lessons (dressage, jumping and eventing) and boarding, plus birthday parties. Owned by Renee Dixon, Rolling Hills is also home to the Freedom Hills Therapeutic Riding Program, a Premier Program with the Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH).

$8,000 for Rolling Hill Ranch in Port Deposit; Renee Dixon (l) with her team.

During this year’s contest, Rolling Hills introduced 2,866 people to horses for the first time, winning Phase I and receiving $5,000. 163 people returned, giving Rolling Hills the third highest “conversion” rate (Phase II) and earning them an additional $3,000.

Renee credits the Time to Ride Challenge for inspiring some creative marketing outreach, holding events at her local Chick-Fil-A. The events were so successful for both Rolling Hills and Chick-Fil-A that the local manager “wants us to come back at least twice next year. [They are] going to advertise on their tables for us and put a quarter page ad on every tray advertising Christmas with the Ponies and Family Day on the Farm.”  In total, Chick-Fil-A will be distributing about 1,500 flyers for Rolling Hills Ranch per day. Way to go Renee!

Meanwhile, Oak Crest Farm in Anne Arundel County took top honors in total number of Phase II follow-up experiences with 213 people from Phase I returning for a riding lesson, trail ride or ground work with a horse.

Tina Emmerich, a seasoned lesson instructor, has done her fair share of trial and error when it comes to doing outreach for new clients. This year, with the new phase of the Challenge in mind, she made sure to reflect back on her lessons learned. She says, “You have to put yourself out there and be inventive in ways to encourage people to come back. For the people that came back, we offered a discounted rate for lessons.” These discounts were in addition to the free riding opportunity they received at the first event they attended.

“Overall, we’re thrilled with the results of the 2017 Challenge. Beyond the numbers, the true impact is in the stories we hear – of thriving businesses and people who develop a new love for horses,” Schulte stated. “Increasing access to horses and expanding participation in our industry is the overarching mission of Time to Ride, and the Challenge continues to be an impactful way to move the needle.”

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, Boehringer Ingelheim, Farnam, Merck, Morris Media Network Equine Group, Purina Animal Nutrition LLC, Platinum Performance, The Right Horse Initiative, US Equestrian, and Zoetis. Program Partners are Absorbine, the American Paint Horse Association, ASPCA, Equibrand, the National Reining Horse Association, Lumina Media, Pyranha, the America’s Mustang Campaign, and Colorado State University Equine Sciences Program.