Be"leaf" in a Cause

The Connecticut Quarter Horse Association sponsored this trail ride to help connect Connecticut youth with horses.

From America's Horse

For Joe McAllister, an AQHA Professional Horseman from Southbury, Connecticut, it was the perfect getaway.

In 2007, the Connecticut Quarter Horse Association’s annual trail ride fell right after the All American Quarter Horse Congress and just before the AQHA World Show.

“The timing was perfect,” Joe said. Plus, “it gives you a chance to meet the people that just like to ride.”

Held in late October at the Ebony Horsewomen Equestrian Center nestled in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, the trail ride brought out more than 80 people to ride through the fall leaves and participate in a horsemanship clinic conducted by AQHA Professional Horsewoman Gretchen Mathes of Harwinton, Connecticut.

Five of Joe’s boarders came out, including Melissa Anglace, a 20-year-old who was putting some miles on her then-2-year-old, Artifacts N Stars.

“It was nice to be able to do something different than your normal routine,” she said.

Another boarder was Kristina Bardinelli, who participates in the AQHA Horseback Riding Program with Rolling M Will, a horse bred and raised by Joe. The trail ride – which offered double hours for horseback riding participants – put her over the 200-hour mark. (Go here to learn more about the program that offers awards just for logging hours in the saddle.)

Just as there can be no show without an arena, there can't be a trail ride without a trail! Stewards for Trails, Education and Partnerships is a program intended to increase participation in land stewardship among equine enthusiasts, while casting a positive light on horseback riders to land managers and other trail users. Join today and start making a difference.

The ride, ambling through Keaney Park with Hartford’s urban skyline in the background, was a definite exercise in relaxation. It also offered a chance to bolster a relationship formed between CQHA and the Ebony Horsewomen’s group.

Ebony Horsewomen Inc. was founded in 1984 by Pat Kelly to enrich African-American women. It soon evolved to make inner-city children the focus, empowering them through horses. Today, the group invites all children, regardless of where they live, to experience the wonder of horses through after-school programs, Saturday saddle clubs and summer camps.

Kids age 7-17 attend equine science classes and are immediately put to work cleaning stalls and tack. They work their way up the ladder, attending leadership classes and then a rigorous horsemanship program. A precision drill team, made up of six talented riders, performed an exhibition after the AQHA ride.

Discipline is also a key ingredient in the program.

“I’m a former Marine; my husband is a former Marine,” Pat said. “We run a military system here, so respect is utmost. … We build a structure of support and respect.”

Proceeds from the ride benefited Ebony Horsewomen, and CQHA also awarded five scholarships to youth in the program to attend the AQHYA Region Six Leadership Conference in Marlborough, Massachusetts, in December 2007.

“It was such an amazing success,” said Lisa Mazurka, who is the co-chairwoman of CQHA’s recreational riding program. “Some people gave extra money when they heard about the cause.”

She looks forward to continuing the partnership with Ebony Horsewomen because “I think we’ve made a difference.”

As the participants pulled their trucks and trailers into the unfamiliar environs of downtown Hartford, Lisa noted that there was a common thread running through the event.

“The most amazing thing that we have in common is the horse,” she said.

Gretchen Mathes’ daughter, Johnna Letchworth, took to the trails on her horse, What About Bob, a multiple-World Show qualifier with a string of AQHA Champion and Superior titles to his name.

“And here he is on a trail ride in Hartford in the inner city, making a difference,” Lisa said. “It was a very, very special day for me. It was something very special that we did on behalf of AQHA.”