Riding for a Cause in Nevada

With eight organized Nevada Quarter Horse Association trail rides a year, trail riders are making an impact.

From America’s Horse

When AQHA announced plans for a recreational riding program with trail rides around the country, many horse people in Nevada thought there would never be a demand for organized trail rides in their state. They were wrong; the Nevada Quarter Horse Association now hosts about eight trail rides a year, many of which are big fundraisers for charities and nonprofit groups.

Laurel Wachtel, of Elko, Nevada, is the NQHA president and was one of the people who set out to prove the naysayers wrong.

“Nevada is different from many other states because we have so much public land,” Laurel explains. “Many people said ‘You can never have a great Ride program because there’s so much public land that people can ride whenever they want to.’ ”

NQHA didn’t attract participants with promises of access to land. Instead, committee members began supporting causes with trail rides. NQHA hosts a ride that benefits Alzheimer’s research, one that supports breast cancer awareness and another that raises funds for a local therapeutic riding program.

“We are excited to get involved with organizations like that so (participants) can ride for a cause, so to speak,” Laurel says. “It has been incredible, the response that we’ve had for these rides.”

AQHA’s Form to Function report will give you clear instruction on how to evaluate a horse’s conformation.

Another way NQHA has encouraged participation is through a year-end awards program. To be eligible for the NQHA Recreational Riding Program, riders must be AQHA/AQHYA and NQHA/NQHYA members, and be enrolled in the AQHA Horseback Riding Program either for registered Quarter Horses or for all breeds, and must have nominated the horse through NQHA. To win the award, members must participate in two NQHA rides and at least one ride NQHA has approved that is hosted by another organization. Those who meet these criteria earn a belt buckle. Last year, NQHA gave away 15 belt buckles through this program.

Laurel says, “It has been a really well-received program. We just started a new year, and we’ve had more nominations to our trail ride program than to our show program up to this point.”

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While the rides have a registration fee, it’s mainly to cover the cost of food, put a little money in the year-end award fund and donate to whatever organization the ride is benefitting.

Riders enjoy rallying behind a cause, Laurel says.

“A lot of people like riding for the cause, whether it’s the therapeutic riding center or breast cancer ride or Alzheimer’s ride. They’re very based in supporting that cause.”

The numbers show it, as the Alzheimer’s benefit ride usually draws 115 to 130 participants and raised $10,000 one year. All breeds are welcome on all trail rides, and for this one, those who want to support the cause but don’t ride can walk the trail.

Does your horse have good conformation? Knowing your horse’s faults can help you determine his structural weaknesses and figure out which events he is best suited for. Download AQHA’s Form to Function report!

NQHA’s hard work has not gone unnoticed; the association has been recognized by AQHA as one of the top recreational riding programs in the country for the last few years. The prize money associated with those awards has helped support NQHA’s year-end award program.

Although the belt buckles are nice, Laurel says the riders participate because they enjoy it.

“I think they like to get out with a group and ride. They enjoy being outside and riding their horses, but they also like the camaraderie of the group setting.”