Peg Helder on Ima Rock Solid Hobby competes in Ranch Riding. Credit Kelsey Brindle and Teah Glunt/Beat of my Heart Photography.
Cowgirls and cowboys, it is time to brush the cobwebs from your saddle. A new association called East Coast Ranch Riding Association (ECRRA) is just what the horse and rider needs. The equine industry has been changing and over the past decade has disappointed the average western rider who just wants to ride and show in an affordable atmosphere with natural moving horses. Time for a new ride in town! Welcome to ECRRA.
Most western equestrians have heard by now about Ranch Riding, which is taking the horse industry by storm. The discipline is now sanctioned by many horse associations across the country and is creating a rodeo of chatter. Organizations like the AQHA are discovering these classes generate new members and income in an industry that has been declining.
But the real proof is in ECRRA, the brainchild of Terry Helder. A dedicated and natural born horseman with over forty years in breeding, training, showing, judging, teaching as a clinician, and fitting horse to client, Terry and his wife Peg own Evergreen Farm in Wrightsville, PA, one of the east coast’s largest breeding and training operations. Terry saw a void and out of his vision ECRRA was born.
Recently, Terry had been concerned by the expense and decline of the industry he loves. Western riders have become discouraged. “The discipline has lost versatility that enables the rider to show one horse all day,” he said.
At the Mustang Makeover, which he has judged for several years, he realized that Ranch Riding just might be the answer. After connecting with legend Dr. Doug Householder and AQHA Hall of Famer B.F. Yeates, Terry was impressed by the concept of SHOT, The Stock Horse of Texas Association. They too had been disenchanted, and now promote “an environment that is friendly, affordable, and designed to fit all levels.” Terry was driven to create an atmosphere for the natural moving horse. He was sure the East Coast could benefit by following this successful association. ECRRA was formed.
Terry knew he and Peg could not do it alone, so they reached out to Chad Mosier and his wife Gina, a trainer from Dillsburg, PA. He is young, energetic, and they could handle all the technical needs. Terry’s vision is simple: “Put more people back to showing horses for fun. Make it affordable and easy.” His main concern: “Keep it real and keep the Western image alive. Keep the horse moving forward.”
Showing is judged on the horse and rider combination. This keeps the trainer competing on his own horse. Not everyone can afford trainers and the association is set up for both the point chaser and those just desiring a fun day. A trainer can still assist but the rider rides.
I had the pleasure to attend the ECRRA show in Denver, PA, only the second in the season. There was plenty of excitement in the air from riders, trainers, and judges. Flooded with new members, the show pulled in event attendees with both simple and elaborate rigs. The first class, Ranch Horse in Hand, had a total of 25 entries, and the full event lasted well into early evening with over 200 runs.
Why such a success? Competitors agreed, the concept is natural, affordable, and fun. Helen Gildein, an exhibitor, breeder and judge, said “ECRRA is a great association which promotes the Ranch Horse for all levels of horse and rider in a friendly atmosphere.”
There is a division for every rider, horse, and level—novice, youth, prime time, amateur, and open. All five divisions have walk and trot or walk, trot, lope to encompass both novice and experienced riders. All shows and competitions are run or approved by the ECRRA. Classes are listed on the Facebook site as follows: Ranch Horse In Hand, to be shown in a halter; Ranch Pleasure, can be judged individually or as a group on the rail; Ranch Riding, 1 of 5 patterns as per AQHA rule book; Ranch Trail, a series of obstacles found on a farm or ranch; and Ranch Round Up, timed not judged. All show dates for 2018 will be listed on the site. Championships are awarded for division leaders and lifetime points. Any breed is welcome, and individual breeds will be recognized in year-end awards. Prizes are awarded during the show season and at the season end included in 2017 a pair of Tin Haul boots, belt buckles, custom cinches, custom chinks, halters, tack, and equine supplies.
Terry and Peg have been pleased with the response. The season finale at Columbia Riding Club boasted over 240 runs. The year-end membership total is over 70 and growing. They are happy ECRRA not only generates money to the club, but to the venues that were searching for answers to alleviate income issues. In five years, Terry expects to see a positive impact in the industry especially since Ranch Riding is one of the fastest growing events in the show scene.
ECRRA has been recognized in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Maine. Shows are posted in each of these states and boost five divisions–making the organization easy to access, compete, and obtain rolling points for titles and prizes. A full list of upcoming events is on ECRRA’s Facebook page and Terry and Peg’s website, www.evergreenpaints.com, contains information on clinics and Ranch Riding. Look for more on Ranch Riding in the November issue of Pennsylvania Equestrian.
Alicia Stephens-Martin is an author and business owner who resides on a Noah’s Ark style farm in south-central PA with her daughter, an avid equestrian. Her novel, Spur Struck, was inspired by horse-whisperer Guy McLean. She is working on the second in the Spur Series. Her short fiction and non-fiction stories have been published in several magazines, and she is a past winner of the Bob Hoffman writing award.