The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man. Horses are what bind us together with our friends and family, and even new friends that become family. Every day we lose green space to development – not just the land where our horses live, but also farms where grain and hay is grown, and the open spaces where we ride. The local horse community is facing growing pressure for the green space our horses require to survive. This is where AAHC’s potential comes in – AAHC exists to help local horse people solve the problems we collectively face and to offer opportunities for the future. I have the pleasure of working with and assisting The Athens Area Horse Community on their mission, which says AAHC is dedicated to the growth of the local community so that horses are here for future generations. The local horse community faces such a complex variety of problems that AAHC has multiple initiatives for land conservation, education and providing resources for the horse community. AAHC is working to unite the horse community – to partner with county and state level leadership, fighting for sustainable development of green space, offering education for both horse lovers and general public.
Land conservation is at the top of the goal list for Athens Area Horse Community. They are currently working on equine improvements to the Heritage Park in Oconee County. Many members of the local horse community are either not aware that the Heritage Park covered arena exists, that the park has equestrian facilities, or are aware of the park but know that the arena is not horse-friendly. This park has a covered arena that requires improvement in the footing, fencing and potentially new riding arenas. Interested in helping with the Heritage Park Initiative? The easiest thing you can do is talk to your friends and neighbors. Do you know someone who would be interested in showing at Heritage? Or maybe a show organizer that is looking for a facility to host events?
AAHC has a lot of land conservation initiatives in the works:
Survey of Equine Economic Impact. This is important data that we need to understand the issues facing our community as well as presenting the anonymized data to our leaders to show the strength, diversity, and significance of horses in our area. Connected trails throughout the Athens area. Website “wing” – to provide information for landowners and community members. Inspired by ELCR.org. Organize information by county to help educate the community and get involved in issues every horse owner faces. Programs that farm owners and land owners can use to ensure that their farms stay green space for
The Youth Educational Program is a dream at AAHC of a 501c3 organization. The initial project will likely be an afterschool program where they partner with 4-H or the Boys and Girls Club to introduce and teach children about horses who may not have been introduced to horses in their everyday lives. A later program may connect program graduates with internships and apprenticeships to help the local equestrian community solve the problem of not having enough workers and professionals. If you are interested in the Youth Educational Program, please send an email so you can be added to the list of contacts who want to be involved in this project as volunteers or supporters. The educational opportunities offered by AAHC aren’t limited to youth. There are many events that are targeted toward riders of all ages. These events and articles are designed to educate horse lovers of all skill levels.
Lastly, the website resources that AAHC offers is applicable to equestrians of all kinds. The facility map offers an interactive way to find riding arenas, covered pens, boarding barns, trails and other equine interests. They also have a merchant directory for things like local farriers, saddle fitters, trainers and more. The merchant directory is a great place to look for professional services with equine experience, tack and feed stores, as well as farm and barn related merchants. Local organizations rely on volunteers to keep their programs running. Luckily for them, volunteering has a ton of benefits. It can help individuals feel connected to the community and make friends. Volunteering is good for your physical and mental health – the inside and
outside of your body. There are a lot of opportunities to volunteer in the local horse community. Those can be found on the website athensareahorsecommunity.com. My favorite part of the website is the events calendar. If you are looking for a way to meet new people and have fun with your horse then the events calendar is the place to start. There are events like Equestrian’s Night Out, group trail rides, clinics and even volunteer clean up days. You can find all the resources and more updates on project at the Athens Area Horse Community Website.
Ashley Best, Newton County Extension Coordinator & Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent