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Riding For Reading at Pin Oak

The Pin Oak Charity Horse Show held the inaugural Riding for Reading class of 2009. It was the first year for Pin Oak to hold a Riding for Reading Class, which differs from other flat classes. Junior riders of every age, on horses and ponies, compete in an English Pleasure class to earn grant money for their school libraries. Every rider participating in the class is guaranteed a grant to his or her school’s library, with the top finishing riders earning larger amounts for their schools. Lauren Carlson, a member of the Board of Directors for Riding for Reading went to Texas to help with the event. “It was new to everybody,” she said. “The board tries to support events with their first Riding For Reading Class. There were 12 riders, all with different sizes of horses and ponies. Everyone had a good time and there were lots of smiles .”

Drew Hartt (age 14, Cassie Chapman trainer) was champion. She rode Matchmaker, her six-year-old Hanoverian/Thoroughbred cross who she normally shows in Children’s Hunters. She was excited to show under Jack Towell, a well-known hunter judge. “The judges said ‘If you were going on a trail ride, which horse would your rather ride?’ Matchmaker is calm so that helped us win.” According to Hartt, Matchmaker has an outgoing personality and is never in a bad mood. She liked knowing the money was going to her school’s library.

Eleven-year-old Lauren Elise Ortega Wade was reserve on Hot Pursuit, a small Welsh pony that she has had for three years. This wasn’t her only success at the show as Hot Pursuit was also the Welsh Pony Hunter champion. She too was happy that she got money for her school library and enjoyed the competition. “Some riders where older and some were younger,” she said. “The pace was slower and there was a different judge.” She comes from a riding family. “I’ve been riding longer than walking and riding on my own since I was three,” she said. “My mom, dad, and sister ride.”

“Someone came and said ‘You need to help fill this class’,” said Mary-Birdsong Gabriel’s mother Pam. Even though she rode Robin Schmidt’s pony for the first time, the twelve-year-old Gabriel finished in the Top Ten. She started her riding career on her grandfather’s Western horses but switched to English. The young rider enjoyed the Riding For Reading Class and knowing she was helping her school’s library.

Karianna Knezevich (age 11; trainer Patti Engler) rode her Fantastic Voyage to a Top Ten finish. She has had the mare for three years and shows her in the hunters. Of the Riding For Reading Class she commented, “It’s not much different from the hunter flat classes. It was a fun chance to earn money for the school library to buy more books so you can read more books.” Her favorite books are mysteries, and her favorites are the A to Z mysteries.

Another Top Ten finisher, MacKenzie Bolin (age 13, trainer Kim Cox), rode Heartbreak Kid, a Thoroughbred. Normally they show in Children’s Hunters. “The class was like the hunter flat classes except that all different size horses and different age groups were in this class,” she said. “I liked raising money for the school library.”

Each rider received a bag of goodies, including the ever popular Riding For Reading t-shirt. Each rider had a favorite gift. Both Bolin and Wade liked the Riding for Reading stall plaque, which is sponsored by Hodges Badge Company, while Gabriel liked the T-Shirt. “I wear it almost every day to school,” she said. Knezevich takes the water bottle to school every day.

Wendy Cook, the Executive Director of the Pin Oak show, plans to hold the class again next year. “There were 12 riders,” she said “and the class was a lot of fun. We had good participation for the first year, especially since we weren’t sure how to promote the class. We should have a much better response next year now that we know about the class.”

Riding For Reading is a non-profit organization (501 (c)3) dedicated to promoting reading, literacy, and education through equestrian sports and activities. The Riding For Reading Class is the organization’s flagship activity. This unique class allows riders from 1st through 12th grades to represent their schools and to win grant money for their school’s library. Schools get much needed library funds, and the kids get great prizes and the opportunity to do something for their school. For more information about the Riding for Reading program, visit the web site at www.ridi ngforreading.org.

The Pin Oak Charity Horse Show has a long and rich history, and supports the Texas Children’s Hospital. The concept of community support and charitable giving is a perfect match between the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show and Riding For Reading. For more information, visit the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show at http://www.pinoak.org.


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