Two young horsemen in the Arabian horse community have recently stepped forward to lead the way in keeping our sport safe and inclusive for all youth members. Payne Harper (15, pictured right) and Cole Riser (16, pictured left) created the “Rise Up and Ride On” pledge to raise awareness on bullying in the Arabian horse communityand to foster a zero tolerance atmosphere from youths and adults alike.
Having been involved with Arabian horses for a number of years, both boys are invested in keeping our community welcoming and safe. “I’ve grown up with the Arabian Horse,” says Payne, the Region 9 Youth Director. “My father and his family have been actively involved for over 35 years breeding, showing and judging. I have shown since I was eight-years-old locally, Regionally, and Nationally.” Likewise, project partner and Vice Director, Cole Riser, has grown up with Arabians. “I have been riding horses before I could even walk. I started lead line at the age of two and began to show walk trot at the age of three. Western Pleasure has always been my favorite style of riding; and I will continue to ride it throughout my horse showing career,” he shares.
While much work has been done to create a safe and welcoming space for youths with the Arabian horse, like most sports, there is still a way to go, and both boys are compelled to help. Working together with a mental health professional, the boys created the pledge in the hopes of raising awareness of bullying and maintaining an atmosphere that is welcoming and fun for all exhibitors.
“I have personally witnessed friends leave our region and even our breed as a result of bullying,” Payne says. “It is of utmost importance to us to create an atmosphere that betters our amazing breed and the people that own and show them. If we help just one person feel more included or respected then I will count this program as a success.” Cole also shares this conviction, explaining “The pledge is so important because it shows that we are willing to do something about bullying. Most kids are hesitant to face up to bullies. This pledge shows that we are not afraid to step up and that we are aware of the situation. We were inspired to do the pledge because Region 9, sadly, has previously lost riders to bullying. We also feel like the pledge could bring more kids together and make our region more of a big family.”
What began as a Region 9 product will go nationwide, as with the help of Arabian Horse Association Youth and Family Programs Coordinator, Brenna Whitlock, the pledge will be handed out at the Arabian Horse Youth Association (AHYA) Convention and at Youth Nationals. Speaking about the two boys who started it all, Brenna says, “I am very proud of these young men and how they have stepped up and taken the initiative to bring the problems of bullying to light. We hope this pledge will also encourage good sportsmanship and more comradery between exhibitors.”
Their conviction to maintain a positive and supportive atmosphere, also comes from the boy’s own enjoyment of the Arabian horse Youth community and their wish to protect this. “Some of my closest friends are people I have met through owning and showing Arabians. The bonds we forge are so strong that even though we only see each other a few times a year we can pick up right where we left off. Horse shows give us an amazing venue to create fun and unique memories to last a lifetime. Our mutual love for this beautiful breed that is so loyal and loving really creates a special environment only Arabian horse lovers can truly understand,” Payne shares. “Other kids in the Arabian community are great,” Cole adds. “Everyone knows everyone, and everyone hangs out. I have never really had a bad experience. I love the Arabian community because it feels like one big family. It’s where you go just to have fun and not have to worry about anything.”
If you are interested in having pledges and wristbands available at your show or function, please reach out to Brenna Whitlock via email at: .
More information on the pledge can be found on the Region 9 webpage.
If you would like more ideas on how to foster a positive and fun environment with your Youth Club, please reach out to Payne Harper or Cole Reser on Facebook or Instagram.