By Sadie Fowler

The youth is the future of the walking horse industry, and, quite simply, the more kids interested, the better off the industry. That’s the line of thinking Jerry Harris had when he began organizing Equine In Education, a program scheduled to take place in Shelbyville, Tennessee March 9 at the Calsonic Arena.

Harris is already expecting 1200 school-aged children from various schools across Middle Tennessee to attend, and he welcomes even more. 

“The youth are the backbone of our industry,” Harris said. “They are our future … I wanted to do something to bring the youth back so I started talking to other folks about this program, and everyone agreed. It just took off from there.”

Equine In Education is a FAST sponsored event; others helping Harris coordinate the festivities for that Friday of fun include Kathy Zeis, Denise Rowland, Allison Thorson and several other trainers and leaders within the walking horse industry. Leftover funds from last summer’s revived Lynchburg Horse Show are being used to put the event on with the end goal being to promote the walking horse. 

“After last year’s show in Lynchburg we did an RFD ad and still had funds left,” he said. “This is a FAST-sponsored event, but I really just wanted to put it on to do something to bring the youth back … I want to see the stadium (Celebration) filled up like it was when I was a kid … We’ll all be happy then.”

The program will serve like a field trip for students ranging from kindergarten to grade eight for about a half-day of activities related to the horse, ranging from riding demos, to exposure to veterinarians, farriers, trainers, instructors, the USDA, the Celebration and more.

“We want people to realize if parents have a child who wants to ride they can,” said Harris, explaining the walking horse is a horse for everyone. “We have a line up for this program that’s just unbelievable.”
Several horses will be on hand to add excitement to the program, including I Am José and The Golden Sovereign. Academy horses will be on hand for some students to test out their skills, as well as weanlings to attract the younger students’ attention. 

The event is free, which has been an incentive to schools across the region that normally have to pay for field trips, Harris explained. Locally, Cascade, Liberty, Thomas Magnet have committed to the event, and Harris welcomes any other schools wanting to attend to call him and join in the fun. Several other schools outside Bedford County are also committed to attending.

Harris started the mission by contacting superintendents who in turn contacted principals for each school. Schools are responsible for transporting students, but the rest is free, including lunch from Domino’s and beverages by Coca-Cola. 

“Teachers are excited and think the kids can really learn something,” said Harris, who has organized three other events similar to this in the past. “This is by far the biggest one I’ve done and I think that’s simply because of the strides we made in 2017. Everyone is excited about the future.”

The agenda for the day includes a welcoming by Bobby Richards, who will explain the various divisions and uses of the horse to students. 

Harris expects a representative from the USDA to be on hand to explain their part in the industry. An emphasis on what the horse brings to the local economy will be made, as well as opportunities students have within the industry, including scholarships.

“The main thing is we want to expose them to the horse and see what kind of future they can have,” he said. “Pat Marsh will be there as well …. People don’t realize how important the walking horse is to our region. We want to educate them on the horse and they can use that to get another education.”

In addition to the USDA, veterinarians, trainers, instructors and other speakers, Harris specifically said Walt Chism will speak on the history of the breed and David Williams will talk about the breeding aspects of the horse. 

To learn more, contact Harris at 931-580-4411.