“Libraries are built over time, and we can always use all the help we can get for our libraries,” says Hart School District liaison Pat Willet. Comments like these are usually completely unrelated to horse showing, but thanks to the Riding For Reading charity and riders such as eighth grader Ashlyn Matheus, horses are helping school libraries in a very big way. With a record 55 riders competing for $10,000 worth of library grants, the enthusiasm surrounding the very special Riding For Reading class was palpable at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center on Labor Day.
Riding For Reading is a non-profit charity that supports libraries in schools around the country. The class, which is judged similar to a Hunter Pleasure class, is open to all school age equestrians and allows younger riders a rare chance to compete equally against their older junior counterparts. Every rider that competes earns grant money on behalf of his or her school.
After three different sections of riders worked, the judges called back the finalists for some additional work. When the dust had settled, Matheus, an eighth grader at Ranch Pico Junior High, was named Champion. “I thought the Riding For Reading Class would be fun, and I would be able to help raise money for my school’s library,” said Matheus. “When I got in the top 10 I was really nervous, and when they called me as champion I almost cried I was so happy.”
Langer Equestrian Group holds the Riding For Reading Benefit Show as a way to raise money for the charity and its literacy programs. Langer Equestrian Group manages the show and donates all of the proceeds to Riding For Reading “At a time when many schools are cutting funding for their libraries, this worthwhile equestrian program raises funds to counter that trend,” comments Larry Langer, LEG president and CEO.
Terri Farley, author of the popular young reader series, The Phantom Stallion, proudly supported Riding For Reading by donating copies of her book to all participants in the Riding For Reading class. The Nevada-based Farley was on hand at the show to sign autographs and personally hand out copies of her book. “Reading is a very important part of my life and I am happy to be able to get behind a program that promotes it,” she said. “I really do think that this is such a creative way of attacking the literacy problem in schools. When I was down there over the weekend I was just delighted to see how happy the kids were to get their bags of books! The combination of horses and reading is fantastic.”
The benefit show was also supported by sponsors Bob and Arlene Anders of Designs by Arlene. Artist Arlene Anders, known for her bronze equestrian statues, decided to give back to the horse community that supports them.
Riding For Reading will wrap up its show season with one more class in October at the Scottsdale Fall Classic in Scottsdale, AZ. By the end of 2008 Riding For Reading will have made library grants to schools throughout the country benefiting more than 500,000 students.
For more information on Riding For Reading please visit www.ridingforreading.org.