Just ‘horsing’ around

Published 10:52 am Thursday, June 23, 2016

AHOSKIE – They’re beautiful animals that fill a variety of uses.

From a leisurely ride along a trail; to the galloping hooves on a racetrack; to providing the muscle and power to pull a wagon….horses are a domesticated mammal that perform a number of cognitive tasks on a daily basis, to include building a social relationship with their two-legged admirers.

On Saturday in Ahoskie, that “socialization” will extend to local youngsters at an event to be held at the historic Atlantic District Fairgrounds off Holloman Avenue.

Ahoskie children interact with a horse during one of several camps leading up to Saturday’s (June 25) big event at the Atlantic District Fairgrounds.  | Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Ahoskie children interact with a horse during one of several camps leading up to Saturday’s (June 25) big event at the Atlantic District Fairgrounds. | Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

There, the Harness Horse Youth Foundation will host a program designed to give children, ages 11-and-over, the opportunity to spend some time with these magnificent creatures.

“The children will have a chance to enjoy some hands-on activities with the horses as well as given the chance to learn about the sport of harness racing,” said Tyrone Lindsey, Executive Director of the Ahoskie Housing Authority who has worked with the Harness Horse Youth Foundation in an effort to bring them to town.

There is a $25 registration fee for Saturday’s event. Registration opens at 8 a.m. at the Fairgrounds. The program begins one hour later and ends at 3 p.m.

Lindsey said parents need to pack a lunch and provide a water bottle for their children involved in the event. Those parents are welcomed to stay in the grandstand area of the harness racing track and watch their kids enjoy a fun and learning environment.

Participating youngsters are required to wear long pants (jeans, with a belt), solid toed shoes or heavy sneakers, and a t-shirt. Tank tops and shorts are not allowed while working with the animals inside the barn.

The Harness Horse Youth Foundation will provide the horses and carts for the event. The horses will be of the smaller variety (Shetland ponies) and the carts are two-seaters.

“When the children are in the cart they will be accompanied at all times by a trained adult instructor,” Lindsey said. “It’s sort of like driver’s education.”

Lindsey added that the effort behind bringing an event such as this to Ahoskie is simple in nature.

“For one, it’s an introduction between a child and a horse….a lot of our children here have never had the experience of being around a horse,” he noted. “Secondly, it’s a way to engage our children in something different and unique….an opportunity for them to see and understand how harness racing works.”

The Atlantic District Fairgrounds, which opened in 1920, has hosted thousands of harness racing events on its half-mile track during the course of its long history.

Founded 40 years ago, the Harness Horse Youth Foundation is a charitable 501©3 organization dedicated to providing young people and their families educational opportunities with harness horses, in order to foster the next generation of participants and fans. The Foundation makes a difference in young people’s lives through interactive learning experiences with these versatile animals, scholarship programs, and creation and distribution of educational materials.

For more information on opportunities through HHYF, or to support its mission, go to http://www.hhyf.org/.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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