We had a beautiful day for a facility tour at Riding to the Top on Friday, June 17th! Triple Mountain supports RTT with part of our 1% to charity pledge, so every purchase you make here helps support their work with both kids and adults with physical and other challenges. On Friday, the sky was blue, the fields were green, happy horses were munching and snoozing in the sun, and excited students were bustling about, leading content-looking ponies and saddling up horses. It’s exactly the kind of place you’d love to find yourself on a summer day if you love horses.
We met Sarah Bronson, Executive Director of Riding To The Top, to learn more about this incredible PATH Intl.-certified program she runs. Sarah introduced us to each of the horses by name, telling us their stories as they checked us out placidly between bites of sweet, spring grass. Paxton (shown above) is a Hanoverian-cross raised right here in Maine who competed in Para-Dressage with her owner at WEG 2010. (You can read more about Paxton and her human Mary, and see pictures of them competing at WEG here.) Paxton lifts her head at the mention of her name, but continues to graze alongside her Percheron friend, Abby. There are horses of all shapes, sizes, and breeds, from a grey pinto Tennessee Walker, to a Haflinger, a Morgan named Beloved (“Miss B”), a grey Quarter Horse, a chestnut Thoroughbred, sweet bay pinto pony called Champ, and a breathtaking dunalino Icelandic named Aradis. Every one of them looks like a horse living his best life, healthy and happy. Even the stable’s oldest residents: Orion, who is 31, and Babe who is in her mid-to-late 30s, are in beautiful condition and walk up to us cheerfully as we approach their paddock. Although generally retired from riding, they have a forever home here, and they seem to appreciate how lucky they are.
The facilities impress us at every turn. Everything is perfectly neat and clean, colorful and organized, and we see smiles everywhere. A former volunteer has painted horses along the hallway wall, under framed photos of students and horses. A pony-sized plush horse stands in his very own stall in the conference room.
The climate-controlled indoor arena is nothing short of Disneyland for equestrians… There are so many things to interact with that you can imagine yourself playing in there for hours! There are ramps, cones, poles, stationary horse simulators, barrels, and toys of all sorts for the horses and riders to maneuver around and work with.
There’s no surprise that RTT has a waiting list to become a student… and it’s evident from the young people we saw on Friday that this is their favorite part of the week! Two students held the lead ropes of their ponies while an instructor placed a bowl with a treat in it on the ground a few paces in front of them. The students were learning how to be assertive and the ponies were doing their best to practice good manners… Only after standing quietly for a minute did their kids lead them to the bowls and let them have their reward. Meanwhile, a young lady returned, smiling, from a trail ride with her instructor while her proud parents greeted them in front of the barn.
[Sarah, Rhion (with Hope!) and Eleda at Riding To The Top]
As if this wasn’t more than enough to give us smiles for days, when we arrived, we were introduced to Rhion (pronounced like Ryan), a volunteer at RTT who just happens to be Vice President of Creative at Breyer! Rhion is also the designer of this year’s Hope of the Year model, the delightful pinto Bouncer with an image of a child hugging him incorporated into his markings. The models haven’t arrived in the US yet, but she had a sample piece for us to see! You’re hearing it here first: She’s a mare, and she’s actually a decorator! The promo photos don’t show that she sports a light pink interference paint on her body and royal blue interference paint on her mane and tail. In the building, she looks like a bay pinto, but out in the sunshine, she glimmers and shines with her high-gloss coat. Here’s her mane side: She sports an adorable little heart on her rump!
Here’s the side we’ve seen in promos, with the child hugging her and a handprint in a heart on her rump. (Contrary to what the promo photos seemed to show, she does NOT have a swan eating her face… It was just glare in the Breyer photo!)
She’s a beautiful pony and we can’t wait to receive ours in August! Every purchase of Hope helps support PATH Intl.-certified programs like Riding To The Top. You can reserve yours now by preorder here. We’ll ship preorders as soon as Hope arrives here.
But wait, there’s more! As we settled into the conference room to chat about Hope, we were joined via Zoom by Gina Beebe, VP of Product Development at Breyer. I won’t lie, it felt like my own private Breyerfest! Rhion explained how Hope of the Year is going to replace the Horse of the Year series, and will be their benefit model each year going forward. Rhion said she will insist that each Hope of the Year model be beautifully designed, with a premium-style details (like the interference paint on this Hope) that will make them attractive to collectors. Going forward, it’s planned that they’ll be 1:12 scale (Classic size) models, but that Bouncer was the perfect bridge into the new series because as a pony, he’s about that size – and his pose was perfect for hugging his human friend.
Hope for 2022 is also breaking ground in another way: She will come in plastic-free packaging! Her cardboard box has an outer cardboard sleeve that can be slid off in-store so that you can still compare models and choose your favorite, and her ties will be paper-based ones instead of plastic-coated wire. Breyer will be looking for feedback from both collectors and retailers on her packaging, and plans to adjust it as necessary for future releases, but hopes this will prove a more eco-friendly way to package models while keeping them safe until they get to their new homes.
This is all very exciting, and I’m thrilled to be able to share it with you. A new series, a pony gender-change, and new packaging… and we also got to see the most beautiful promotional video ever made with the theme, “Horses Change Lives.” Watch for it here as soon Breyer makes it available for us to share!
Thank you, Sarah and Rhion for an incredible day, and for all you do for the students and horses at Riding To The Top! We’re proud and humbled to be able to support such an amazing organization.