By Crystal Burns
In a popularity contest among 80 Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) certified centers, TLC Riding Academy Inc. vanquished the competition, garnering more than 30,000 votes to win a gypsy horse.
Tom and Cheryl Crider officially opened TLC Riding Academy on Gibson Wells-Brazil Road in Gibson County in late 2006 to provide persons with disabilities the opportunity to use horseback riding and other related equine activities as experiences where they can grow and develop physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially, educationally, and/or behaviorally. Tom Crider shared the non-profit’s remarkable victory over large PATH centers across the country in an online contest hosted by LexLin Gypsy Ranch in Rockwood with Trenton Exchange Club members last week.
“We had just phenomenal support, mainly here in Gibson County,” Crider said.
The center pushed the competition on its Facebook page, encouraging friends to vote for TLC once every 24 hours throughout the contest. Friends shared it with friends, and late in the competition Cheryl asked voters to let her know where they were voting. Answers included nearly every state in the union and other countries such as Australia, England, Scotland, and Belgium.
TLC garnered 30,770 votes, giving the center first dibs on the horse of their choice.
Crider said that gypsy vanner horses are known as strong, kind, intelligent, mannerly, and manageable animals that were bred to pull wagons as gypsy communities roamed the countryside centuries ago. The horses are short and stout, making them ideal for therapeutic riding.
TLC won a gypsy named Gabe in a merit-based contest several years ago. The center’s rallying cry during the recent LexLin competition was Gabe Needs A Friend.
“When we started out, we needed a horse,” Crider said. “We really needed a horse. We really needed a gelding. Gabe needed a friend.”
Gabe got a friend in Vanquish, one of 20 horses LexLin gave away in July.
“LexLin is an interesting phenomenon,” Crider said.
It is owned by a former Marine who is now a military contractor and subcontractor for FedEx. He also owns the biggest house in Tennessee, which he uses for another of his companies that trains staff of high-end hospitality venues.
The 20 horses he gave away are valued at $300,000, Crider said.
While Vanquish is currently in quarantine at TLC, Crider said he and Cheryl expect him to be just what the program needs.
“He is really pretty,” Crider said. “He’s very quiet. We think he’s going to be just a great therapy horse.”
Crider said they have no reservations about Vanquish, but protocol is to keep the new horse away from the others for a period of time before slowly moving him into the fold. They will start by putting Vanquish in a pasture next to Gabe before they ascertain how broken their new gypsy is.
“We’ll work him,” Crider said. “We’ll bomb proof him because that hasn’t been done.”
Crider said the TLC staff, comprised solely of volunteers, is planning an open house in cooler weather to allow the public that helped bring Vanquish to Gibson County to meet him.
“We want people to see him because 30,770 people said yes,” Crider said.
He also issued a call for new volunteers and said TLC needs additional instructors. Currently Cheryl Crider and Jenny Corbin are the only PATH-certified instructors.
“We want this to keep going, and we need to get some younger people in there,” Crider said.
For more information, contact TLC Riding Academy at 731-559-4184, visit tlcridingacademyinc.org, or find them on Facebook.