About Riders Up!
Riders Up! refers to the classic phrase that is called in the paddock at the racetrack, telling the jockeys and the crowd that it’s time for a leg up! We have chosen this name as we hope to give kids a leg up in life and it because it honors the Thoroughbreds that are used in our program.
Our mission is to provide local children with the opportunity to learn how to ride horses as well as learn about horsemanship, horse care, and stable management while providing off the track Thoroughbreds with careers after racing.
Valerie Mellema has a BS in Equine Business & Industry from West Texas A&M University. She is a published author and has written for several equine publications and websites. She has over 25 years of experience in the horse industry having worked at the American Quarter Horse Association as well as a Hunter/Jumper facility in Oklahoma.
Troy Mellema is an entrepreneur. He is an avid investor of stocks and real estate as well. He remembers growing up as a kid in Amarillo, Texas and the numerous programs that gave back to their community and is excited to be a part of a program that gives back in ours.
Marea Breedlove lives in Locust Grove, Oklahoma and grew up riding and showing Missouri Fox Trotters. She has been avid in Girl Scouts and is a board member for the Arts Alliance in Locust Grove. She has always been active in her community and currently serves as the Locust Grove librarian and works as a photographer.
Jennifer Schneider grew up in the Austin area where she learned to ride and began eventing. She was able to work at several farms throughout the years as a working student. She now owns Schneider Farms in Sulphur Springs, Texas, where she teaches lessons as well as holds summer pony camps.
How We Got Started
As Valerie was working on building a lesson program at Lake Fork Stables, it quickly became apparent that as much as parents wanted their kids to take riding lessons, it was just out of their reach financially. After seeing another successful program in Oklahoma, she loved the idea and wanted to create something similar at Lake Fork.
She chose to use Thoroughbreds as they are often given a bad rep in the equestrian world, when in reality they are hard workers, love a job, have great personalities and love kids! Thoroughbred aftercare is also an important cause in her heart and hopes to show that Thoroughbreds can be kid-friendly mounts.
Where We Are Now
Our program is in its infancy. In just one month, we have eight kids in our program that take weekly lessons. Of these kids, we have four on the autism spectrum, one military family and three low income. To succeed, we really need the community’s support and the support of sponsors.