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November 26, 2019

Horse Power

A cable network seeks to serve the equestrian market.

Paula Hendrickson
  • Ride TV’s Cowgirls


Some 30 million Americans ride horses, but the audience for Ride TV — with its rodeos, races, vintage cowboy fare and modern equestrian lifestyle programming — extends well beyond that universe.

"We're available in about 45 million homes," says Craig Morris, president and cofounder of the Texas-based network, which launched in 30,000 homes in 2014, then went national via DISH a year later.

Its viewers, of course, include horse owners, riders and cutting-horse champions, like Morris himself. But it also seeks to entertain and educate casual horse lovers.

"There's an inherent love and respect for the animal that transcends generations," Morris says. "It transcends culture and geography. If you think about it, every great nation of the world was built off the back of a horse."

Outside the U.S., the network is available in Canada and Ecuador, and Morris sees further potential in international markets. In the meantime, it already has a streaming app, Ride TV Go.

"Nobody had ever brought Western, English, rodeo, racing — all the facets of the equestrian world together in one place," he says.

Broadcast networks, ESPN2, the Outdoor Channel and smaller networks offered some equine programming, but Morris envisioned airing live events and competitions, like Ride TV's weekly The Stockyards Pro Rodeo or barrel racing (a rodeo event that generally features women riders).

"We looked at what was popular [on other networks] and recreated similar types of programming, but put an equestrian spin on it," says Morris, who executive-produces many of the original series, some of which veer beyond the track or rodeo ring.

For example, Rock Star Vets looks at a noted equine surgeon, Ridiculous Ranches explores high-end real estate and Southern Fried Skinnyfied cooks up healthier twists on favorite southern foods. Ride TV is also the exclusive TV home of the world's largest sanctioning body of equestrian events, the Fédération Équestre Internationale.

"It's aimed at the horse lover," Morris says of the network lineup. "Possibly someone who lives in the city and aspires to have a place where they can go on weekends and ride and get back to a simpler life. That's where the channel is headed — to a much broader audience that loves the horse and that type of lifestyle."

As many enthusiasts are aware, the horseracing world has been rattled in the past year by a spate of horse fatalities (mostly due to limb injuries incurred during training) at prominent courses such as Santa Anita in southern California.

"Any injury or death of a rider or animal is unfortunate," Morris says, "and with any sport it is impossible to be 100 percent accident-free. Education on equestrian sports is something that Ride TV has always been passionate about bringing to the public, and that includes the risks that are involved as well."

The network itself remains on solid footing, thanks to investors like Walmart heir Alice Walton, Patrón Spirits founder John Paul DeJoria, oil and energy heavyweights and others. "There's not many places that you can bring several billionaires together and have them all play nice," Morris says. "It's been a fun thing to see that happen."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 11, 2019

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