Wisconsin horsewoman Christina Hyke of Jefferson is taking endurance riding to the next level in innovative ways. For her enterprising approaches to promote horses and equine activities, Hyke has been named the Wisconsin Horse Council’s Horseperson of the Year.
Tara LeRoy of Palmyra nominated Hyke for the annual award, noting the various aspects of Hyke’s involvement in the horse world.
“I can think of no other person who has promoted the horse industry in so many different areas, encouraging and supporting youth, helping honor and preserving history, supporting charitable organizations and reaching across the oceans and positively impacting the lives of horse lovers all over the world,” LeRoy said.
Hyke expressed her gratitude to Wisconsin State Horse Council for the unexpected honor.
“I am honored to share a little bit of my love for horses, friendships and Wisconsin with horse owners all over the world,” Hyke said. “Reading what Tara Leroy had written made me realize that what we were doing really was inspirational to many and that it was bringing a bit of Wisconsin to the world.”
Building on her knowledge and involvement in endurance riding, Hyke created the Endurance Horse Podcast a couple years ago. Inspired to share her love of riding many miles on good horses over beautiful trails, Hyke has broadcast more than 40 episodes and tallied more than 27,000 podcast downloads through Podbean.
“The podcast was created to have a place where riders from around the world share their own horse stories,” LeRoy said. “From well-known southeast Wisconsin equestrians and organizations to seasoned endurance riders from all across the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Mexico and more, all actively contributed stories and listened to fellow horse people.”
Hyke says it took a leap of faith to launch both Endurance Horse Podcast and WARHORSE Endurance Challenges.
“This year was a difficult year for many,” Hyke said. “Through Endurance Horse Podcast and WARHORSE Endurance Challenges, we were able to encourage many to keep on going with their horses. We have created a welcoming and encouraging community.”
Hyke reports WARHORSE Endurance Challenges are going strong this year with many more horse owners discovering the joys of sharing the challenges with their friends.
Hyke started the WARHORSE 100 Mile challenge last year. Fellow Wisconsinites and many followers of her podcast quickly joined the virtual challenges. Participants from foreign countries as well as the United States were able to do rides virtually in lieu of competitions canceled because of the pandemic. They used the challenges to bring their retired and recovering horses back out on the trail. Those with young colts and fillies just learning to lead and driving horses joined seasoned riders wanting to put miles on their horses.
“By allowing horse lovers of all kinds to share their personal stories of triumphs and hardships, stories to inspire, stories to make you laugh and sometimes cry, her platform brought together a diverse community of horse lovers,” LeRoy said. “Her efforts were recognized this November as a 2020 winner in the Equus Film and Arts Festival for the Podcast Category.”
In addition to encouraging riders to get out on the trails, the challenges and rides created opportunities to raise funds for worthy causes. The events raised sizeable donations for organizations such as Horse Power Healing Center, Midwest Horse Welfare Foundation, American Endurance Ride Conference, Pony Express Museum and the Boys & Girls Club of Rosebud Reservation.
“We also raised money for Operation Underground Railroad that fights human trafficking,” Hyke said. “This year in addition to these causes, we are raising funds and awareness for Last Chance Corral and Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary.”
LeRoy related Hyke’s various endeavors has brought together and promoted equestrians from all different disciplines and breeds, different experience levels and different countries during a time when being together was difficult.
“She has helped people see value in and truly enjoying the horses they already have,” LeRoy said. “She has received words of gratitude from people suffering illness, injury or depression who have been inspired through her podcasts and challenges to get out and try something new and let the healing power of horses help them overcome obstacles.”
In addition to the podcast, Hyke provides a Facebook page where participants can share pictures, videos and personal stories of how they are participating in the challenges and what it’s meant to them.
“As an Army veteran, her continual desire to help, encourage and protect others has been long engrained in Christina’s heart and soul,” LeRoy said. “Her love of horses and her desire to help others appreciate and love their own horses drives much of what she does.”
The WHC’s Horseperson of the Year Award is based on the nominee’s leadership and contributions to Wisconsin’s equine industry. Recommended by their peers, nominees are recognized for their leadership roles and contributions in youth activities, education, research, industry promotion, related legislation and regulation, equine organizations or equine community events and activities.
The award is usually presented at the Midwest Horse Fair; however, the fair won’t be held this year because the Dane County Coliseum is being used as a COVID vaccination site.