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City Slickers Set For Fifth Season At Winter Equestrian Festival

WELLINGTON, FLORIDA - January 15, 2004 - For the fifth consecutive year, the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, welcomes a unique group of competitors called City Slickers. Ruth Fried, City Slicker Director who founded the group in 1993, calls the trip, "our Olympic experience." The City Slickers riding program services 100 Connecticut children aged 11 to 17 who have economic, cultural, academic, social and emotional needs. Through the generosity of Eugene R. Mische, President of Stadium Jumping, the producer of the Winter Equestrian Festival, seven City Slickers selected by Ms. Fried will compete in classes from February 14 through March 1, 2004. Stadium Jumping supplies six complimentary stalls along with bedding, feed, and all class entry fees.

Festival participants also help make the experience possible - Debbie Stephens and Timmy Kees contribute their services as trainers, Ron Smith dresses and landscapes the City Slicker stall area to 'show barn' caliber, Don Dever (golf cart concession operator) loans them a shuttle bus, and vendors supply tack and apparel. Jet Blue donates airline tickets to fly the City Slickers to Florida.

The group pays for housing at the Palm Beach Community College in Lake Worth. "The kids work all year doing fundraisers to earn the money to make that happen," explains Ms. Fried. City Slickers receives food coupons from restaurants including Chili's, Outback Steakhouse, Applebee's, and Coldstone's Creamery. Some of the suburban children who can afford it are charged a nominal fee that covers hauling six horses to Wellington and part of the accommodation fees.

Arriving in Wellington this year are: Luis Reyes, 23, Assistant Trainer; Jose Rios, 17; and Erick Rodriguez, 17, all of Hartford; Grace Janelli, 15, of Wolcott; Samantha MacDonald, 15, of Bethany; Erin Stiewak, 15, of Burlington; Michelle Rimcoski, 15, and Heather Pellerin, 16, both of Bristol. And in tow to watch their older sisters are two City Slickers working to become eligible to compete in the future - Elizabeth Pellerin, 11, and Melissa Rimcoski, 11.

The first criterion for selection was academic - maintaining a C+ minimum average. "The higher you go the more I consider you. If you're an 'A' student, that's going to really impress me," explained Ms. Fried, who is a gym teacher in Connecticut. "Number two, you have to achieve a certain competency in riding. You have to show that you are able to jump a three-foot course and that you can do it confidently and safely, consistently." Attitude was the final component, and parents were involved in that assessment.

A non-profit organization, City Slickers is partially funded through the State Department of Education, the City of Hartford, and Hartford Public Schools. "Every school district in Connecticut must prove to the state that they have Diversity Awareness Activities within their districts to racially balance and expose children across cultures," explains Ms. Fried. "To that effect there is an inter-district grant program and City Slickers is part of that. We achieve Multi-cultural Diversity Awareness by using horses to attract children from the suburbs to work collaboratively with inner-city children. Horses are the magnets. The magic that we are able to effect is that when children come together for a common interest, such as the horse, all other diversity issues are non-existent. Working together towards a common goal is everybody's objective. One goal is getting to Florida."

The City Slickers will compete in Low Schooling Jumpers, Children's Equitation classes and Children's Hunter classes. "The Hartford children don't get a chance to ride as often as they would like to, and as they should, to compete at this level," notes Ms. Fried. "However they are able to get into a routine schedule, two to three times a week in training for this trip. Thankfully we have wonderful horses that are kind and gentle."

City Slickers is based out of Hillside Equestrian Meadows in Wolcott, Connecticut, owned by Paul Kalinowski, Jr. (also known as 'Farmer Buck', author of the children's book Cupid's Secret, the true story of his rescued Hackney pony mare and her 'surprise' foal, Arrow). The children train on Mr. Kalinowski's horses (including Cupid), two of Ms. Fried's personal horses, and horses donated to the program. The facility's trainer, Gail Corriveau, works with the children all year. To keep the mounts healthy, Bayer Corporation donates Legend, and Pfizer also supplies products.

At the Winter Equestrian Festival, the riders will share eight horses - two donated to and owned by City Slickers, two owned by Mr. Kalinowski, two owned by Ms. Corriveau, one on loan from Tracie Leach of Connecticut, and one on loan from Gail and Napp Stubbs of Wellington. "None of these children own their own horses," said Ms. Fried. The horses arrive on February 6 and stay through March 5. Mr. Kalinowski personally pays for his two horses at the Festival.

Not only is the trip to Wellington a goal, but it is also an inspiration for these children, explains Ms. Fried. "The equestrian world is huge. There are so many opportunities out there. Some children are born with a silver spoon in their mouth and some of them aren't, but the equestrian world doesn't really care. If you work hard, you can make those opportunities happen for yourself. If you become that committed rider, that committed horse-caregiver, you have a value that is very marketable in this type of a world. You can combine your passion and your career."

As an example, she cites Luis Reyes, now 23, who was her original City Slicker 11 years ago - a young Latino male with learning disabilities and a language disability. He went on to graduate from high school with honors and is now employed as an apprentice farrier and is an Assistant Trainer in City Slickers. "Last year we had one girl who came and shadowed Dr. Miller on the grounds and now she wants to be a vet. That's what we're trying to do - keep kids safe, keep them in school, make them understand the value of education, and the magic of the horse world."

Unique to City Slickers among the organizations that have paired children with horses is that this group enables children to increase their Connecticut Masteries scores. "We're doing language, reading, and math science skills every time they're at City Slickers," explains Ms. Fried. "We enrich the academic success of children in Connecticut by promoting as many curriculum enhancement activities as we can - we just do it through equestrian skills." She cites a math exercise in which the children are given a Skill Pack and project to measure a horse for a blanket, and then place an order through a catalogue.

"The Stadium Jumping staff - Mason Phelps (Public Relations), Kim Tudor (Sponsors And Marketing), David Orlando (Stabling) and Gene Mische make us feel very welcome," states Ms. Fried. "If we felt like a pair of brown shoes in a room full of black patent leather, I wouldn't bring my children because my children feel underprivileged and a little bit out of place anyway. If they were not met in this environment with that open welcome that Stadium Jumping extends, it wouldn't work; it would be difficult for them to feel good about themselves. But Kim Tudor lets them go into the Lead Line class and hand out the Lead Line awards. Last year we were given tickets to sit in the Jockey Club and watch the Grand Prix - I thought my kids were going to die and go to heaven. That was one of the highlights of their experience. They are treated respectfully and sincerely treated warmly. It has great value. This is what the children work for and strive for, to get the opportunity to qualify for the group of City Slickers that comes to Wellington."

For more information on City Slickers, contact Ruth Fried, Cell: 203-910-5701 or Email:


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