How a Horseback Riding Program is Changing Lives in Memphis


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to dance with a horse? For 48 students from the Whitehaven community in Memphis, this is not just a fantasy, but a reality. They are part of BridgeUp GiddyUp, a free program that teaches them how to ride and communicate with horses and how to use these skills to improve their confidence, leadership, and teamwork.

The program is run by BridgeUp, a non-profit organization that aims to bridge the gap between urban and rural communities through equine education. BridgeUp believes that horses can help children develop social and emotional skills that are essential for their success in life. By exposing them to a different environment and culture, the program also broadens their horizons and perspectives.

The culmination of the program is the annual BridgeUp Giddy Up Spectacular Event, and took place at Southern Blues Equestrian Center on November 4, 2023. The event highlighted the students’ riding achievements and their progress. The students performed choreographed routines with their horses, demonstrating their harmony and connection. The annual Spectacular event featured local Memphis music, dance, food, and vendors, in a festive atmosphere for the students and their families, and spectators who came out to support the riders and their coaches accomplishments this year. 

At the helm of the group are Christian and McKrell Baier, along with their impressive team of Coaches, who have worked tirelessly with these students over the past two years to give them an unparalleled, realistic, introduction and education into the world of equestrian sports. Christian, from Europe, and McKrell, from the United States, have indeed bridged the gap being a husband-wife team dedicated to classical horsemanship and riding. They bring a unique, global perspective to coaching these students, grounded in classical techniques with nothing short of excellence expected. 

Hundreds showed up for this event held in perfect weather at a venue bubbling with excitement. Riders displayed their talents riding in Quadrille to flatwork and jumping exercises demonstrating exceptional skill, timing, and control of both their horses and emotions. Multiple groups performed different routines of varying degrees of difficulty- all extremely impressive displays of riding skill considering the relatively short amount of time these riders have been riding, thanks to this program.

The top riders from the BridgeUp GiddyUp program competed for their first time at the Experience Equestrian League (EXEL) local horse show competition earlier this Fall and will compete again the first weekend in December.  Students are excited about another opportunity to practice what they’ve learned in this program and compete against equestrians from all over the Mid-south.

Zachary, Larence, Lavarus, and Alana all expressed their excitement for the upcoming horse show event. 
“The show was AMAZING! It was an adrenaline rush! I loved it and met so many new people and made new friends,” said Zachary, who will compete with Sinatra. “It was fun being under the bright lights and it was a great lesson in handling the pressure, because I was nervous,” according to Lawrence who also rides Sinatra and Wendy. Lavarus, who rides Lulu, has the goal of staying calm and making improvements at this next December EXEL show. He has only been riding for two years, but has his eye set on traveling the globe and being a top competitor one day. For Alana, who rides Kenny and Wendy, she hopes to advance in the ranks and attend a show for her first horse show ever!  She says her favorite thing about the program is the feeling it gives her and the people! Being in this program and around the horses “is a dream come true and something I never thought I could do.” 

This program is indeed bringing dreams to life for children who would not have an opportunity to participate in equestrian sports otherwise on a fantastic string of competitive, well-trained, loved, and well- cared for horses. It is also changing the traditional horse show landscape in Germantown, Tenn., introducing a diverse group of riders from a different geographic area in the Greater Memphis area, than what usually develops young equestrians in the English discipline, providing a networking and great learning opportunity for all participating at the EXEL Horse Show event. 

Be sure to head on out to the EXEL horse show at the Germantown Charity Horse Show Grounds December 1st through 3rd to watch and cheer on this group and all others competing.


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