Ride TV is a new television network that was recently approved by the CRTC for airing in Canada. With shows like Rock Star Vets, This Old Horse and Horses That Heal, this network will appeal to equestrians of all ages and disciplines. Recently, I was able to chat with Craig Morris, co-founder and president of Ride TV.
1. Tell us about Ride TV, and how it started.
Ride TV is the first and only 24/7 equestrian lifestyle network. It was started by myself and Michael Fletcher, and another friend of ours. It came about from a desire to do something bigger and better in the horse world. There had never been a collective group put together through all the different facets of the equine industry, whether it be racing, rodeo, English, western – all the different disciplines are very fragmented, and really didn’t have a television home, a promotional home. I did well in the cutting horse industry, that landed me my own show on another network for five years. That led me to Michael Fletcher, partner and co-founder in this, trying to really do something bigger and better. At the time he was running a satellite uplink and production facility on the east side of Fort Worth.
I met with him for what was supposed to be a 30-minute meeting to talk about how to make my show bigger and better, and that actually turned into a three-hour meeting on how big the horse world really was and how underserved a market it was for television, and what maybe we could do together if we turned a half-hour program into a 24/7 lifestyle channel. It was being at the right place at the right time, putting the right two people together, who had the industry knowledge in both areas and the capabilities to pull it off. After we couldn’t stick a stake in its heart and kill it, we spent about three months putting together friends and family for the first round of financing, and started down the venture. That was a little over five years ago.
2. I understand that Ride creates each of the productions on their own; how do you decide what shows to go with?
Probably over 90 per cent of what’s on the air right now is all original productions. They were spawned from different ideas we had going into the project … the horse world, as big as it is, as diverse as it is, it’s got a lot of stories in it, a lot of stories that have never been told. That was really our mission. We didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, we took the genres that were already working on other networks and really brought the stories to life, with an equine spin on it. So the network is really a lot like watching A&E, History, Discovery, ESPN, all rolled in together, and all the stories have an equine twist. They’re not necessarily about horses, but horses are the commonality that ties the network together.
3. Tell us about your experience with horses.
I grew up in the cutting horse industry, I did well in that; 2003 I won what’s called the Futurity, which is our equivalent of the Kentucky Derby. In 2004 I was put in the Cutting Horse Hall of Fame, so that afforded me the opportunity to do things on television. That spawned Ride initially.
4. Is there one show on Ride that is near and dear to your heart?
I don’t know if I can really say there’s one show. One of the shows that we did a lot of discussion on when we came up with the concept through mutual group efforts that has done really, really well is something that I felt was a necessity was a show called This Old Horse. It really focuses on incredible stories about horses maybe that are deceased or retired who were at the top of their disciplines and top of their game at different times in their life, or did something incredible. We tell those stories and really take an in-depth, behind the scenes look at that. It’s been very well received; it’s something you don’t necessarily have to be a horse lover to watch and enjoy. It’s got a very broad audience.
5. What do you enjoy most about working with horses?
I’ve loved horses ever since I was a little bitty kid. Probably at the age of 12 I knew that was what I wanted to do to make a living, it was something in the horse industry and cutting horses was what I was exposed to. They’ve been a part of my life since as far back as I can remember and something I was just drawn to. Luckily enough I did well at it, I was surrounded by good people and good horses that were able to make me successful. So that’s led to bigger and better things. Now I’ve got a little more age on me, not quite as graceful or skinny as I was at one time, so it’s a nice way to continue to make a living in the horse industry without having to ride 40 or 50 a day.
6. What would you say to Canadians interested in the network?
A lot of great horse people have come from north of the U.S. border and incredible traditions there as well. Some of my very best friends in the cutting horse industry have come out of Canada and taught me a lot. The rich tradition in rodeo, the rich tradition in all equestrian sports. I mean you’ve got super famous venues to hold all different equestrian sports, Calgary or Spruce Meadows, some of the huge events they have on the East Coast, and the farming industry, the heavy horse that plays such a big part in agriculture earlier on. I think Canada is rich in that tradition and I think our channel will have a great appeal there, something that anyone who has any love for animals, any love for horses at all, I think they’ll find a program that they’ll really fall in love with.
7. I understand that you have been in front of the camera yourself; what has been your most memorable moment?
The competition side of things, of course, that’s where I made my living at. Winning the Futurity and being on television for that, it was something very special to me, but being able to bring that moment to life from being in front of the camera on the commentator side has been very special as well, being able to see some of my friends and how it’s had such a great impact having success in the horse industry, such a great impact in their lives, and how truly dedicated and how memorable it makes it when somebody wins a big event, they’re able to help them celebrate that, help cover that. It’s definitely been some very special moments.
8. What is your role at Ride TV?
I’m president of the network, so co-founder, president, I kind of handle the day-to-day operations. I oversee programming and content on the network, and help with some of the relationships with the associations and kind of oversee all facets of the day-to-day operations.
9. How can Canadian viewers access Ride?
We’re working with several different operators right now to get carried in Canada. We just got our approval not too long ago, we’re currently in negotiations right now with operators for carriage. If their local operator doesn’t offer Ride, then we would ask for them to call and request Ride from it, that’ll help us get on the air. Until they get us on the air, where they can watch us through their local provider, we also have a new product called Ride TV Go that is available as our on-line product. So it’s a subscription-based model and you can get it on your phone, your tablet, any connected device, watch it on your TV. We will be coming out here in the next few weeks, it’ll be available on all the different apps, Android, iOS, Apple, all the biggies.
10. What are some exciting things coming up for Ride TV?
I am currently in Kansas right now, at the Kansas speedway. We have a partnership with NASCAR, we’ll be coming north of the border with NASCAR as well with the Camping World Truck Series, with the Ride TV truck, so one of the cool shows that we’ve got in the works now is a show called Horses and Horsepower, that’s going to focus on how the worlds blend together and how the two lifestyles really overlap, there’s a couple of very famous people on both sides of the sports, that share a love. It’s going to be some very interesting stories. As well, there’s a new series that we just got to pilot called Cowgirls, which takes a look at women’s professional bareback and bronc riding – saddle bronc riding, which is sort of a lost art and it seems to be coming back now, it’s been focused on in Texas a lot. We’ve got women travelling from all the world who want to come and try and excel at this, it’s going to be a very fun look, a very telling look at some of the toughest, grittiest and beautiful women in rodeo.