by Christine Fitzgerald
My name is Christine Fitzgerald, the Executive Director of The Rider's Closet, a charitable organization that helps connect new and gently used riding apparel to riders in need. I'm excited to share a bit about the mission of the program and our work.
The Rider’s Closet was founded in 2006 by professional equestrian and philanthropist Georgina Bloomberg. She saw a need among her college peers for an affordable resource for riding apparel, and she realized that in some cases, it was preventing aspiring riders from participating in equestrian sports. Initially through her network of fellow riders, and later on with the help of some apparel companies and tack shops, Georgina was able to provide items at no charge to the riders who needed them. Needless to say, the program was a huge success and filled a real need within the equestrian community.
Griffin loves his new hunt coat from TRC so much that he wears it over his pajamas!
The mission of The Rider’s Closet has not changed very much since the program’s founding, but the scope of riders served has increased exponentially. We now accept donations of new and gently used equestrian apparel from all over the U.S. and send packages out free-of-charge to riders at any age and every level of the sport nationwide. We serve scholastic teams, equestrian camp programs, pony clubs, equine charities, therapeutic riding centers, and many individual riders in need.
We could not do any of it without our generous donors and sponsors. They include apparel companies, tack shops, equestrian consignment companies, other nonprofits and thousands of individuals who want to help their fellow riders pursue their dreams. Some of our sponsors also assist in other ways, including hosting our mobile donation tack trunks at events and serving as donation drop-off locations. Our generous TRC Sponsors are listed on our website with links to their own sites, and we are grateful to say the list of partners keeps growing and diversifying—all to the benefit of the riders we serve.
I have managed The Rider’s Closet for about 10 years, initially through my position as communications director of the nonprofit that formerly hosted the program, and now full time as the program’s executive director. I work with a fantastic team of volunteers who assist with requests, donations, events and other tasks. They are invaluable to the program’s success.
This lucky recipient is riding with confidence in her new apparel – and winning ribbons!
Also vital to The Rider’s Closet’s success is the EQUUS Foundation. Last year, Georgina merged TRC with the EQUUS Foundation and we are now one of its programs. We coordinate many of our efforts—especially marketing and events—and the EQUUS Foundation has been incredibly supportive as we continue to evolve and expand. The EQUUS Foundation is the only national charity in the U.S. that is 100% dedicated to ensuring the welfare of America's horses and fostering the horse-human bond. The core of its mission is to safeguard the comfort and dignity of America's horses throughout their lives and share their ability to empower, teach and heal with as many people as possible. Deeply passionate about animal welfare and the important role horses play in our lives, Georgina has been a longtime advocate for the EQUUS Foundation and is one of its EQUUStars. The EQUUS Foundation mission is in perfect alignment with The Rider’s Closet’s work, and we look forward to accomplishing many great things together.
Pictured left to right are Manhattan Saddlery's Nick Tsang, the author, Manhattan Saddlery staff member Lauren Allegrezza, and Manhattan Riding Club director Melissa Kemp.
As we kick off 2020, there are several projects underway or in the works. Donors attending the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL, can look for our mobile tack trunk at the Der Dau tent throughout the shows. We also just launched a great partnership with Manhattan Saddlery, which is now our official donation drop-off location in New York City. Anyone who stops by Manhattan Saddlery with a donation for TRC will receive a discount on new merchandise from Manhattan Saddlery. Our primary goal is to continue increasing the number of riders served, and mobile donation sites like these not only help provide new sources of apparel, they also increase our visibility and get the word out about the program. We have Facebook and Instagram feeds, and we invite all riders and horse-lovers to follow both The Rider’s Closet and the EQUUS Foundation for the latest on our upcoming events and collaborations, Georgina’s equestrian and animal welfare activities, and where the mobile donation trunks will be heading next.
In addition to our mobile donation sites, we rely very heavily on donations mailed in to us from all over the country. We accept all new and gently used show and schooling apparel except helmets and protective vests (for liability reasons). Our definition of “gently used” is an item that is not outdated, stained, torn, faded, missing pieces or otherwise showing significant wear. We often say, if another rider can wear it again with confidence, we will be happy to find it a new home. When we do occasionally get items that are not appropriate to send out to riders, we give them to a local organization that recycles textiles. We try to keep as much clothing out of landfills as we can.
We accept adult and children’s items, and though our donations and requests are almost entirely English apparel, we do accept Western and other disciplines. Our most-requested items are paddock boots and tall boots. They also are the items least often donated to us, especially paddock boots—so if you have some and no longer need them, please send them!
Emma pictured with her riding instructor. (Also, GO BLUE!)
As The Rider’s Closet approaches 15 years in operation, we are most thankful for the opportunity to make equestrian activities more accessible for horse-lovers at all levels—whether competitive, recreational or therapeutic. We receive so many heartfelt notes and photos from recipients, most of whom mention the importance of knowing there is a resource out there for equestrians who love horses and are highly motivated to improve their skills, but they can’t afford apparel for lessons and showing. We know firsthand how deeply horses touch people’s lives, and we and the EQUUS Foundation are committed to fostering that partnership in as many ways as we can. We also know how expensive this adventure can be, and we are very grateful to Georgina for having the vision and determination to transform her unique idea into reality. Thanks to many helping hands and generous hearts, the future is bright for The Rider’s Closet!
Interested in either donating to The Rider's Closet or making an apparel request? Head to www.equusfoundation.org/riderscloset for more information. There you can download and print a PDF donation form or TRC Request Form. You can also follow The Rider's Closet on social media at @theriderscloset.