As a founding shareholder of Fort Worth-based Studios 121, Michael Fletcher has done a lot of video production and cable-TV work during the past several years. One of the people he crossed paths with was Craig Morris, a National Cutting Horse Association of America Hall of Fame rider who hosted a horse-oriented show on a cable network.
“He was really dissatisfied with the ability to kind of grow the horse world through a weekly program,” Fletcher says of Morris. “We were introduced to each other [and] he came in and talked with me. I’ve been involved with launching about seven cable networks, so after he educated me on how broad the horse world is, all the disciplines and everything, I said, ‘Craig, I really think this could be a 24/7 channel.’ ”
That was in 2011, when Ride TV, a Fort Worth-based horse network, was founded. The network is already airing on several cable systems across the country and is available online via KlowdTV ( https://klowdtv.com). Plans are in the works for Verizon FiOS to begin carrying the network by early next year.
Satellite and other cable deals are also underway, but Fletcher says he can’t give specifics. The network will have a VIP, invitation-only launch party from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday in the Stampede Room at Stockyards Station.
Fletcher and Morris worked to meet with horse associations and key horse people nationwide to form the network, which features such series as Saddle Up With Jay Novacek, in which the former Dallas Cowboys star tight end tries his hand at horse-related activities such as playing polo, trick-roping and stable-cleaning, and Horse Arrest, about horses used in modern law enforcement.
One of the network’s key investors is billionaire John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of the Paul Mitchell Systems hair-products line and of the Patron Spirits Company, and the force behind ROK Mobile. And, as it turns out, a big horse person.
When DeJoria launched John Paul Pet, which makes products for pets including horses, Fletcher sought out an interview for his incipient cable network. DeJoria became interested in being one of the network’s shareholders.
“I’m sure [the network] would have happened without me,” DeJoria says in a phone interview. “I just happened to be in the right place, and it was a good opportunity to get involved with the guys.”
The Ride TV interview happened at the Arbor, a rehab center that DeJoria’s wife is a part owner of near Georgetown. The Arbor will be featured in Horses That Heal, a program about how horses can help people with physical and/or emotional disabilities. DeJoria says he was attracted to the network because of its family values — and because his family consists of horse people.
“My niece has a horse, my granddaughter rides horses, my wife has a horse,” DeJoria says. “I go every year with Rancheros Vistadores, with that group in the hills of [California’s] Santa Ynez, riding.” (According to various reports, former Rancheros Vistadores riders include Walt Disney, Bob Hope and Ronald Reagan.)
Even if you’ve never ridden a horse or don’t even own a pair of cowboy boots, Fletcher says he believes that the network has something for you.
“People have an innate love for horses,” Fletcher says. “Kids, older people, when they see horses, it’s like they’re mesmerized. And horses are such intelligent animals, so they become pets, embers of the family. It was this very passionate, engaged subset of America that made this channel possible. When we took it out to the cable companies, it was one of the things that they got, and most of them are not horse people.”
Fletcher stresses that the channel is a lifestyle channel, not a sports channel, although there will be competitions on the network. But it’s as much about the people as the horses. Other current or planned shows include Cloverleaf Queens, about barrel-racers; Rock Star Vets, featuring tattooed, snuff-dipping, partying Fort Worth horse doctor Chris Ray; and Riding the World, an equestrian travel show.
DeJoria also believes that the network will have a broad appeal.
“When you’re around horses, it kind of pulls the whole family together,” DeJoria says. “My granddaughter couldn’t wait to show me how, for the first time, she jumped a horse, even though she only jumped it 6 inches. The whole family likes to be around horses. [And] what’s the first thing you do when you have a horse? You pet it. It creates interaction.”