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4H an in-house program at lesson barn

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    I am a 4-H alum and my club was started by my riding instructor and was comprised mostly of kids within her lesson program already as a way of increasing their horse knowledge. I believe she had been involved with another local club a few years earlier, but started her own as there was some cattiness involved in the adult leadership in that club. While the majority of our members were from within her lesson program, we also had some local kids who had their own horses at home who joined our club as well.

    We did not really get involved in the 4H showing as we did mostly local hunter/jumper circuit, but we were very involved in Horse Bowl and Hippology (hippology is a written test of horse knowledge, similar to Horse Bowl which is more of a quiz bowl-type competition). Our club hosted study nights for participants in these competitions in addition to regular meetings, which would involve assigning topics to different members to give a presentation to help teach the other members about that topic. These were age-appropriate and these competitions split by age, so we usually had enough participants to field 1-2 teams in each age bracket. My Hippology team actually won our regional competition two years in a row, and we got to go to Penn State for their State Days 4-H competition that brought together all the 4-H competitions, from tractor pulling to apparel design and Hippology. At the state level, Hippology included two horse-judging classes, "stations" where you'd have to do things like identify parts of a bridle or different types of feed, and a hay-judging component where you had 4 flakes of hay to evaluate and rank them in order. State Days also had a lot of social components, like a dance and seminars about attending PSU, and we were grouped with other competitors from our county. It was one of my favorite memories and after we placed 3rd the first year, it motivated us to go back and we came in 1st the next year and got to go to Louisville for Eastern Nationals! In addition to that competition, where I think we came home with a ribbon but not a top 5 placing, we managed to squeeze in a trip to Churchill Downs as well as a side trip to Lexington to go to the Horse Park. At the national level, they also added a component where you and your team would be given a prompt, you'd have 10 minutes to come up with your answer, and then you'd present to the judges the answer to your prompt. I think we got one where we had to show the different parts of an English bridle, and another on some horse management concept I no longer remember. I will add that all of these experiences were great fodder for my college resume! I was also able to use my officer positions as volunteer work for my high school graduation requirements. Overall, 4-H contributed a TON to my teenage experience and I was so glad to have the opportunity and learned a ton.

    For our meetings, they began on-site at my instructor's farm but eventually we were able to get use of a local church for our monthly meetings. All of our officers were serious-minded teenagers that did a great job coming up with meeting agendas and running them. Eventually, in addition to the regular positions like President, Treasurer, etc. we added an Activities Coordinator who was in charge of planning our end-of-year Awards Banquet, helping organize our teams for competitions, and arranging for an educational activity for each meeting. Every month, a different parent would sign up to provide snacks and we usually didn't have too much trouble. We had a great group of parent volunteers (including my own) who were not super horsey, but were really engaged in the club. We also fundraised by selling Gertrude Hawk chocolate bars (which are a great fundraiser btw - send your kid into school with a box and they'll be out by the end of the day!). I have nothing but positive memories of 4-H and have lifelong friends from the program.


      We live in a little rural town that sometimes gets a great influx of tourists from big cities. Our best 4H horse project fundraiser was one of those very tourist-heavy weekends. It was a perfect Saturday. We set up a booth downtown that looked like Lucy's from Peanuts. Our kids, who were 6-9th graders, crammed themselves around it. Up top was a sign that said something like: "4H Fundraiser - help us get to San Antonio! Advice given on ANY topic (but especially horses)" There was a donation jar setting on the table.

      Those kids raked it in. It was the funnest, and funniest, thing ever. People came up and asked them for stock tips. ("Well sir, we can give lots of livestock tips, but generally buy low and sell high.") People asked what to do if a horse colics. ("Call the vet, keep them walking, take them for a ride around the neighborhood in the trailer while you wait for the vet.") One man, who was gay, asked what to do about his ex-boyfriend who was being ugly to him on social media. The out-of-towner guy thought it'd be a funny moment, but the kids ended up being so compassionate and common sensy, and answered him so sincerely, that he got all teary eyed and stuffed a $100 bill into the jar.

      We grown ups were nearby, running a hot-dog stand, so we overheard all of it and we could step in if the kids needed us. But they really didn't. And we did make it to San Antonio, due to that fundraiser.


        Original Poster

        Thank you for sharing rockymouse and noreins . What amazing sounding experiences!


          I used to work for 4H as an agent in New York State though I didn't have the horse program. In that state, at least, the program varied a lot depending upon the volunteer base. However, one common theme was the difficulty in keeping the parent volunteers focused on the kids and learning and not prizes and horses. Our agent did a nice job of managing some great volunteers and we had extensive materials for Horse Bowl, judging and other activities.


            The barn where I rode for a whie did 4H. I do not recall much parent involvement and they were all regular lesson kids. They were able to use the lesson horses for their projects and the only show they really went to each year was the County Fair, which was the 4H year end big show. Some of their projects were training related, some were experimental, some were personal goals. They showed in the show, which was about $5/class ( I think it may have gotten up to $10/class now - I don't think the Fair took place this year). My trainer grew up in Pony Club and comparing the two, 4H seems MUCH less costly. No mandatory ratings to move up, no mandatory district or regional competitions. This particular 4H did not do much fundraising - keeping the horses at the County Fair is roughly $30/day (include stall cost and straw cost), so even for 8 days it is about $240 for the week and another $25 or so for classes. The fair is about 7 miles from the farm and I do not think the owners charged to haul the horses.

            If they wanted to go somewhere else, possibly theere would have been fundraising necessary but these are the more rural working poor so they couldn't afford to take much time off work anyway. The place where I kept my horse had been in the family for generations but still the husband worked a full time job and the wife worked a part time job and did horses chores and taught lessons in the afternoons.

            Pony Club seems to fit more middle class/more populated areas where 4H seems to fit more lower class, especially less populated areas.


              Originally posted by Ajierene View Post
              Pony Club seems to fit more middle class/more populated areas where 4H seems to fit more lower class, especially less populated areas.
              I agree, but will also add 4H is especially great for kids who don't have access to their own horse, either through ownership or leasing. Most of the school ponies would not have been up to the task for many of the Pony Club activities, so we only had a handful who would have been able to participate and most of them didn't have access to their own truck and trailer which made it difficult as well. Pony Club seems to work especially well for the kids who have their own horses, possibly at their own house, but are looking for more structured instruction in riding and horsemanship. 4H was great for expanding access to horses and knowledge for kids who may not have otherwise had it, but goes into much less depth than Pony Club.


                Good points noreins. I recall the 4H kids doing 2' divisions for years but their projects may be a bit different each year. None except the owner's daughter owned a horse and had access to a trailer. Even she took a yearling to the County Fair one year instead of a horse she could ride - they had some showmanship classes and ones specifically for the youngsters (if I recall correctly). Her project was getting the yearling ready for the show. 4H was basically a way to give the kids something extra to do more than just riding lessons in a way that didn't really cost to much. There was the option for the State Fair but they never went. I do not know if there were/are qualifications needed. I have been to the State Fair and watched a bit of the shows there. They are nicer than the County Fair but not lavish.

                Compare that to the Pony Club kids - almost all had their horse at home and all had access to truck/trailer (99% parent owned). Now, you didn't need a ton of cash but yeah, you need the money and the work flexibility to truck the kids around. For example - my trainer had a Friday night Pony Club lesson at a local indoor with jumps. The facility (no Pony Club kids boarded at this facility) offered a flat fee for use of the arena, something like $100 for the time instead of $20 per horse - when you had 10 or so students and were spending 2 hours there it really was worth it. The Pony Club paid for it through their dues/donations/whatever. Pony Club was definitely more structured with expected steps through the ratings and competitions.

                Both have variety per club to include interest of the kids, expectations of the parents and politics.


                  Another PA 4-H alum here. My horse club was, and still is, run by my mother-in-law. I met my husband in 4-H when I was 10 and he was 11. I have some great life-long friends that I met through 4-H.

                  My horse club was not one that was associated with a specific barn, but there were a few of those in my county. Even the barn clubs would come to the June schooling show in preparation for our county Round Up in late July or early August. Everyone had to come to Round Up in order to complete their yearly project. Horseless kids would do some sort of display (usually a poster), but kids who had access to a horse would show in Grooming and Showmanship to complete their project. All other classes were optional. My club had a mix of both western and english riders, which was a great learning experience. Our club meetings were at my mother-in-law's private farm.

                  I got involved in both Hippology and Horse Bowl rather early on. I even did Horse Judging but when I became a senior 4-Her, I didn't want to give verbal reasons so I dropped that. But I continued with Hippology on a regional level and Horse Bowl on a regional and state level. My county would always do well since we had regular meetings to practice outside or our regular club meetings. I did well in regional Hippology, in that my last year my team won the senior event and I placed 2nd individually. Same type of results in Horse Bowl. We were usually top 2 in the region. I went to Penn State at least 5 straight years in Horse Bowl for State 4-H Achievement Days. My last year we placed 4th in the state and I think I was 2nd individually. Apparently, I managed to soak up a lot of knowledge over the years.

                  But the biggest advantage to 4-H was the opportunities outside of my horse club. I joined our county's 4-H Teen Council when I turned 13. Then my mom started a veterinary science club and I joined that. As I got older, I started running for offices in my various clubs. That gave me the opportunity to go to Capitol Days in Harrisburg to learn about the state government. I then went to Ambassador training and was named a County Ambassador later that year. I served in that role for 2 years before I aged out. I had to put aside my fear of public speaking when I became an ambassador. I can remember having to stand on the Eisenhower Auditorium stage at Penn State in front of so many of my 4-H peers and adult volunteers having to announce results. I realized after doing that and not messing up, I could control my fear.

                  4-H opened up so many doors outside of the horse world. Curriculum varies between states, but the basics all tend to be the same. Its all about learning and making the best better!
                  My May boys: Beau, Neon, Criss


                    Original Poster

                    Thank you everyone for sharing experiences and tips! Much appreciated!


                      regarding Hippology and Horse Bowl, if your kids get real good at it they will be recruited by other groups. Our kids did Morgan Horse Bowl and also 4H, for several years they went to the 4H Western National Roundup in Denver and once to Regina Canada for an international competition


                        Original Poster

                        Originally posted by clanter View Post
                        regarding Hippology and Horse Bowl, if your kids get real good at it they will be recruited by other groups. Our kids did Morgan Horse Bowl and also 4H, for several years they went to the 4H Western National Roundup in Denver and once to Regina Canada for an international competition
                        Wow, that's super cool! (and extra incentive for the kiddos to study hard for this!