Much of my junior years of riding was spent participating and riding with 4-H. Over the course of seven years I did everything with my pony, Angel, from putting on fundraising shows to competing in quiz bowl to qualifying for States and Eastern States. So when a bunch of the kids from my barn needed two ponies trailed over to the local fairgrounds for a 4-H open fundraising show, it didn’t take much convincing from the barn girls to get me to tag along with Axcent. Why not go back to my roots while supporting my old 4-H county at the same time?
The four “H’s” that stand for this organization are head, heart, hands, and health. As I took my trip down memory lane with a few of the other riders I had once shown with in 4-H, I thought about how I had used the four “H’s” in those seven years…
- My club had a requirement that any rider wishing to qualify for the state horse show would have to participate in another 4-H activity. Among the top picks were hippology, judging, and my choice, quiz bowl. Quiz bowl consisted of a team of four people who would compete with another team by answering knowledge questions about anything equine related via a buzzer system. The questions were pulled from a variety of sources that the teams were required to study. Some of my favorite memories of 4-H come from quiz bowl practices. We would get together once a week for a few months leading up to the state competition to practice. In between competing against one another to answer the questions we would help each other find ways to remember certain things. I will always remember how to not confuse an antiphlogistic with an antipuritic thanks to “Aunt Flo’s itchy sweater”, our somewhat inappropriate mnemonic to remember the sequence of the vertebral column, and how the different criteria for semen analysis are like different types of M&M’s. To this day, I still use the things I learned in quiz bowl, especially in college. Much of what I am learning at school is just being reiterated to me by my professors because I heard it all before when preparing for competitions. Quiz bowl gave me so much knowledge about equines and definitely made me use my head.
- Anyone who rides know that it takes a lot of heart from both the horse and the rider. I instantly fell in love with horses and turned horse crazy, but it took me a while to understand how it felt to have your horse put their heart into something. In one of my first years in 4-H, my club took a trip to a clinic and I remember seeing the horses follow their riders around at will. From that point on I made a point to love the crap out of my horse, so that she would follow my around with a halter or lead rope. It took a while, but Angel and I formed a bond and I will never forget the first day that she willingly walked behind me without me asking her too. I finally felt my pony putting her heart into our relationship together, and I can attribute many of our successes to that bond. Now, I am working on building that bond with my newbie, Ax.
- There was a lot of work that went into doing 4-H. Putting on fundraising shows required months of preparation by the whole club, from creating the patterns for the classes and ordering ribbons to cleaning up and getting the show grounds ready the morning of the show. The great part was that it counted as a form of community service, another club requirement.
- This one was a little tough, so I related it back to my horses, big surprise. All of the knowledge that I gained about horses in 4-H has enabled me to keep my horses in a great healthy condition. A lot of what we were quizzed on in quiz bowl has been used in the care and keeping of all three of my family’s horses. I can always count on my memory to help me out when my mom calls me asking if I have any idea what the mystery boo-boo on one of the horses might be.
When I wasn’t reminiscing on my 4-H days, I was having a blast at the show. It was great to get Ax out to a low-key schooling show with a bunch of barn friends. Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to braid in colorful yarn?
2 thoughts on “Head, Heart, Hands, Health”
Yay for 4-H! I joined it when I was in high school and had a decent but kind of too-smart-for-his-own good QH gelding. I don’t think our group had Quiz Bowl activities (rural IL about 40 miles west of Chicago), but I got to do some horse judging contests. It was pretty cool. I never knew that realm of competition existed. I think I was actually good at it. I remember one group of horses they threw at us were all drafts. We 4-H judges didn’t know what conformation to look for in that type of horse. I remember the head judge/presenter after the fact giving us tips on drafts and saying (I think–if memory serves me correctly) that they might be a little cow-hocked and that was not a major fault. Something about giving them more driving power. At any rate, I’m all for. . . 4-H!