Harnessed Power - Photographer: Paul Bookstaver
Image by Paul Bookstaver

Harnessed Power - Photographer: Paul Bookstaver

Photographer: Paul Bookstaver
Image by Paul Bookstaver

Photographer: Paul Bookstaver

4-H Horse Program

By Jerome Christie, 4-H Program Leader

As you drive in you exit Finchville Turnpike, a typical country road, onto a driveway called Davis Drive which curves right after about 50 yards onto Stan’s Way. There is heavy foliage on the left, a sloping and rolling hillside on the right. After 200 yards or so you turn left, past a plain tubular gate and enter into a beautiful sun drenched open vista. It is early morning and the American flag and a large welcoming sign sit directly ahead with flowers arranged at the base of both. The sign reads “Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orange County Education Center and 4-H Park”. The road meanders further past several open pole barns, a sharp looking multi-purpose building, and an impressive restroom building complete with showers. Finally, you pull up to an equally impressive, modern horse barn and brand new horse arena whose smooth and undisturbed surface glistens in the sun, waiting for its’ first official use.

This is Friday, July 7 and the first of a two-day 4-H qualifying horse show. The riders range in age from 10 to 17 and are mostly female. Each one has practiced their patterns, jumps, and pacing. They have groomed their horses, mounted their tack and are now going through warmups. Each exhibits a sense of poise which may hide some of the excitement of riding for the first time in this new arena, and some of the usual jitters that come from qualifying. Those that do will advance to compete in the 4-H show at the New York State Fair in August. The judge, trainers, parents, show steward, and score keeper wait for the first rider to enter the ring. Meanwhile the announcer goes through a list of sponsors in the program and points out the sponsor banners aligning the new facility. Each one is thanked for their support and the audience is encouraged to likewise support the sponsors businesses. At last it is show time!

Over the next two days, for several hours each day, the 4-H youth ride their horses in compliance with the riding, jumping, fitting and showmanship requirements. The horses on average weigh 1,500 -1,700 pounds, while the riders are 80 – 160 pounds. Their practice and skill is evident as the power of the horse is harnessed into a symbiotic relationship with the rider. This translates into a beautiful display of power and grace that you have to see to believe. The show moves forward steadily and concludes on the second day with an awards ceremony that features not only the traditional trophies won in contests like this, but also handy and useful prizes that the riders can use in their barns with the horses or for personal use. One can tell that great care and thoughtfulness went into making the experience meaningful for all of the youth. 15 to 20 or so youth end up qualifying. Kudos to all of the youth, parents, volunteers and sponsors that help facilitate this means of positive youth development.

Last updated August 15, 2017