Eye on Extension: Horse project opportunities abound

VALLEY — For kids who love horses, 4-H offers a variety of fun opportunities to learn and grow. These opportunities are not just for kids who have access to horses to ride! 4-H also offers fun competitions and projects that don’t require youth to get in the saddle.

A number of 4-H clubs specifically focus on developing horsemanship skills through regular riding practices and instruction. Dedicated 4-H leaders organize these meetings. These are supplemented by clinics put on by the local SLV 4-H Horse Council, along with other local organizations and arenas.

Riding opportunities are offered in a variety of disciplines including western riding, ranch horse, English, and gymkhana (an event consisting of speed pattern racing and games). Club riders can demonstrate their learning by competing at the San Luis Valley Fair in August, along with other shows throughout the year.

Studies show that in addition to improving riding skills, youth who participate in the horse project learn animal husbandry, personal responsibility, and decision-making. Through competition they also practice respect and good sportsmanship.

Older 4-H members, regardless of if they ride, can also participate in a number of state contests related to horses. SLV 4-H is currently recruiting youth ages 14 and up to compete in Horse Bowl, Hippology, Horse Demonstration and Horse Public Speaking contests this June.

In Horse Bowl, teams compete in a quiz bowl featuring equine-related subject matter. In Hippology, teams demonstrate their knowledge of equine science and husbandry through exams, identification, judging, and a team problem.  In Horse Demonstration, youth give a demonstration or illustrated talk related to the horse industry. Similarly, in Horse Public Speaking, youth give a speech relating to horses.

According to surveys, youth who have participated in these contests develop valuable life skills, including goal setting, grit, sportsmanship, and motivation. They also learn a ton about horses, and for the team events, build a number of interpersonal skills.

If independent study is more your kid’s style, they can sign up for the Horseless Horse or Veterinary Science 4-H projects. These projects help kids learn about horses and animal science, respectively. Both feature lots of activities and youth-directed research into their own areas of interest. Youth demonstrate their learning by creating an educational exhibit for the fair.

If your kid is crazy about horses and wants to build their knowledge and skills, take advantage of one of these 4-H horse opportunities! The club program is accepting new members through March 31. Find info about clubs, projects, and youth opportunities on our website at http://sanluisvalley.colostate.edu. To learn more you can also drop by our office in Monte Vista or give us a call at 719-852-7381.

Amy Henschen is the 4-H Youth Development Agent for Colorado State University Extension. Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.