Local 4-H kids and horse enthusiasts came together for some horse play this past weekend at the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Office and Livestock Facility.
Spearheaded by the Cooperative Extension’s college intern Jessica Hogan, Saturday’s “A Day of Horse Play” featured a series of diverse and informative 20 to 30 minute workshops for free to 4-Hers who love horses and wanted to learn more about them.
A junior agriculture education major at Mount Olive College, Hogan organized the day of horse workshops in service to the communty and for part of her coursework.
“I wanted to do something with horses because they are trying to grow their horse program here in Sampson County so I thought it would help with that,” said Hogan.
“This is her passion. She wants to work with the Cooperative Extension so that’s why she is here with us,” said Amanda Bradshaw, the extension agent over 4-H youth development, about Hogan. “She’s very enthusiastic and outgoing. I haven’t found anything yet that slows her down.”
As she described the agenda for the day, Hogan explained that introductory workshops were chosen because “we wanted to keep things very baisc and keep the kids engaged with short hands-on activities … 4-H is all about hands-on learning.”
“It think the workshops are something that the kids can grow from and it helps them makes friends with the same interests,” Hogan added.
After registration and a brief meet-and-greet period, Hogan kicked things off by leading the first workshop, one on horse anatomy, covering everything from the poll — the highest point on the horse’s body, except for the ears, when it is standing with its head up — to the hoof.
Elizabeth Rowe followed with a second workshop on feed stuffs. She shared with the 4-Hers all the different kinds of food that horses can eat including oats, alfalfa, corn, cotton seed, and beet pulp.
As part of the lesson, the children also had the opportunity to see each kind of food discussed and were encouraged to touch it and, in the case of alfalfa, smell it.
Rowe also made the 4-Hers aware of plants that are poisonous to horses such as floxglove, buttercups, hemlock, and cherry tree leaves.
“I thought the part about the feed was really good,” said Jodie Lanier whose daughter Kendall was among the 4-Hers participating. “It was so informative and hands-on.”
A workshop on riding equipment was also on the schedule. Friends Megan Merritt and Isabelle Moore shared with the children all of the pieces of equipment that are needed in order to ride a horse, both Western and English styles. With the help of a few eager volunteers, they demonstrated how to properly saddle Merritt’s horse, Abby, with a western saddle.
“I think it’s great that they got young girls like them to help,” said Lanier of Merritt and Moore as she watched the girls work with the children. “The kids can relate to them and look up to them. They’re like role models and they’ve done such a good job.”
“We’ve had a lot of fun. It’s definitely something we have been looking forward to,” said Merritt of her first 4-H teaching experience.
“Seeing the kids’ faces when they saw the horse was exciting,” Moore pointed out.
When asked if they would like to come and help with future workshops, both said they would love to return. “I just love horses so anything I can do to help get the kids more into horses is great,” added Merritt.
After enjoying a spaghetti lunch, the children then participated in one last but very important workshop, a safety workshop, with local riding instructor Wayne Moore and his horse, Maggie.
Moore shared with them the importance of wearing protective riding gear like a riding helmet and closed-toe shoes. He also demonstrated for the 4-Hers the correct and incorrect ways to hold a horse’s lead rope and lead a horse, pointing out some common mistakes like letting the lead rope drag the ground and walking ahead of the horse.
To end the day, the 4-Hers were given time in the saddle.
“The riding is certainly the highlight of the day. That’s one thing that my daughter specifically asked me about,” shared Lanier about daughter Kendall who has been riding since she was 3 and has been involved in 4-H since she was 5. “I think it’s good that they talked about safety and then gave them the chance to ride. As a parent, safety is number one. It’s great for all the kids, even the ones who haven’t been on a horse before, because with this, they get to have a positive and safe riding experience for the first time.”
Like Lanier, all of the adults that attended the event were impressed.
“This is fantastic. It’s very informative even for adults,” said Dawn Benner whose granddaughter Hunter participated in the workshops.
“We would definitely come to something like this again. I mean, we would pay for something like this. It’s worth paying for,” added Taylor Benner, Hunter’s mother.
“These are really nice workshops. They cover a lot of important components, and I think the time is broken up really well,” noted Lanier. “These workers always go out of their way to do things that benefit the kids.”
As these 4-Hers and their families discover the positive experience that 4-H can be, organizer Hogan said that she has known firsthand the advantages of 4-H, knowledge that greatly contributed to the day’s success. “I was in 4-H a long time before I went to college and it’s just so great for kids. In 4-H, you can always make a friend and it helps you develop life skills that you can carry with you.”
For more information about 4-H clubs and events, contact Amanda Bradshaw at 910-592-7161.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at email@example.com.