Saturday @ the Summer 4-H Show

Saturday @ the Summer 4-H Show

I never did 4-H as a kid. In fact, I didn’t have many friends that liked horses, so I’m a strange mixture of jealous and proud of the group of kids and teenagers that make up the 4-H team at my barn. They’re all wonderful people with talented horses, and I wish I had been surrounded by such a supportive team when I had my own horse as a child.

riders gather
A few horses from our barn (including Belle!) gather together while their 4-H riders talk.

On Saturday I went down to the Evergreen State Equestrian Center in Monroe to watch our team compete in their English pleasure and equitation classes. I spent most of the (long) day following along behind my lesson buddy Haylie, vicariously living the 4-H experience through her and our other barnmates. I saw a lot of impressive young riders, learned a little bit about the 4-H program, and ogled my fair share of handsome horses.

Two Hanoverians
Two Hanoverians waiting for their next class.

Having never been to a 4-H show, I was amazed by the variety of horses. There was everything from backyard bred Quarter Horse crosses to registered Hanoverians, all being ridden in the same ring with riders of varying levels of skill and talent. Some of the horses were worth pennies while others were probably in the $10-20,000 range, but they competed in the same arena underneath the eye of a kind, knowledgeable judge. Many shone in their English pleasure classes, while others were clearly more geared towards Sunday’s western pleasure classes, but it was very inspiring to see so many different kinds of horses all come together in one place.

Hunter Flat Class
The hunter horses enter the ring for their first flat class just as the summer sun goes down.

At the same time, though, I found myself glad that I was never involved in 4-H as a kid. As friendly, encouraging, and enthusiastic as the budding equestrians at the fairgrounds were, there were also some downsides. Classes, for one, ran until 11:00PM, requiring a rider that wanted to participate in both the English equitation and the hunter over fences classes to remain at the fairgrounds for more than twelve hours. Mothers or fathers often played the dual role of caring parent and harsh coach, which made for some awkward moments between distressed children and conflicted CoachMoms. And then there were the unfortunate kids that were clearly on horses that they couldn’t handle, but whose parents kept nagging them to earn better ribbons…

teakhaylie4hjump
It was 10:00PM by the time Haylie and Teak got to show their stuff in their jumping classes.

By the time the last classes were over, it was pretty clear that everyone (both human and equine) was tired! We were glad to get the horses tucked away into their stalls for the night so that we could head home for some much needed sleep. I, for one, was doubly excited to get to sleep in the next morning, a luxury that the girls who were showing didn’t get to have. ๐Ÿ™‚

Despite the long day, I’m glad I went. It’s always inspiring to watch a group of budding equestrians compete, and 4-H’s mixture of Danish ribbons and a more conventional placing system did a great job of encouraging all of their riders while also keeping the show competitive and rewarding. Our riders all came home with some awesome awardsโ€”and my favorite show buddy in particular had a very tough, but incredibly impressive ride in her last few classes. Plus it was exciting to get to see The Pony with her 4-H rider, and I got video of a funny looking beast I found in Belle’s stall before I left for the night…

She looks so silly!
This made all the hours spent on my feet worth it.

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