With horses being social creatures just like humans, companionship is only one benefit that youth have experienced through involvement of first, a riding club, and secondly, the Harding 4-H Horse Club.
For the Harding area it’s the first 4-H club of its kind, even though horses have been highlighted at Harding’s summer fair over the years.
“Prior to initializing the 4-H program, we were involved in a weekly riding club with Leah Obach in the arena put forth by the Harding Agricultural Society,” said Charlene Mathison, co-head leader. “Seeing there was a group of youth that were committed to riding on a regular basis, a decision was made to transition to a 4-H club.”
By doing so, these kids will also benefit from other aspects of the 4-H program, such as learning how to run a meeting, participating in speeches, and taking part in activities including curling, and arts and crafts. Valuable experience in leadership, problem solving and goal setting is gained, and members have opportunities to meet with other 4-H’ers from across the province, the country and around the world.
Presently, members interested in horsemanship are from Kenton, Lenore, Hamiota, Rivers, Miniota, Griswold and Oak Lake. However, there is a room for additional boys, girls and adults, aged six to 25 as of Jan. 1 to become involved. Right now, members of the Harding 4-H Horse Club are between the ages of eight to 13, with 11 in total.
Pam Lowe-Bond joins Mathison as co-head leaders, while Obach, a horsewoman with experience in the Manitoba High School Rodeo Association, continues on as the riding instructor. Although both Lowe-Bond and Mathison haven’t been head leaders in the 4-H program before, both their children have been affiliated with the Oak Lake Beef Club, Archie Light Horse and Pony Club, and the Kenton Kraftsmen, and they are excited to take on the challenge.
“All aspects of riding from the ground up are touched upon, and plans are to ride at the Harding Arena on a weekly basis throughout the spring and fall, and at an indoor arena twice per month throughout the winter months,” said Mathison. “From tack, preparation, horsemanship, to aspects of horsemanship such as barrel racing, pole bending, and goat tying, are shared as part of this new 4-H outlet.”
Blending the benefits of what 4-H stands for, and the benefits one can gain from riding horses regularly as put forth by the Certified Horsemanship Association (CSA), experiences build strengths that will assist young people throughout their professional and personal lives. Benefits include positive character traits, problem solving, psychological health, socialization, competition, relaxation, love and the human-animal bond, and fun.
Involvement with horses may also influence a career choice, but at the local 4-H club level it’s more about fun, learning, exploring and sharing a lifestyle.
“Truly enriching the 4-H motto ‘learn to do by doing,’ excitement is abound, as new goals are kicked off,” said Mathison. “The club stands for more than 4-H… it’s community, it’s teamwork, and it’s a form of gratitude, as by working together goals of today and tomorrow can be reached on different plateaus.”