Ambitious and eager senior 4-H members converged on the ACE arena of the Keystone Centre in Brandon recently for the 10th annual 4-H Young Horse Development presentation day.
The joint initiative of Manitoba 4-H and the Manitoba Equine Ranching Association (MERA), which is a member of the North American Equine Ranching Information Council (NAERIC), had 20 participants this year.
The event not only evaluates the efforts of these youth in developing their horses, it showcases the trainability and quality of the stock raised on Manitoba equine ranches.
Young Horse Development participants are chosen by a selection committee based on applications received by interested senior 4-H members (14 years of age as of Jan. 1).
Pick a foal
Candidates receive a list of participating MERA ranchers from whom they may purchase a weanling for a predetermined price. The ranchers receive half of the purchase price and the balance is placed in that year’s Project Enhancement Fund.
It’s a two-year commitment. Members present their horse firstly as a yearling in hand, and then as a two-year-old under saddle.
They receive payments based on individual achievement by participating in the yearling presentations (one-third of the Enhancement Fund), participating in the two-year-old presentations (the remaining two-thirds of the fund), completing their project books; and by adhering to the rules and regulations.
The yearling exhibits were scored on grooming, conformation and movement, body condition, safety, handling and responsiveness to training and their owner by walking, trotting, stopping and backing, lunging, and trailer loading and unloading.
Fourteen two-year-olds were presented under saddle. Each horse and rider was scored based on their individual performance on a standard horsemanship pattern developed for the program.
The goal of the program is to teach and develop a good basic foundation for a saddle horse. Horses are expected to stand quietly for mounting, show three gaits under saddle with smooth transitions in both directions of the ring, make a 90-degree pivot to the left and right, stop willingly and settle, back, sidepass both directions, walk over logs, and stand quietly for dismounting, unbridling, rebridling, and unsaddling. Proper grooming, body condition and safety are all to be observed. Conformation of the horse is also taken into consideration.
Two members took part in both the yearling and two-year-old division this year.
Gerelea DeYaegher from the Brandon Ghost Riders had a busy day with her yearling “Sweet Rockin Impulse” purchased from Little Valley Quarter Horses, and then “BME Prettysilverlady” her two-year-old purchased from Bonnie Meadows Farm.
After six years in the program, she says she’s learned every horse responds differently. It is the trainer’s job to read each horse and adapt training methods accordingly.
“Each horse has to be treated as an individual,” said Gerelea.
She found she learned patience. “If I got frustrated, I found it was just better to stop and take a break, or it was no good for either one of us. Everything you feel transfers through to your horse.”
This was echoed by Marsha Dudar from the Ethelbert 4-H Horse and Beef Club, the only other member to have a horse in each division.
Her breed of choice is Appaloosa, with both her yearling “KJ Crusin Along” and two-year-old “KJ Chip Shot” purchased from K & J Bridgeman.
Dudar has found that her experience of working with different horses in the three years she has been part of the YHD program, has made her a better trainer. It is also an affordable way to obtain a quality horse.
Megan Kemp and her dad Ross had nothing but good things to say about the Young Horse Development program. “This was my second attempt at bringing a horse through to presentation day,” said Megan. “It was interesting that I achieved the same results with less effort this time as compared to last.”
She attributes this fact to the different disposition and nature of this year’s colt but also her previous experience with the program.
Megan appreciates the deadlines the program imposes as it keeps her on schedule with achievable goals. “Having the deadlines make you do it,” laughed Megan, “otherwise it might not get done!”
She finds the clinics offered in conjunction with the program supportive and says that finding a mentor and coach to work under is imperative. “It is way easier to learn from people other than your parents!”
Christine Little, one of the many ranchers and trainers that has been involved in the program since its inception, sees the benefits that the program has to offer.
Kids learn too
She said the program teaches youth a lot about responsibility and commitment. The program gives them the means to access the help they need through clinics and books; it is up to the member to get additional coaching and training guidance if they choose.
She’s seen a vast improvement in the level of training the members are accomplishing and the quality of horses the ranchers turned out over the past decade.
This was echoed by fellow rancher Dan Mullin, and parent of two of this year’s Young Horse Development participants. He believes kids get out of it what they put into it; it is structured so that each member has the ability to achieve their own goals.
Evaluator Bev McLeod was equally impressed with the overall quality of horses and the job that the members did in turning them out. “You kids did an awesome job today, you looked the part, the horses were well turned out and you did a great job in your training. I can’t believe how far 4-H has come over the last 30 years.”