Playing with Bubbles is a delightful way to spend an afternoon - especially if you’re Bailey Aufdenberg and Bubbles is your pony. Bailey has had Bubbles for three years and enjoys spending time in the saddle. As a 4-H youth, Bailey is enrolled in two horse related projects - Horse Riding and Horseless Horse & Horse Knowledge.

Horseless Horse and Horse Knowledge (HS140) is for all who want to learn about horses, including those without their own horse or pony. Horse Riding (HS141) introduces basic riding skills and styles. Because a member’s knowledge might be at a different level from his or her riding skills, a member may sign up for both projects at the same time. Some of the things that youth will learn are

the basics of horse behavior, breeds and safety
acquiring, selecting and raising a horse
building a financial plan
basic riding and horsemanship skills

This is Bailey’s 2nd year in these projects but this year she decided to explore a new avenue of learning about horses. On February 22, before social distancing became the norm, Bailey and her mom, Amanda, traveled to the National Equestrian Center, a world class facility in Lake St Louis MO to compete at the University of Missouri Extension 4-H Horse Judging Contest, an event open to all 4-H youth and brought to youth by the Missouri Quarter Horse Association and the Missouri Quarter Horse Youth Association and is sponsored by FCS Financial, Missouri Farm Bureau, and Cynthia O’Bryan.

Ty Peckman, Missouri 4-H State Agriculture Specialist, shared that “through this program, 4-H members learn how to think critically and become skilled at defending their decisions through oral reasoning. Youth also develop key skills that will help in their future careers and success, such as organization, self-discipline, accepting criticism, self-confidence, and leadership.”

Bailey was one of over seventy youth from across Missouri who had the opportunity to develop and hone their judging skills, while improving their ability to critically think and accurately communicate their thoughts. Youth were able to view a variety of performance and halter classes.

“I just wanted to try something new with horses,” Bailey said, “and I want to go back next year!” When asked what her favorite thing was from the day, she said she enjoyed judging the Performance Classes (Western Pleasure, Hunter Under Saddle, Ranch Riding, and Western Riding). She said she liked it because it taught her how to look at a horse and judge it and why.

As a result of their involvement in 4-H, over seventy percent of the contest participants said they show respect for others’ ideas and try to learn from their mistakes. Eighty-seven percent expressed they are able to apply knowledge learned from one discipline to another and are comfortable sharing their knowledge with others.

Philosophy of Missouri 4-H Horsemanship Program

“For nearly 90 years, 4-H has been building community and character. Now more than ever, young people need support from parents, friends, educators, and community leaders to be persons of character...to display the traits of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship,” says Dr. Jo Turner, former director of Missouri 4-H Programs. 4-H horsemanship is one of the many programs used to help young people develop character, self-esteem and subject matter skills.

The traits of character mentioned above are key to a successful 4-H horsemanship experience, it is the job of the 4-H horsemanship project leader to help instill these character traits as well as to help the member learn subject matter skills and develop self-esteem as they progress through the various learning experiences organized for them.

The difference between 4-H and many other horse related opportunities that young people have is that 4-H is centered on youth development and the various competitions available to young people focus on youth development first, with “winning” a very distant second goal.

In 1927, the 4-H pledge was adopted. Recently, 4-H Youth Specialist, Carol Gehrs wrote a special adaptation of the pledge to help young people understand the connection between 4-H and good character:

I pledge my head to clearer thinking

*Be open minded

*Do what is right, even if no one else is doing it

*Pursue excellence in everything

*Take responsibility for my own actions

My heart to greater loyalty

*Be a person of high integrity

*Tell the truth in all times and in all places

*Keep my word

*Be the kind of friend I would like to have

My hands to larger service

*Volunteer in the community

*Protect my neighbor, the environment and our natural resources

*Promote good citizenship

And my health to better living

*Show concern to others

*Be kind, considerate, and compassionate

*Treat people fairly

*Respect myself and those in authority

For my club, my community, my county and my world.

More than 55,000 members strong, Missouri 4-H is an active, dynamic organization of young people who are learning, growing and preparing to be the leaders of today and tomorrow – making a real difference in their community, country and world. 4-H is the youth development program of the University of Missouri and the nation’s Cooperative Extension System. For more information on Missouri 4-H, visit 4h.missouri.edu.