Engaging Youth through Non-Mounted 4-H Horse Program

ENGAGING YOUTH THROUGH NON-MOUNTED 4-H HORSE PROGRAM ACTIVITIES  
M. Mann, UF/IFAS Extension, Lake County, Tavares, FL and R. Slocumb UF/IFAS Extension, Lake County, Tavares, FL.
Situation: Horses can serve as an effective vehicle for the development of life skills in 4-H youth. In Lake County, enrollment in the 4-H program has grown more than 300% since 2010. The Livestock Agent and 4-H Agent partnered to harness the success and popularity of the 4-H Horse program in Lake County and deepen the impact of the program on life skill development through the creation of a non-mounted competitive events team.  Methods: In 2015, twelve senior aged 4-H youth met weekly to study anatomy, biology, nutrition, reproduction, genetics, and business leadership as it relates to the horse industry. Youth participated in field trips, met with industry leaders, and put on a horse show as an educational and fundraising exercise. Through these activities they honed their decision making and public speaking skills. The youth competed in three state level competitive events offered through Florida 4-H and the Department of Animal Science. The teams from Lake County won first and second place in the State Horse Judging Contest, first place in Hippology, and first in Quizbowl.  The teams went on to compete in Judging and Quizbowl at the Regional and National levels. Results: Team members reported improved confidence speaking in front of an audience, improved decision making skills, and gains in STEM related knowledge. According to a study by Nash and Sant (2005) the skills learned through participation on 4-H teams have a positive impact on the development of skills related to the work place. Conclusion: Participation in non-mounted competitive horse events will continue to be promoted in 2016 and beyond as an excellent way to reach youth by combining interesting subject matter with effective methods for life skill development.
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