Last year, more than 4,000 youth participated in the Florida 4-H Horse Project. These youth would have never had the opportunity to learn horsemanship and leadership skills without horse project volunteers. Project leaders not only work with 4-H clubs, they often serve on committees to help plan and implement shows and other horse related events. In the Florida panhandle, twenty-three volunteers comprise the Area A 4-H Horse Advisory Committee. These volunteers plan and execute our district qualifying show (coming up this weekend in Marianna) as well as assist with the state horse show in Tampa. They also plan other horse project related events such as horse judging, showmanship clinics, nutrition seminars, 4-H Hippology and Horse Quiz Bowl.
“The Area A Horse Committee Volunteers are some of the most dedicated volunteers I have ever met,” shares Heather Kent, the regional 4-H agent. “Many of them have witnessed first-hand the potential of the 4-H horse program to help youth learn lifelong leadership and communication skills and they share a legacy of caring and compassion that influences every youth they work with.”
Terry Stout is one of those volunteers. Terry states, “I grew up in 4-H and FFA and when my daughters were old enough, they joined the Eglin Riding Stables 4-H Club to learn how to groom and care for their horses. 4-H was a large influence on them and now that they are alumni, they give back by teaching and helping the next generation of horse kids. I have learned a lot as a volunteer, and I am involved on many advisory boards because I know I can help most by being a voice for youth and other volunteers.”
Anne Peterson, a 4-H volunteer from Escambia County, says “I became involved with 4-H when my daughter was 10 years old. I have always wanted to protect our youth and see that they receive the best instruction possible for their horse project. In order to see this happen, I became involved in the local, area, and state horse program. Today I still see the need for volunteers to continue making the best better and as long as there is a need I want to help any way I can.” Anne was inducted to the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame in 2013 for her service as a volunteer.
Barry Hoffman, a Leon County volunteer, got involved in 1997 with the Trailblazers 4-H Club. Seeing a need for funds to help youth attend 4-H horse camp, Barry led a committee to organize a Horse Expo at the North Florida Fairgrounds to teach others about riding techniques, horse management, tack sales, and more. “Barry is always available to help with whatever is needed- which has even included helping me when by car broke down on the interstate on the way to a horse committee meeting. He continues to serve at the district level eleven years after his youngest son graduated from 4-H. Barry plays a major role in both the area and state horse shows, and is an incredibly valuable resource for us,” says Marcus Boston, the Leon County 4-H Agent.
Jean McMillian, a Gulf County volunteer, has been involved for more than 40 years. Roy Carter, the Gulf County Extension Director says, “Mrs. McMullian has led three generations of 4-H youth through the 4-H horse program. Her club, the Big River Riders 4-H Club, holds the county record for the longest running 4-H club and she is one of the strongest leaders we have ever had the pleasure to work with. She has been the backbone of our horse program and is always willing to help in any capacity.” Her son Russell is continuing the family tradition by being involved as the co-chair for the speed events for the area qualifying show.
Terry Harris has volunteered in both Jackson and Gadsden counties since the early 90’s, helping hundreds of youth with their horse projects. Angel Granger, the Jackson County 4-H Agent shares, “Even though his nephews are grown now, Terry continues to work tirelessly with 4-H and is a wonderful advocate for the program. We are very fortunate to have someone like him working at both the club level and serving as a member of the 4-H Area A Horse Advisory Committee.”
Lucy Notestine has been a volunteer for the last 8 years, and currently serves as the Area A Horse Advisory President. She, her daughter Shane Kenny and Dara Strickland raise over $2,000.00 each year to provide incentive awards for area horse show participants. Their 4-H Agent, Dr. Paula Davis says, “They realize that many youth are too young to advance to the state show therefore they work really hard to make the Area A Show a special event to encourage further participation and help the program grow.”
These stories have one very important thing in common- each of these volunteers has a heart for helping young people succeed. If you have a similar passion, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer. To find out how, contact your local Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org/volunteers. If you are a parent or volunteer new to the 4-H Horse Project, Angel Granger,has developed a handy checklist to help you prepare for your next show. You can download the checklist and keep it in your show box or horse trailer so that you are always prepared to do your very best. If you laminate the list, you can use a dry-erase marker to check items off each time you pack your trailer.
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