Friday, October 21, 2011

Horse Sweat, Dirt and Memories

I'm scrolling through my Facebook posts and see one from my girls' former 4-H Youth Agent Gina Wills, now the agent in New Albany—Union County.  She congratulates her youth and brags on their accomplishments.  We know her work is not 9 to 5 when she writes, "me and a load of goats are almost home from state fair.."

I think that my grown children have some of their best characteristics today because they were involved in 4-H.  We took a lot of kidding from those who didn't understand exactly what we were doing.   My son, Jason, especially got teased by his coaches and fellow players.

We were involved in the horse program. I served as the volunteer leader for the Young Riders horse program for 10 years.  It didn't just teach the kids how to show, groom and ride a horse. They learned valuable life lessons that are part of everyday living. They cried over an animal's death, and they made decisions when thinking about getting a new animal.

When Jason did a poster for National 4-H week, he wasn't just making a poster. He was learning how to structure a speech, how to make something look visibly appealing, how to talk in front of an audience with confidence. When he did a record on dog care, he learned how to document and record data.

We had some of the best times of their childhood days, traveling to shows, making friends with other horse people. The mamas learned how to drive one-ton trucks, hook and unhook trailers, and do what it took to get the job done. One of my friend's daughters piped up saying, "My mama can drive a truck and trailer with four horses and eat a cheeseburger at the same time."  I guess that was our version of "distracted driving," but we really were careful and safe.

You haven't lived until you spend the night in a hotel with a bunch of giggly girls who have to go to bed so that can be up early to  work their horses, get dressed, and hit the show ring.  It usually fell to me to get up in the dark and feed. Many fights and nasty words have been said trying the get their hair in a neat "horseshow bun."

They thought of ways to torture me and make me cry before we left each show.  When you're tired, it doesn't take much. 

Junior judgers Christin Hancock, fellow blogger Kara Givens (, Olivia Patterson and Andrea Slocum.

Along the way they learned to be responsible for their animals, to learn to win as well as lose graciously. They had to use judgement and back up their opinions with fact when they were members of the judging team or horse bowl team.

When my oldest daughter got the high school science, her teacher said, "I love 4-H students. They do the best science projects. They are good, and the kids know how to defend their ideas."

My youngest daughter stayed with it longer than the others. She seemed to find her confidence there.  Let me tell you, it is not fun to stay in a living quarters trailer the size of a small kitchen table with a know-it-all teenager.  Those days were hot, dirty, exhausting and crazy fun.

Thanks to Gina, Julia and Sandy for the memories. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

PS:  My dad was one of my judging team coaches, and thanks to my Youth Agent Jimmy McLain, maybe I turned out half as good as the kids did.

Judging team, Andrea Slocum, Hayley Patterson, Geri Wills and David Slocum.


  1. Nancy, we have traveled some roads with these 4-H kids. I have enjoyed it so much. Packing kids into a hotel suite for horse bowl the next day, hauling horses and kids to shows, getting Sara ready for the show the next day, those are sweet memories. Thanks so much for being a good example, you left big shoes to fill when you turned the club over to me many years ago. I have loved every minute of it.

  2. And you have lasted longer than I did! Thanks for reading.

  3. I LOVE this! Thanks for sharing! Kara