The Gadsden County 4H Saddle Club youth have been very busy so far this year. The club meets at least once per month to plan events, learn about horses, fundraise, strengthen leadership skills and perform community service.
The Saddle Club program teaches the youth about working hard toward a goal and the importance of preparation. It also teaches them the hard lesson of disappointment, as nearly every child leaves the ring at some point with bruises to their bodies or bruises to their feelings.
Through all that, there is no better feeling than watching the moment of triumph when they exit the ring with a ribbon, make their horse wade through a creek for the first time, or see them look into the eyes of their horse and witness the unspoken communication between partners. These are not participation trophies handed out to everyone at the end of the season; these lessons are real blood, sweat and tears, earned the old-fashioned way.
In April, club members participated in the Area A District horse show in Jackson County. A total of seven youth showed at this event. Disciplines of training were varied and included western pleasure, English, dressage, speed events, halter classes, showmanship and trail classes. Every one of the youth accomplished something, whether they had a ribbon to show for it or not.
One young lady qualified to go to the State horse show for the first time, another showed her three-year-old horse for the first time in a horse show, and others tried new events for the first time and were successful.
The Area A show qualifies youth who earn enough points to go on to the State horse show in Tampa, where there are more than 300 competitors from around the state. Our Saddle Club was proud to send four youth to compete at the show. Those that participated were Ashley King, Trey Smith, Natasha Manos and Brianna Carter. They did not disappoint!
Natasha Manos and her horse, Taffy, were incredible, returning to Gadsden County with a ribbon in each of their events. Three first places, a third and a fifth. In addition, she earned two High Point awards and one Reserve High Point award.
Trey Smith and his horse, Whiskey, competed in the senior division and earned enough points to qualify him to go to the Regional show in Louisiana at the end of July.
Ashley King, has ridden and competed for years with the club. She earned an 8th place finish in Showmanship, with over 30 other competitors. She is a testament to the Gadsden County 4H Saddle club program. While we are sad that our time with her is over, we confidently send her on her way to college, knowing that she is ready.
Collectively, this year’s team earned the Reserve High Point Award for Florida Small Counties. To put it in perspective, remember that only four youth competed against 300 total and there are 67 counties in Florida.
So if you see us holding a car wash, selling concessions or riding at the agricultural center arena, stop by and support these youth. They are for real.
4-H is open to all youth, ages 5-18, determined as of September 1 of the current 4-H program year and open to all counties in the State of Florida. 4-H serves youth from all backgrounds and interests. It reaches both boys and girls through 4-H clubs, special – interest groups and short – term projects, school-age child care, individual and family learning and mentoring, camping and school enrichment. To find out more, call the 4H office at 850-875-7262.
Accepting the Reserve High Point Award for Small Counties, left to right: Natasha Manos, Trey Smith, Ashley King and Brianna Carter.
Erica Taylor and her horse Evermore at the Area A show.
Ashley King and her horse Cody at the Area A show.