It takes a lot of work to have horses in Alaska. But, hard work paid off recently at the National 4-H Western Roundup held in Denver, Colorado when a 4-H team from Nikiski known as the “Northwind Riders” amazed their competition and trotted away with 4th Place National Honors at the Horse Bowl competition. According to team member Makayla Derkevorkian the Horse Bowl is an educational project, in which 4-H’ers learn many aspects of the horse and how to work as a team member. Participants enhance their study skills by using selected reference materials. Topics include equine anatomy, conformation, feed and nutrition, evolution, breed characteristics, reproduction, horse management, way-of-going, tack and equipment, styles of riding and the exhibition of horses. “Kids gather from all over the country to compete in different events and the Horse Bowl was our event and its run similar to a college quiz bowl and the first to buzz in and answer correctly gets the point,” said Derkevorkian.
The Northwind Riders team included Penelope Litzen, Chena Litzen and Emma Osimowicz along with Derkevorkian and Coach Geri Litzen who told the Dispatch, “I can’t say enough about what the Horse Classic experience can offer to our youths. They are challenged with absorbing so many difficult and technical pieces of information encompassing all aspects of the equine world. As a coach I have been privileged to watch these kids add layer upon layer to their knowledge base, and gain confidence as they go. The contest is amazing because it offers youth an unusual chance to work very hard at something without seeing an immediate payoff. They study each and every day, and I’m so impressed at their inner motivation which drives them on. Going outside of Alaska and meeting the other youths and coaches gave us a lot of perspective for our levels of horsemanship here in our state. It also showed us that we are making great use of the resources we have available, while inspiring us to go back and share this contest opportunity with as many people as possible. I’m so proud of the way our team represented our state, doing an excellent job in the competition, showing great sportsmanship in every match, and leaving a lot of new friends behind as they headed back home,” she said.
To earn the right to compete nationally the Northwind Riders first had to win at the state level. “The state competition is held in a different district of Alaska each year and this spring the 4-H Youth Horse Contest will be held here on the Kenai Peninsula the weekend of April 11th at the Kenai Peninsula College. It’s really a lot of fun, you study and learn a lot and it’s very rewarding when it comes time to be looking for college scholarships. I hope to continue with college rodeo after high school,” said Derkevorkian.