9-year-old Hannah Kelson, of Ninilchik, prepares to enter the ring with her horse, Nikki, during the Kenai Invitational and 4-H Horse Show at the Kenai Peninsula State Fairgrounds in Ninilchik on Saturday.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Equine enthusiasts saddled up for some good times Saturday morning during the Kenai Invitational and 4-H Horse Show at the Kenai Peninsula State Fairgrounds in Ninilchik.
"This is mostly to allow kids to demonstrate what they've learned throughout the year," said 4-H leader Shirley Schollenberg of the competition which included events in showmanship, halter, bareback English and western equitation, English and Western pleasure, trail, hunter over fences and judges commands.
Throughout the year the riders attended 4-H meetings, camps and events to learn a variety of horse-related subjects, and these subjects are divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced tiers, Schollenberg said.
Above, 9-year-old Hannah Kelson, of Ninilchik, prepares to enter the ring with her horse, Nikki, during the Kenai Invitational and 4-H Horse Show at the Kenai Peninsula State Fairgrounds in Ninilchik on Saturday. Below, Courtney Stroh of Kalifornsky Beach brushes her horse, Topanga, one last time before going before the judge Saturday.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
"They start out with learn basic horse care, such as how to feed and groom. Then they move up to more complex things such as how to saddle and bridle, how to select good hay and given the proper vaccinations. The advanced kids learn to do flying lead changes and other technical things," she said, referring to when a child demonstrates they can get a horse loping and leading with the right leg to change directions and lead with the left leg. Flying lead changes can improve a horse's athletic ability, speed and agility. It also is an essential skill for those participating in barrel racing and some other horse sports.
"It's a very technical thing to learn," she said.
The riders take written and riding tests to demonstrate they have a clear understanding of the concepts and have mastered the unique skills of each tier before they move up the ranks to the next one.
"The goal is for them to move up the ladder," she said.
During Saturday's event, kids and their horses demonstrated their skills to a judge, and then the judge gave them feedback on what they did well and what they needed to work on more.
"It's learning by doing," Schollenberg said.
Despite that many of the riders were there to show what they knew by riding on an animal that was almost pure muscle and weighed as much as 1,000 pounds more than them, some said the most frightening aspect of the day was being gawked at by the people in the stands.
"I'm very nervous," said 15-year-old Kailey Mucha of Soldotna, "With everybody looking at me, it's so different from riding with my friends out my back door.
Mucha said that while Saturday's event was the first time she, or her horse, had entered the ring for competition, she calmed her nerves by taking solace in the fact that she was no rookie to riding.
"I've been riding for about four or five years. I have a good relationship with my horse and she's a good horse. She knows what to do," she said.
Kelli Stroh, down from the Kalifornsky Beach Road area, said her 11-year-old daughter, Courtney, gleaned much from her six years participating in the programs.
"It's taught her a lot. It's a lot of responsibility to care for an animal, and owning a horse and cleaning out the barn every day is a lot of work, so she's outside instead of indoors playing video games," she said.
Courtney agreed. "I have to brush her every day, give her baths, check her feet and check for wounds," she said.
In addition the relationship forged by spending so much time with her horse, Stroh said her daughter has developed a good social network by communication with others who share her passion for pasture dwellers.
"She goes to meetings and makes friends and they talk horses," she said.
As to what Courtney gets out of the meetings besides knowledge and friends, she said, "I learn to be the best I can be at whatever I'm doing horse riding, cooking, sewing, whatever."
Joseph Robertia can be reached at email@example.com.
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