An Autumn Ride

\"\"This past weekend, Wee\’s 4-H equine club kicked off another year and we held an introductory ride, barbecue and first meeting here. The entire grand day reminded me that this old log house has likely been witness to more than one such event over the past 30 years, for previous to our family, lived another with a 4-H mom and leader. I love the idea of lingering traditions, so we\’re happy to keep this one up.

\"\"It reminded me also of finding this sign sometime after we moved in, tangled and long buried in the tall grass of the ditch, likely having been mowed over by an overzealous grader or snow plow driver. We revived it\’s lease on life and it now hangs on our garage, announcing a 4-H family still lives here.

\"\"Roger is Wee\’s cutting horse, and we saddled him up for a new member who hasn\’t quite found her own horse yet. True to the 4-H creed, the older members helped the new members get on with it.

\"\"It was a perfect day for a ride, and the horses all seemed willing and content.

\"\"Actually, I think everyone had fun . . . especially Tucker!

\"\"Wee and Blue returned a little worse for the wear, one for perhaps indulging a little too heavily on the abundant pastures of early fall, and the other for staying up too late the night prior. I couldn\’t be too critical, she did get up early to bake and ice two sets of cupcakes!

\"\"After the ride, the inevitable pre-group shot chaos ensued. Can we all get a little tighter please?

\"\"The bay horse on the left, can we have the bay horse on the left turned around, please?

\"\"Finally, success. Until I counted heads and two were missing!

The day got me to thinking on the big picture of 4-H, especially Equine 4-H. We talk a lot about this at my 4-H circles – events, lessons and meetings. I wonder how the scene and membership numbers compares to say 20 or even 30 or 40 years ago.

I found a few stats on the Canadian 4-H Council website, dating back to 2008-2009. In the five year span from then until now equine club membership has dropped 12%. It\’s an expected drop I suppose, not as much as some of the other ag-centric 4-H projects (Beef membership, for instance has dropped 25%), but a drop all the same.

Later, as we watched the last of the trailers pull out of the yard and I had a chance to give Wee a big hug of pure happiness, I couldn\’t help but get the obvious point – how much fun kids can have when you offer up a setting that\’s relaxing and low-stress. Fill them up with an equal balance of healthy food and sugar, and give them a big open space to run it all off with a game of man-tracker, and a backroad to ride down, and I defy your heart not to sing by the end of the day.

Would love to hear your reminiscences on the 4-H of your youth, and what it looked like then, for you, and what it meant to you, as a member, or parent.


2 thoughts on “An Autumn Ride”

  1. Ingrid, another awesome picture story! Our family has been involved in 4H for three generations and continues on. Why? I, for one, believe it is a beautiful way to send caring, community-conscious youngsters out into the real world. Membership has certainly changed – in our area, 4H has gone from largely farm and ranch families, to more urbanized members. The price tag on the necessary horsepower has gone up – and I’ve sat my way through some pretty contentious meetings on everything from allowing pee-wee members to starting a rodeo club, a stock dog club, and what to do about helmets. The way I see it, 4H stands alone amongst our need to compete and specialize and win in today’s horse world. I love that no matter what, my kid has to learn to speak publicly, to write a speech, to run a meeting, to meet a deadline, to go to the old-folks home and sing at Christmas, to pick up garbage in the ditches, to go to summer camp, to help younger kids out, to share, to take part in the lip-synch contest and decorate stalls at 4H On Parade, to cry when the steer goes Grand Champion at the show and sale – and to persevere and show up, even when we have the flu at Achievement Day. 4H has always been about learning “to do while doing” – and in our modern world of playing make-believe games and dealing with others in cyber-space – I pray that it can teach generations to come all about the value of a good “head, health, heart and hands”. When our daughter was in 4H, her club had the honour of having the largest percentage of high school students in any club in the province. As parents, we all agreed that the value of 4H had changed for us by then; no longer were we as interested in getting our children riding, but we were keen to keep in touch with our teenagers’ lives and to give them a skill set and self-worth that no amount of bullying or peer-pressure could knock sideways throughout their years in high school. When all was said and done, I think of our time in 4H and I feel nothing but gratitude.

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