4-H events start with horse show

Published 12:11 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2011

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Countless horse enthusiasts have grown up in the 4-H program, and that tradition continues in Mower County with good reason. Students learn, and they have a lot of fun.

More than 30 4-H riders participated in Tuesday night’s horse fun show. Riders received awards for last Saturday’s feats before the show started, so Tuesday was all about fun. The show featured riders’ abilities, horses’ responsiveness and overall horse and rider ability.

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Many locals have participated in the 4-H horse events for years, and some have even gone on to the state fair multiple times.

“It’s just fun to get somewhere now, and just the experience,” said Megan Mullenbach, a 16-year-old from Adams who has been in the 4-H horse club since fourth grade. Megan can’t pinpoint one aspect about riding horses or 4-H that keeps her interested, but that doesn’t concern her.

“I don’t know how I really got into it,” Mullenbach said. “But I started liking it, and I just enjoy it.”

Mullenbach is like many other locals. She grew up in her sisters’ footsteps, as they, too, competed in 4-H horse events.

In fact, many 4-H-ers can’t always explain why they’re so glued to Mower County’s 4-H horse projects, but part of their commitment may stem from the sense of accomplishment they get.

“It teaches them responsibility,” said Suzanne Decker of Grand Meadow, mother of two 4-H students. “I think it teaches them compassion and good sportsmanship.”

Decker’s daughters Olivia,12, and Emily, 10, grew up with horses before they could even remember.

Tuesday night, they both received awards for their good work in the riding ring last Saturday. Then they had fun in the ring afterward, as the horse fun show is strictly for fun.

But awards aside and contests aside, introducing kids to the 4-H horse club at a young age challenges them. Decker said the students have to talk to judges, work with other members to clean out stalls, learn safety and assume other responsibilities. Many of the kids enter 4-H shy, but the events socialize them well.

Furthermore, they join a community of horse enthusiasts and leaders they will grow with for years to come.

Lynette Wradislavsky has been Mower County’s 4-H horse project leader for nearly 20 years. She has seen countless students come through the program, and she has watched some for as many as 10 years on their educational journeys.

“My best experience with this is probably the first year kids come in … and to see how far they’ve come,” Wradislavsky said.

She is among a list of former 4-H members who can’t give up the tradition.

“I was a 4-H horse project kid, too,” Wradislavsky said. “I come back because I’m a 4-H kid at heart.”

Wradislavsky has been helping with this year’s event since Saturday, Aug. 6, and continued with more events Wednesday morning. 4-H members completed their horse gaming events, including barrels poles and jumping. Several of Mower’s 4-H members will be advancing to the Minnesota State Fair in competitions later this month, including Olivia and Mullenbach.

For now, however, area equestrians are soaking in the rest of the Mower County fair, which ends Sunday, Aug. 14.