Equine education

4-H is more than just hay and horses but there was a whole lot of that going on this Saturday and Sunday at the Saddle Tramps Achievement Day.

For two days, students of the local 4-H equine club performed in front of friends, family, judges and coaches to show off all they've learned this season.

"We've all worked very hard this season and this is kind of our grande finale," said Saddle Tramps trainer Christine Painter, who hosted the event at her own ranch on the outskirts of town.

"This is a bit different than a horse show in the fact that you aren't judged against each other, you are judged on yourself and how you achieve through the year," explained Painter.

As with other 4-H groups, a variety of requirements must be met before members are able to move onto other units and skill sets. This past weekend riders were tested in a series of events, such as grooming, showmanship, halter trail, riding units, reining and rodeo.

A member advances to the next unit when he or she has displayed satisfactory halter, showmanship and equitation proficiency. Requiring them all to learn, from hoof to tail, the proper means to horse handling and riding. Furthermore, as levels go higher, members can branch out to more specific classes, such as reining, jumping or rodeo, according to Painter.

"In my mind all these kids have totally achieved. They have nailed everything," stated Painter who began instructing the group in March, holding weekly practices and special monthly clinics to bring them to this point.

The lessons learned over the course of the season reach far beyond mounting a horse, by also preparing the members to be stand-up citizens in and out of the riding pen.

"It's a good thing as a whole these kids have to do everything," describes Painter. "It's not just about the horses, we are building people too. Along with everything you do to become a stronger competitor."

Senior riders (ages 12 and up) Mercedes Dufour and Emma Lee say Saddle Tramps has helped them prepare for their future, with or without horse in tow.

"It's a good thing for any young horse rider to enter because it has a lot of good qualities to learn as a teenager or a child," said Lee, who is in her third year with the club.

"I think it will definitely help me in the future, whether it be college or getting a job. 4-H is definitely a big part of what I do and it has definitely helped me with that," she said.

"I just love riding so it's the place to be if you love it," adds Dufour.

Both her and Lee show jump, rein, and ride English equitation and Western Pleasure at shows throughout the region. They were just two riders of the senior class at Achievement Day that also included Helene Mielke, Natasha Arnold and Sarah Pringle.

Junior riders (ages 12 and under) were Avery Gaucher, Kaylan Gaucher, Makenna Biegel, Kenndel Borek, Emma Casey, Taylor Harris, Ethan Donkersley, Georgia Vandenborre, Cassidy McKale and Heather Pringle. Cloverbuds (8 and under) Lily Hauber and Emma Painter and Pre-Cloverbud Caiden Ditchfield also rode.

Painter feels there is a bale full of opportunities for these young members to take advantage of as the Tramps look to grow their group, noting college scholarships as something riders can pursue through their involvement.

"We definitely want to grow," she says. "This club will look a whole lot different in five to ten years. People are seeing what we are doing here and want to be a part of it next year and years to come."

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