“The wise speak only of what they know” ― J.R.R. Tolkien
Congratulations to the 2022 Oregon 4-H Horse Judging Team on winning 5th place out of 20 State teams at Nationals
While there is no substitute for practical experience in the horse world, I am a great advocate for expanding your knowledge and expertise through book learning. In Pony Club the study of horsemanship is a mandatory aspect of advancement through the levels. Unfortunately, participation in the knowledge based contests is voluntary in 4-H, however it is available for those who choose to take advantage of it. I highly recommend either of these programs for kids who are passionate about pursuing a life with horses as they both provide a solid foundation on which to build.
As a family, we have always recognized the value of these learning opportunities. Over the course of her 4-H career my daughter, Rachael, was privileged to represent her County in the Knowledge based contests at the State and National level. She won a number of awards; however, the most valuable take away that she received from these experiences was the growth in her level of confidence and competency as a horsewoman.
For those not lucky enough to have participated in either of these programs, there are still plenty of opportunities for expanding your horse knowledge. And, while it is possible to work in the equine industry without one, I would highly recommend pursuing some sort of qualification if that is your goal.
After completing high school, I took a gap year and traveled through the UK and Europe while I tried to decide what to do with my life. All I had ever wanted to do was ride, but realistically knew that I wasn’t good enough to ride professionally. I was however descended from generations of teachers and, happily, had inherited those genes. In a phone call with my mom one day, she suggested I start my own riding school - you have to love the wisdom of moms - and thus was the next phase of my life set in motion.
In South Africa, nationally recognized instructor certifications are obtained through the South African National Equestrian Federation (SANEF). So, after returning home, I enrolled in the program and spent a year studying for my Certificate of Horsemastership and Preliminary Riding Instruction Level 1. The study material was extensive - including both theoretical and practical elements - and after completing the course I was far better equipped to do my prospective students justice.
It is easy, when you have obtained a level of competency, to rest on your laurels and stop learning. But as Tolkien so rightly put it, “True education is a kind of never ending story — a matter of continual beginnings, of habitual fresh starts, of persistent newness.” So, after immigrating to the States in 2000, I went “back to school” to earn my North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) Registered Level Instructor Certification so that I would be better equipped to teach students with disabilities.
Recently, I was privileged to accompany our States Horse Judging Team to the Nationals competition in Kentucky. Watching these girls use the knowledge and skills they had worked so hard to develop was amazing. They judged 8 classes in 3 hours - Classes ranging from breed specific, to English and Western performance. They had no idea what types of breeds or classes they would be facing beforehand. And without the benefit of a scribe, they were required to keep an eagle eye on the class while still making detailed notes. After the judging portion was over, they were then asked to give oral reasons for their order of placement in four of the eight classes - before 4 professional judges! This required an extensive vocabulary of technical terminology and thorough knowledge of breed/performance horse characteristics - All in all a daunting task for any show ring judge.
I have tremendous respect for what these girls accomplished, not just because they placed 5th, but because they were there by choice. No one forced them to participate in the local county level competitions. No one made them put in the hours of study required to acquit themselves well (ok, maybe their coach had a little to do with that:), but each of these girls saw the value in learning more about a subject which they are passionate about, and pursued the opportunities presented to them to do so.
I hope that I never loose my motivation to do likewise.
A tribute to Nova Prince-Kelly, Benton County's Nationals Team Coach - if teams truly reflect the talent and dedication of their coaches then yours did you proud.