| Instructing local students while strengthening the relationship between rider and equine |
The location may have changed, but the enthusiasm and excitement that happens each summer for students in the Florida 4-H Horsemanship School never dwindles. From June 9-14 (for Western Riding) and June 23-28 (for English Riding) of this year, students ages 11-18 leave the comforts of home to learn different aspects of horseback riding during two separate weeks at the UF Horse Teaching Unit in Gainesville. [emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]
The students learn not just about the many characteristics of Western and/or English horseback riding but also learn how to keep their horses healthy and understand themselves more as experienced horse riders (and eventually horse owners).
The school first began in the 1980s, broken up between two camps in the Welaka State Forest and in the Panhandle. Welaka soon became the primary place for the School until issues with the conditions of the camp’s facility led to the move to the UF Teaching Unit in 2012.
Students are required to be established 4-H Club members and must be able to saddle their own horse for lessons throughout the weeklong program. Horses must also be well broke, at least five years old, as well as be able to handle the lessons and being around other horses.
The 4-H Horsemanship School is separated into two categories of riding:
Western, where students learn horsemanship, ranch, trail, and speed riding.
And English, where they are taught hunt seat, dressage and gaited riding.
Students get to participate in morning and evening mounted classes each day while also having daily lessons in a classroom to learn more about the nutrition, anatomy, and basic characteristics of owning a horse. Guest speakers are also invited to talk more at length about equine management and care.
The school concludes for the week with a trail ride and a demonstration of each student’s horsemanship, favorite activities for the riders.
Although the program is focused most on strengthening the horsemanship skills of the students, Dr. Saundra TenBroeck, state extension horse specialist at the University of Florida, sees that if anything it is about becoming more comfortable and involved with one’s horse.
Since she joined the 4-H Horsemanship School, she has seen several former students come back as instructors or to help in some way as enterprising horsemen and women.
The school draws most from the principles of the 4-H Pledge, encouraging students to develop a loving and understanding bond with their horse while also being committed to helping the needs of their horse and their fellow students.
As the school is set to start in the next few weeks, plans are already under way for next summer’s program, which will include a possible move back to the Welaka campground. “HTU is nice but can only accommodate 20 participants per week,” Dr. TenBroeck explains. “We may be able to go back to Welaka if the barns are repaired, so we can have more students from all the counties in Florida.”
story by BLAIR TOWNLEY