Special bond: Horses, kids and 4-H

Ever since the first little kids came to our farm and asked to ride, I have been aware that there is a special bond between children and their horses. It’s amazing how unafraid many can be, even the first time they get close to a horse. We were told about a little girl, and her brother, whose parents had taken them to see a real horse. The little girl reached out to the horse and wanted to pet it, while her brother, a little older, went in the opposite direction, not wanting to get near it. That girl has ended up coming to ride at our farm since she turned 10. She’s in college now, and her name is Sarah.

Most of the children who have come to our farm to ride have been girls. One little girl got on a horse, petted it, and even walked under it when she was only about three years old. She did not have a bit of fear of that huge animal standing in the middle of the aisle at our barn. I was there when she won her first ribbon in a horse show at Hilliard Fairground. The amazing part was that after she was all finished with her horse, and had hung up the ribbon she had won, she wanted to walk around and look inside all of the other stalls that had show horses in them. I watched this little, then five years old, as she studied each and every one of the horses. I don’t know what she was thinking, but her manner made me think of the way you see judges act when they are judging 4-H exhibit.

Soon, I will be leaving to go to the barn to see some new children I haven’t met. They are having some kind of a “ride-out.” I decided I should do a “walk through” to see what’s going on that’s new to me. The kids and their horses who come to ride are brought there by their parents. If George doesn’t get there early enough, the driveway will be full, leaving no room for him to park. I thought I could eliminate that problem by getting a sign that says, “Reserved for George.” It never did get put up.

On hot days, it surprises me that the inside of the barn is cooler than almost anywhere else. Several years ago, a woman had a big birthday party for her old Standardbred horse at our barn. She brought a big arch made with colorful balloons for the make-shift horse stall for that day, lots of food, and a decorated cake for the party for her 35-year-old horse. I thought I would just drop by, but when I got there, it was the coolest place I had been all day. So, I stayed and listened to all the horse enthusiasts standing around and telling their horse stories about the oldest horse each of them had ever known. The birthday horse’s name was “Grandma.”

After writing the above, I went over to see all the kids who showed up to ride. They were aged from 8 to 17 years. These kids are members of 4-H, and their leader, Naomi, is a licensed instructor for both 4-H and riding. The work that is going on now is in preparation for this year’s Delaware County Fair. Naomi’s children, Sidney and Trent, were there with their older sister, Kora, who is a lot of help for them. Besides being a very good rider of horses, Cora can ride a Pogo stick that we have at the barn, without using her hands to balance herself. We think it comes from her riding bareback a lot, and that gives her the muscles to be able to control the pogo stick that way.

There was a total of 11 children who showed up to ride. One, who had only been there to ride by herself before, came this time and got to ride with the big pack of 10 others. Her name is Alex. As they all finished, and came leading their horses through the barn, I asked each one if they were having a good time. 100 percent answered with a big smile “yes.” What a thrill to see such enthusiasm! It’s always a great sight to see the smiles on the faces of the riders when they have succeeded in getting the horse to perform correctly in any of the classes where they are shown. And, also when they win a ribbon, no matter what color it is.

I don’t want to leave out a couple of teens named Mattie and Tristen, who are also in 4-H and taking lessons in preparation for showing at the Delaware County Fair. Some children who were there are considered “ship in’s” because they don’t keep their horses at our farm, but have to bring them from home for every lesson. When our younger daughter was in 4-H, she had to take her horse to every meeting. When George had to hitch the horse trailer to his truck, and load and unload the horse for the meeting, then have the lesson, and then load the horse again, haul It back home and unhitch the trailer after unloading her horse, I used to think how much easier it would have been if she a was showing a chicken.

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Kay Conklin

Contributing columnist

Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.