All year long, riders practice to compete in the annual 4-H Regional Horse Show. This year’s show was coordinated by Kelli Wainscott of Chesterfield, MA and Krissy Przybyla of Chester, MA. It is their second year coordinating the show — the biggest in the state — with riders from all over the northeast held at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton, MA July 7 through July 9.
The two also lead the 4-H Horse Cavalry Club that has 12 active members. “This was my club growing up, from when I was eight until I was 19,” said Wainscott. The club was formed in 1956. She has been her old club’s leader for six years. “I joined in 1988 and my mom became the leader of it, so it was kind of passed down.”
Hailing from Chesterfield, Leverett, Southwick and Blandford, MA, the 12 riders each own their own horse and trailer them to Wainscott’s ranch for horse activities and monthly meetings. They learn basic horse care, safety and attend workshops on horse anatomy and advanced horse care.
Each rider has a different riding discipline and most compete in horse shows, contests and horse bowls. Members competed in the costume class during July’s regional show.
Blandford resident Maddy LaBrecque has been a 4-H Horse Cavalry member for four years and a member of 4-H for 11 years. She rides her buckskin pony gelding, Ricki, that she has owned for eight years. She also owns two mini horses: Shady Lady and a 30-year-old gelding named Yankee. She inherited her horse fever from her mother who grew up with horses.
She has retired Ricki from performing in horse shows as he was shown a lot when he was younger before she owned him. In his youth, he won a lot of trail courses.
“Horses can get burned out,” said her mother. His burnout manifested itself by his behavior in the show ring. He became very irritable, not his usual amiable and bombproof self. He prefers being part of the monthly cavalry group, where there is less pressure and less horses.
Maddy learns leadership skills and does a lot of community service, bringing baskets to veterans and items to dog shelters. Plus, members hand deliver baskets to specific families in need at Thanksgiving. As the 4-H Horse Cavalry Club has meetings every month, all the members and their families have become very dear to each other. “I love that we’re a family,” said LaBrecque.
Ricki has also benefited. “I’ve learned more companionship skills with him and that it takes time to build up to a certain goal,” she said. As she turns 18 this September, she has one more year in 4-H. As a senior member, she will assist her 4-H leader, Kelli, with newcomers and paperwork, such as updating their records.
Another 4-H leader, Anne Blizniak, has been 4-H leader of the Belchertown, MA based 4-H Horse and Community Service Club for six years. She also combines teaching about horses and community service. “We don’t try to promote winning all your blue ribbons. We promote community service,” said Blizniak who volunteers at the UMASS Amherst 4-H office alongside 4-H Educator Tom Waskiewicz.
Like many other 4-H clubs performing community service, they assist in a food drive for the Survival Center in North Amherst, MA and gather items for Roadtrip for Rags, a shelter in the Worcester area. “Sometimes kids volunteer on school vacations at a church or working for the homeless,” said Blizniak. For riding, her riders trailer their horses to Dufresne Park in Granby, MA where she teaches drill maneuvers on horseback to the team that lead up to a drill performance.
Her riders practice for a springtime Visual Presentation, where they present a horse related topic for 10 minutes in front of an audience. This spring, a member gave a presentation on barn fires, covering electrical currents to fire extinguishers.
They complete 4-H records where they keep track and record their progress with their animal, including how much time they have spent working with them, how much money they’ve spent and the progress of the animal. Some of them are members of multiple 4-H Clubs.
What happens, though, is that all 4-H kids grow up. This year, most of Blizniak’s team are seniors, graduating from high school and working summer jobs. She needs six to do a drill performance. “They are all working after school is out,” said Blizniak. However, three of her members competed in the 4-H Regional Horse Show and the Cobleskill Quarterhorse Show in New York.
One member, Lindsey Nobes from Granby, MA also belongs to the Amherst based Tally Ho 4-H Club and the Hadley based Pioneer Valley Horse Fever 4-H Club. She just won fourth overall with her horse Monami in the youth division during the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge held at Eastern State Exposition Center in June. According to the extrememakeover.com website, it is the Mustang Heritage Foundation (MHF)’s mission to increase the adoption numbers of the over 47,000 wild horses held in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) corrals and pastures. Since 2007, 7,500 mustangs have been adopted through MHF’s efforts.
Nobes has trained three mustangs. In the past, the mustang pickup site was Crimson Acres in Orange, MA, arranged by the farm’s owner. This year’s event host was Peter Whitmore. For this round, Nobes traveled to New Jersey to pick up her mustang. The young trainers have approximately 100 days to gentle or train their wild horses before bringing them to the competition. If the young trainer cannot keep the mustang, they must find a BLM approved adopter to adopt the mustang. The first year, Nobes sold her mustang at the auction held during extreme makeover. She kept last year’s mustang, named Nevada who had placed sixth. Both Nevada, in 2016, and Monami, this year, placed third in the Freestyle event.