All year long, riders practice to compete in the annual 4-H Regional Horse Show. This year’s show was co-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 Fair grounds in Northampton, MA July 7 through July 9.
The two also co-lead the 4-H Horse Cavalry Club, which has 12 active members. “This was my club growing up, from when I was eight, until I was 19,” said Wainscott, when she aged out of 4-H. The club was formed in 1956. She has been her old club’s leader for six years. “I joined in 1988 and my mom [Linda Jones] 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, which occur during winter when it’s too challenging to trailer horses to meetings. 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 owned two mini horses, Shady Lady and a 30 year old gelding, named Yankee. She inherited her horse fever from her mother, Amanda, who grew up with horses.
Maddy has retired Ricki from performing in horse shows, as he was shown a lot when he was younger, before she owned him, and had had enough of it. His burnout manifested itself by his behavior in the show ring. He became very irritable, not his usual amiable, bombproof self. He prefers being part of the monthly cavalry group, where there is less pressure, and fewer horses.
Maddy learns leadership skills and does a lot of community service, brings baskets to veterans and items to dog shelters. Plus, members hand deliver baskets to specific families in need at Thanksgiving. She is working this summer at Southwick based Whalley Computer Associates.
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.
Her horse, 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 Maddy 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 starting fires through 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, working summer jobs and have aged out. She needs six to do a drill performance. 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 4th overall with her horse Monami in the youth division during the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge, held at Eastern State Exposition Center June 15 to 17.
She has trained three mustangs. For this round, Nobes traveled to New Jersey to pick up her horse. The young trainers have approximately 100 days to gentle or train their wild horses, then bring 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 6th. Both Nevada, in 2016, and Monami, this year, placed 3rd in the Freestyle event, which is a dance routine with props and music. Nobes adopted out Monami at this year’s event.