I survived another 4-H Horse Fair, my eighteenth as a horse leader. I say survived because you have to understand that there are people who take it extremely seriously, never mind that it is a bottom of the ladder, nothing-to-write-home-about horse show. It has changed dramatically over the years, my first year as a leader I had twenty-two kids in my group alone, this year, I think there were a total of twenty-two kids riding. I exaggerate, but the show has dwindled, 4-H is not as popular as it once was, and life is a constant evolution- it is what it is.
What once was strictly a 4-H show has turned into a show open to outsiders- “independents” and somewhere along the line, Grange, a 4-H-like group produced an agreement with 4-H to show. It was an effort to keep the numbers up, keep the show viable, and this year there were a few independents, and several Grange kids, yet still the show was tiny, an incestuous group of the same kids from year to year.
It was a well-managed show, if you were willing to ignore the blatant conflicts of interest. The show manager is a trainer who leads a Grange group of kids, and lo and behold, her kids were showing! Last year an entirely new division was added, walk- trot, something we had never had before in all the years of my being a leader, and whose kids do you think rode in walk-trot? If you guessed the show manager’s kids, you guessed right. I happen to think the show manager being in the arena with the judge before he’s pinned the class is a conflict of interest if you have your students riding. She’s a great show manager, but hearing her coach her kids from the rail is most assuredly out of line. Last year, a class was dropped – bareback, deemed “unsafe,” never mind that we have always had a bareback class, and no one has to ride in it if they chose not to, but the show manager is also friends with the leaders of the committee that oversees all things horse, and one of the leaders expressed that her granddaughter wasn’t comfortable riding bareback, and POOF the class was gone! It wasn’t brought back this year either, never mind that the kids wanted it brought back, voted on it, all because of an alliance that I find a little out of line…a little bit, out of line.
But I can ignore all of that. What I can’t abide is the petty, selfish, nickel-and-diming attitude of the other leaders who insist, because 4-H does the fundraising, then the awards they provide for championships and reserve championships can only go to someone from 4-H. Wait, what? So you have a show, invite people to come and pay an entry fee and compete, but if they aren’t a part of your 4-H group, well you’re not going to give them the prize they earned, deserve, and won fairly? To me it would be like having a party, inviting friends, telling your friends to please bring a guest, and then telling them their guest can’t drink the good wine or eat the good food, that there will be some chips and dip and box wine for them to drink and eat. That really is the logic and attitude of these “leaders.” They say because the Fair Board gives out ribbons and plaques, that is all any kid who is not a 4-H kid is eligible to receive. And did I mention how small the show is? How limited the competition is? My kids don’t ride Western; we’re strictly an English group that two weeks before Fair practice their Western riding, and we came home with Western Champion and Reserve Champions. So the competition is narrowed even further when you disallow the other kids from competing for the same prizes. Oh, and here’s the best part, after the awards are handed out to all participants, the 4-H kids meet at the back of a trailer to receive their (far nicer) prizes so the Grange and independent kids won’t feel bad…It’s like a drug deal going down.
“But we paid for it!” If I have to hear that one more time I think I might scream. So, you paid for it, raised the funds and bought the prizes- who gives a flying….?
I mean, talk about petty. So, add a ‘prize fee’ to the non-4-H entrants if you’re so worried that someone who didn’t fundraise to buy the prizes might win. Do something. But stop being so damn petty. It’s not a good role model for our kids.