Josephine Stellar, Brett Tomlinson, and Rachel Seifert ride around the show ring at the Pepin County Fairgrounds to warm up their horses for the last practice session July 17. The youth are three of eight who will be showing horses at this weekend's Pepin County Fair.Debbie Bauer, one of the horse project leaders, gives commands and tips to allow project participants to practice for the horse show at this weekend's Pepin County Fair.

4-H project leaders working to increase participation, preparation

We want to do educational things for the kids in the horse project.


In late May, new horse project leaders thought they'd work to increase participation in the horse project in Pepin County 4-H.

Dale and Debbie Bauer, who are new to Pepin County, have an extensive background in 4-H and the horse project. Their kids belonged to Dunn County 4-H growing up.

"When our kids belonged they had a weekly riding session," Debbie said. "With good showings, instructors were brought in to work with the kids."

The Bauers said they're also working to get kids in the "horseless horse" project involved, as they have extra horses available for kids to ride.

"You are able to be in the horse project without owning a horse through the horseless horse division of the project," Debbie said. "You just have to talk to people who do have horses if you want to ride, and see if you can use one of their horses. The more kids we get, the more fun it is."

Dale said one of their main objectives is to convince kids who don't have animals that it is still fun to be in 4-H.

"The horseless horse project also has art, photography, show clothing, and other components kids can enter," he said. "We want to help spur interest, and help kids understand they don't need to live on a farm to be in 4-H."

The Bauers said though the Thursday night practice sessions are complete, as the fair begins on Friday, they would like to plan meetings through the year. 

"We hope to be able to take the kids to visit stables and see demonstrations," Debbie said. "We want to do educational things for the kids in the horse project."

Debbie said she'd like to keep getting kids more involved.

"In the spring there's a huge tack sale in Madison where kids can do volunteer work, or exchange or purchase tack at reasonable prices," she said. "In the fall the state gymkhana show is held. It's fun for kids to go to shows and see the different levels of competition."

The Thursday night rides gave the kids and horses a chance to interact informally, said Dale, and saves some issues come show time.

Participation has varied through the weeks, but the Bauers said a few kids have come nearly every week. The Bauers said they've had anywhere from one to seven kids come to the practice sessions.

"We're able to spend time working with the kids so everyone can participate," Dale said.

Dale said they would like to continue the riding sessions after the fair, and they have extra horses for participants to ride. Kids have to be enrolled in 4-H and follow the state guidelines.

"Other kids in other projects are welcome to come, and we hope this will spur interest for next year," Dale said. "The Thursday sessions were open invitation, so kids came when they could."

The Bauers have been working on the project through the UW-Extension office. 

Pepin County 4-H Agent Marie Ritscher said there are eight kids enrolled in the horse project this year, and two leaders. Somewhere around seven horses will be shown at this year's horse show on Friday morning at 9 a.m. 

"2014 is one of our bigger years," Ritscher said. "Ten to 15 years ago was probably our biggest, but it was still only a couple families involved in the project."

Dale said he believes strongly in 4-H, and that is why he became a project leader.

"What the program does for youth is impressive," he said. 

"Being responsible for a living animal is very different than just being expected to complete household chores," said 4-H parent Jon Seifert. "There's no 'I don't feel like it' or 'I'll do it later.'"

"There are a lot of life lessons to be learned in 4-H," Dale said. "Each kid is able to rise to their own level of excellence. Their confidence develops, and they get a step up on life in general."

Seifert pointed out there is also a social aspect to being in 4-H.

"The kids get to be around other kids with the same interests," he said. 

"4-H goes way beyond the show ring," Dale added.

FFA members Josephine Stellar and Brett Tomlinson were among the participants July 17. Tomlinson is in his first year in the project, while Stellar has been a participant for two years.

"I was interested in the project, so I talked to the FFA advisor, Mr. Retzloff," Stellar said. 

Stellar said she enjoys dressing up her horse, Jasper. 

Tomlinson got involved after Stellar, and he shows his horse, Lucky, who was rescued from a slaughter lot. 

"I enjoy getting to interact with other people in the project," he said. "I've come every week."

Stellar said she enjoys sharing ideas and riding with the other participants.

"These sessions definitely helped me prepare for the fair," she said. "I've come whenever I could."

Rachel Seifert has been showing for six years, but this is her first in the project. 

"I love horses, and I had a couple of ponies when I was little," she said. "I enjoy being around the different horses and the people." 

Seifert has been busy this summer, so she's only been able to attend two sessions. 

"It's definitely been beneficial," she said. 

Ritscher said there are a few kids enrolled in the horseless horse, pigless pig, and dairyless dairy, but they have not yet expanded the projects like some counties. 

The 4-H horse show will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday. The Pepin Trailblazers Saddle Club is hosting an open trail ride Sunday morning at 9 a.m., with a show at 11 a.m. The Pepin County Fair runs from 9 a.m. Friday to 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the fairgrounds in Arkansaw.


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