For the Love of
by Martha Jackson
that herd of cattle down there? We’re going to call out
three numbers. From that point, you and your horses have to cull
out the three wearing those numbers and corral them into that
pen. Don’t forget to shut the gate.
And, oh, once the orange flag snaps, you’ve got 90 seconds.
Three head, 90 seconds. Got it?
Desirae Peacock got it. So did 30 or so other 4-H’ers who
had shown up on a Saturday morning in Bowling Green for a cattle
penning competition. It was being held at Western Kentucky University’s
Ag Expo Center by the Southern Kentucky Team Penning Association.
Desirae Peacock and Twiggy
(left) with her horse
at the cattle penning
Not soccer, boys, or cell phones, not basketball, skateboards,
ATVs, or video games can hold a candle to a horse competition
for Desirae and the others. Just about any horse competition would—and
does—do for these kids, most of whom were in the saddle
way before they ever saw a PG movie.
Desirae was wearing their team colors (pink and black), and Desirae’s
horse Twiggy had her name sprayed temporarily in pink on her rump.
Twiggy had a little pink in her mane as well.
Desirae had never heard of her horse’s namesake, that razor-thin
model from the '60s, but then Desirae is 13 years old.
“You can do a lot of hands-on activity,” Desirae said
about why she likes being in a 4-H horse club in Daviess County.
“You get all the basic information you need to know about
Indeed you can. Just about any kind of riding interest can be
accommodated in Kentucky 4-H.
Kids can enjoy clubs and camps. They can also compete, starting
with local contests. Top riders move on to qualifying shows at
the district level, and the district winners go to the state 4-H
horse contest, held each July in Louisville.
Parents are a big part of the action at 4-H horse competitions,
making up most of the cheering section and offering lots of advice
from the stands. The Bowling Green event was no exception.
“Move 'em back!” somebody said. “There’s
one back at the wall, right there looking at ya!” “Pen
it! Pen that cow!” “Holler at 'em!”
These parents talked of spending vacation time and lots of weekends
traveling with children who live and breathe horses, whose bedroom
walls and T-shirts and shorts are decorated with horses, and who
“would rather clean out a stall than anything,” as
Nancy Scoggins said about her daughter Brittany.
The numbers for 4-H horse activities in Kentucky
are impressive. Consider that in recent years, on average:
More than 5,000 kids across the state enroll
in Kentucky’s 4-H Horse and Pony Project.
About 3,000 kids in the project take part in
hands-on, horse-related activities.
More than 700 young people attend seven 4-H
horse camps across the state.
About 75 percent of Kentucky’s counties
have at least one 4-H horse club.
About 650 young people take part in the week-long
state show. It involves more than 100 different events, with entry
based on level of experience.
Some 400 kids attend the state 4-H horse contest,
held each June in Lexington. The kids show off their knowledge
in a horse bowl, take classes, judge horses, and enjoy crafts.
Kristen Janicki, state equine Cooperative Extension
associate, coordinates 4-H horse activities at the state level
and acts as a liaison for 4-H agents, parents, and club leaders.
She sees first-hand what 4-H’ers get out of the horse program.
“They build friendships, learn from one another. They learn
how to take care of horses, and they learn horsemanship skills.
They learn people skills as well,” she said.
a Ticket to Ride
These UK students may have only one thing in common, but that
one thing drives them to wade into a group of strangers to pursue
it, juggle their schedules to fit it in, and do everything from
bake cookies to hold auctions to pay for it.
They are members of the UK Dressage Team or
the UK Equestrian Team, and their passion is
Both the dressage and equestrian teams are club
sports at UK—extracurricular activities supported financially
by their members. Both are advised by College of Agriculture faculty
in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. Bob Coleman advises
the equestrian team, and Melissa Newman advises the dressage team.
The equestrian team has a hunt
seat team of about 30 members (think how the English ride) and
a stock seat team of about 15 members (think cowboy).
The dressage team also has about 15 members. Dressage, familiar
to many as an Olympic event, involves maneuvers that are almost
ballet-like in their precision and beauty.
Being in either club requires taking about 10 riding lessons a
semester, which the team members pay for themselves. They also
cover their own expenses to compete in events at other schools.
A passion for horses and
riding can also shape a future. For example:
- Dressage team member Samantha Brooks '01 is now in the College’s
doctoral program in veterinary science and plans a research
career in equine genetics.
- Vicki Trout '07 is a business major and a dressage team member.
She is also a part-time professional photographer for horse
- Larissa Kern '07, who is on the equestrian team and an animal
sciences major, is planning to go to vet school and concentrate
in equine veterinary science.
- Equestrian team member Megan Carter '07, a double major in
accounting and management, hopes to go on to UK’s joint
law-MBA program and focus on equine law and business.