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4-H Club, State Fair, Gymkhana, Oh My!

By Elizabeth Furry

Tags: 4-H Club, Horses, Gymkhana, State fair,

A photo of Elizabeth FurryWhen my girls were little I oftened wondered what type of sport they would be involved in. I watched my sister, a devout soccer mom, transport her kids from one end of town to another for practices and what seemed like 3 games a week! "No, thank you!" I thought, that seemed like way too much work and to stand out in the freezing rain or blistering heat did not sound like a good time.

I knew my oldest, Loagan, would be into some sort of equestrian sport, but it didn't really occur to me how much 'time' that would require. First she joined the 4-H horse club, it started off simple enough (only because it was winter), I'd drive her to a couple meetings a month at the country extension office. No problem. But then spring arrived and it was time for spring workouts WITH the horses. So, not only do we find ourselves hauling my daughter to her sport of choice, but we have to haul horses and tack and hay. It sure made my sister's task look so much easier. That was lesson learned number one.

At some point during the 4-H years the younger sisters joined in with garden club and a short rabbit club stint. We adjusted well, it got easier as the months passed. Then one day at a parent meeting, I found myself raising my hand to volunteer my husband and myself to run the cook shack for every horse show! I'd like to say it was out of pure love for the 4-H club but honestly the last cook shack team jumped ship and the pressure and the guilt hung so heavy in the air at that meeting that I found myself raising my hand with a deer in the headlights look, no matter how hard I tried I couldn't pull that arm down.

So, now we are not only hauling kids, horses and tack, but add to that a truck bed full of Costco groceries, pots and pans, an industrial coffee pot, crockpots, a microwave and 100 pounds of ice. Nice, real nice. Lesson learned number 2, volunteer wisely.

As much work as running the cook shack was, we had it running like a well oiled machine. We knew what time to get there, how long the griddle took to heat up, what items were big sellers, what items weren't, how to keep flies out of the shack and what time we would be done. That was easy to figure out, the answer was always "dark." 4-H horse shows in our county consisted of Western and English classes. Western classes were in the morning, that's what Loagan always competed in, so had I not raised my hand that fateful night, we would get to go home at noon. But since I did in fact raise my hand, we were tied to that lil cook shack til dark.

Business was slow after the lunch break, so from 3 p.m. to dark, my husband and I could be found leaning over the shack counter with our chins resting on our fists propped up by tired elbows staring into a daze at the arena while the last of the trail class finished up. You would be amazed to know that you can actually take a lil nap like that if you didn't lose your balance and fall over like a fool. Lesson learned number 3, recruit other volunteers for a relief shift.

Loagan moved on from 4-H to other things. She started training horses and showed them in the Oklahoma State Fair – which was a whole new ball game. Shiny, glitzy, pampered, perfect, expensive are some of the things that come to mind when you see these horses. Lesson learned number 4, 4-H wasn't so bad.

Then Loagan moved to training wild mustangs and would show them in the Wild Mustang Shows. I like the mustang shows, you get to see beautiful wild horses that once roamed the west become even more beautiful with the training that their owners have put in them. At 15, Loagan trained her first wild mustang and took Grand Champion Reserve In-Hand at the Utah show and has continued to succeed each year she competes. Lesson learned number 5, my daughter's got skills.

Currently, we are all about Gymkhana. Loagan is leading in her division for the local winter series, which is pretty exciting. My other two girls, Jess and Bailey are competing as well. For those that don't know, Gymkhana consists of all the speed events such as Barrels, Poles, Figure Eights, Keyhole and Pushing Cows. The girls love this sport, mom not so much. Don't get me wrong its fun to go to, and exciting and all that, but its also a good way to throw a parent into heart failure. When the girls take off from the gate going full throttle, I take a deep breath, and I hold it til their horse comes to a complete, SAFE, stop after the pattern.

Loagan kicking it up

Loagan and the poles

Bailey and Tess

I age quickly at gymkhanas. It's not for the faint of heart. Usually gymkhanas last all day like the 4-H days, so we make a family day out of it. Sometimes I pack a lunch, sometimes we go and get Sonic (wonderful, glorious Sonic!) and sometimes we eat from the cook shack, I resist the urge to jump in and help as the cook shack folks look like they got it handled. I don't miss that job, but sometimes I secretly envy them when its 20 degrees and windy outside, and they are inside cooking over a warm griddle. Luckees.

This spring Loagan starts the rodeo circuit ... lesson learned number 6, it never ends.

2/23/2010 7:24:01 PM

Thanks ladies for the sweet comments! Cindy I did a stint with Brownies too! Not for long though. Volunteering is a lot of work but it is a wonderful way to spend time with your kids! Ice skating and snowshoeing! You are so brave, I could never stay up, lol! Susan and Mountain Woman, I think 4-H is wonderful especially when there are dedicated leaders doing it, it makes it so much fun! I didn't have the skills to lead it but I knew how to cook! LOL I'm very proud of my girls and their way with horses. :)

cindy murphy
2/23/2010 12:40:53 PM

Hi, Elizabeth. Wonderful post! Ah...the Life of a Volunteer Parent; you're right, it never ends. My LVP is not as grueling as yours, but in the last couple of months, I've had the pleasure of remaining standing on both ice-skates and snowshoes, while having twenty-five 8-year olds hanging from my limbs as I chaperoned my youngest's school class outings. With my oldest, I became a Brownie and then a Girl Scout Mom. It was not necessarily by choice on my part - the troop leader didn't ask for volunteers, she REQUIRED parental participation. What a minute - I didn't sign up for Girl Scouts; my daughter did. But as a result, the troop was able to do a lot more than most, and we all became a very close-knit extended family. It was an extremely sad day for both the girls and parents when, due to scheduling conflicts, after 7 years the leader decided she had to quit. Six years later, my youngest entered Brownies, remembering all the fun her sister had had. Unfortunately, her experience was no where near her sister's. Arts and crafts in a classroom, requiring raised hands to speak, can't come close to getting out and doing things in the community and beyond. The reason why - parental involvement. There was none in this troop; the leader preferred to do it all. There's much to be gained for both the parents and the child when parents stay involved in their children's activities. Good luck to you at the gymkhanas! Don't forget to breathe!

2/23/2010 10:35:53 AM

Hi Elizabeth, Nicely written! We don't have kids, but if we did, I think the 4-H activities would be great. One of my friends does the soccer (and volleyball) mom thing, driving her daughter all over the place for practice and tournaments--sometimes at 8am on Saturday mornings. She rolls her eyes about all the driving, but loves to see her daughter succeed and have fun and be healthy, and figures it keeps her out of trouble. Alaska Susan

mountain woman
2/23/2010 6:11:09 AM

Elizabeth, What a great life for your daughters. If I were young again, there's nothing I'd rather be doing and they are so lucky to be able to participate in these activities and have your support. Loved the photos. You have very talented daughters and I can't wait to hear about the rodeo circuit! Mountain Woman Grit Blog: Red Pine Mountain Blog: