Pony Clubs, 4-H, Families, Friends, Fun!

Here in the US, school is out and there's lots of time for some real horsey fun. Horses and summer are a great combination. Don't have any horsey friends, you say? Well, it is not too late to join a Pony Club or 4-H Club near you. Why become a member, you ask? That's easy - to give your parents more to do, of course!!

Actually, whole families ARE encouraged to become involved, and if you are going to hang around with your family, it might as well be at the barn, at a show, or another horsey event, don't you think? Then you can all have fun. You will meet lots of other horsey families and can build strong friendships through the clubs. Even your parents may make new friends! The clubs teach not only good horsemanship, but also good sportsmanship, how to be a more mature, well-rounded, person, with good character, and how to be a better club and family member too. (You may even discover that your parents become better parents!)

The US Pony Clubs involve parents in the whole horsey experience - they get to volunteer to help out at shows, be leaders, help organize fund-raisers, even be horse show judges! The Pony Clubs offer programs for youngsters (up to 21 years old) in everything from dressage to cross-country to fox-hunting to polo. There are over 600 individual Pony Clubs throughout the 49 states and the Virgin Islands, with over 13,000 members! (Can you meet new friends or what?!?)
As a member you receive the quarterly publication, "USPC News", which contains fun horse facts, news about upcoming events and shows, summer camps, and more. The USPC Bookstore Catalog has something for every horse-lover in your family, from the most basic "Manual of Horsemanship" to the "Judging of Equestrian Events".

A one-year membership for Pony Clubbers (no, they don't club their ponies!) is approximately $55. This includes National, Regional, and local dues, and may vary according to region. Members are required to wear riding helmets at all mounted meetings, and parents should be prepared to purchase a minimum of basic riding equipment, such as jodhpurs and boots.

4-H offers youngsters not only opportunities in horsemanship and livestock but also in outdoor education and recreation, environment, health, safety, plants and animals, leadership, career development, home improvement, communications, computer technology, and more. Programs are found in rural and urban areas throughout the world. The program is instrumental in building life skills in youth and making our communities better places to live and work. 4-H comes from "I pledge my Head to clearer thinking, Heart to greater loyalty, Hands to larger service, and Health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world." The 4-H Slogan is "Learn by Doing", so you will certainly not sit around in this organization!

4-H horse and pony projects are offered in four interest areas:
Performance/Horsemanship - Members select and care for a horse or pony and keep a record of all activities with their horses at each level.
Production - Members who take production projects breed a mare or raise and handle young horses up to four years of age. Records are kept for each animal enrolled in the project.
Competitive Trail Riding - Members learn to select and condition a horse for competitive trail riding. Members maintain records on project horse and record trail riding experiences.
Horseless - This project is for members who do not own horses, but want to learn more about them. There are many opportunities for horseless members such as horse judging, hippology, horse bowl, skill-a-thon and communication contests and much more!

4-H also provides books (project activity guides) for each of the project areas, whatever interest area you choose.

Call your County Extension Office or a local 4-H leader if you know one, or get on the net and go to www.fourhcouncil.edu/Market/4hinfo/4hextoff.htm (list of 4-H State Offices). Talk to someone you know who belongs to 4-H. Find out if there is room in a club near you. If not, it's easy to start a new club with some of your friends or other interested young people and one or two adults willing to help. Check with the Extension Office to find out what projects and activities are available.

To really enjoy this summer, join a Pony Club or 4-H Club today and experience life - and the pleasures and lessons that these clubs provide. You will meet people from across your town and across the country that have the same feelings and interests as you. You will make friends that will last a lifetime!

For more information:

The United States Pony Clubs, Inc.
The Kentucky Horse Park
4071 Iron Works Pike
Lexington, KY 40511-8462

Families, 4-H & Nutrition
CSREES/USDA, Stop 2225
1400 Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20250-2225