4-H horse show draws a crowd of participants

Published: Thursday, January 22, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 at 10:51 p.m.
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Bethany Thomas, 8, won first place Saturday in Walk Trot Schooling and in Walt Trot Pleasure at the 4-H horse show. She rode atop her Appaloosa, Frosted Snowcap.

PATRICIA C. BEHNKE/Special to The Sun
More than 100 participants turned out for the Alachua County 4-H Open Horse Show Saturday at Newberry's Canterbury Equestrian Showplace, as riders and horses competed for blue ribbons and championship points.
"Providing a positive learning experience for youth is the primary concern of the shows that are held four and five times a year at Canterbury," said Bill Heltemes, the Alachua County 4-H Program Leader.
For Brent Rist, 14, of Alachua, the 4-H show marked his first one. He began riding seriously a year ago.
"I would have been in shows last year, but I tore up my knee playing football," the Santa Fe High School freshman said.
"We lived in the city for so many years," said his mother Michele Rist. "We moved to the country in order to keep the kids home longer."
The Rists bought their first horse just a year ago and now own four. Two of them they keep at home on their farm, and they board two show horses at Circle M Stables in High Springs.
Brent and his sister, Courtney, 12, train with Lowrey Fawley, learning techniques for the shows, as well as caring for their horses.
Janet Wood, owner of Circle M Stables, says that working with horses teaches young people many things.
"Caring for and learning to handle a big animal teaches each individual child something," she said. "If they are shy, it builds confidence."
The 4-H Show consisted of both English and Western classes, but Brent is only interested in English riding. Courtney participated in the dressage classes held in the afternoon, in which entrants are judged on how well their horse responds to commands.
"I like the jumps and speed with English," he said as he prepared for his first class with his 18-year-old Chestnut Quarter Horse, Ginger.
Brent competed in Walk Trot classes first, which are for beginning riders who have never competed in a canter class before. In Walk Trot Schooling judges look at the horse's manner, style, and movement. Thirteen beginning riders, ages 8 to 18 competed, with Brent placing Fifth.
Bethany Thomas, 8, of Newberry, won the First Place ribbon in only her second show. She rode into a cheering crowd of supporters with her Blue Ribbon and atop her Pony of the Americas, or Appaloosa, Frosted Snowcap.
Earning an equal amount of applause was the second place winner, Erin Dickerson, 15, of Alachua, riding Darby, a Percheron Morgan Cross. Darby, a carriage horse, had never been ridden until two weeks before when Erin decided she wanted the challenge of breaking in a horse. She had only ridden Darby eight times. Erin herself has only been participating in shows for a year.
"Erin is phenomenal," said Darby's owner Brenda Giles. "She brought out the best in Darby."
Erin is a Santa Fe High School freshman, enrolled in all honors classes and making straight A's. However, she still manages to come out to the stables to work with trainer Kathy Bridges four hours a day after school and on weekends.
"It's taught me responsibility and patience," said Erin. "I've always loved horses and these shows give me the opportunity to come out and be with other horse lovers."
The next class, Walk Trot Pleasure, is just what the name suggests. Judges look to see how pleasurable the horse is to ride. Erin did not get registered in time with Darby to participate, but Brent and Bethany once again competed.
And once again Brent received a Fifth Place ribbon, while Bethany rode away with First.
The next class, Walk Trot Equitation, takes a closer look at the rider rather than the horse. The rider is judged on seating, hands, and use of aids.
Bethany did not win first place in this class, but she did come in with a Second Place ribbon. It was Brent who rode away with the Blue Ribbon in this competition.
Bethany had never won a ribbon before. She trains with Heather Hussin at Full Partners Farm in Newberry, and she is a part of a new 4-H club called the Saddle Slickers in Newberry.
"We are ecstatic and praising the Lord," said Bethany's mother, Sonia, about her daughter's wins.
Bethany, who is home schooled, rides five days per week, but she still has to take care of the horse's needs.
"I groom, feed and love on her," Bethany said. "It's fun, but Frosted Snow Cap is fast, and I'm working to slow her down."
4-H is a part of the Cooperative Extension Service through the University of Florida. Members may enroll in projects in order to learn more about a particular area, such as horses. The Florida 4-H Horse Program is dedicated to teaching horsemanship and a healthy competitive spirit.
The next 4-H Open Horse Shows will be on March 20 and April 10 at Canterbury.

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