LEWISTOWN - My name is Leanna Baker, and I have been a member of the Mifflin County Horse and Pony 4-H Club for more than two years. In my first year of 4-H, I was very nervous about what other club members would think of me - I was not what you would call the best rider around. However, over the course of the year, I got help from my club leaders and friends.
During my first year of 4-H, I was unable to compete at the county show because I no longer was riding the horse I had been working with for that year. However, I was able to compete in my second year.
I rode a horse named Shamy, whom I trained to run in gaming classes with the help of my friends, Cathy Morder and Kristie Weaver. I rode in the county show and placed second in the pony keyhole class. After the show, I performed at the district level and again placed second.
Each of these shows leads up to the event everyone in horse and pony club strives to attend - the 4-H State Horse Show.
The state show is an event that runs over the course of three days. This is a place where it's considered normal to be able to walk up to a stranger and ask them about their horses. Most people enjoy bragging about their amazing horse that made it the whole way to states.
State events include classes for all sizes of horses and ages of riders. There are classes for the miniature horses, like miniature in-hand trail class, driving and halter classes. There are classes for English riders and western riders like jumping, equitation, showmanship, barrel racing, keyhole, pole bending, pleasure and trail classes. Age groups are separated by senior and junior riders. There also is a class for the ponies. These groups make the show fair to all competitors.
This was probably the most nerve-wracking, exciting, educating and rewarding show in which I have ever competed. Out of a class of 26 pony keyhole competitors, I placed second. Winning Pony Keyhole Reserve State Champion of 2013 was the biggest accomplishment of my 4-H career.
Another one of my favorite memories of 4-H was teaching grade-school kids about horses at the Ag Day field trip and Animal Awareness day. There is nothing like seeing the smiles on children when they get to pet the horses and feel their soft coats or the funny faces they make when you tell them what horses eat.
I am looking forward to being a 4-H Horse and Pony Club Member next year. It is a great experience and a great way to make new friends who share the same interests as you. I consider the other 4-H members and leaders to be family to me. They're always willing to offer advice and help no matter what. The best friends you can have are the ones who understand you the most, and for me, the members of the 4-H Horse and Pony Club are the people who understand me and my passion for horses the most.