Auburn, Alabama–Anna Moates is an accomplished 4-H Horse Club participant. During her seven-year membership, she has developed confidence and skills that inspire her to overcome obstacles to her personal growth. Anna lives with Down Syndrome, but refuses to allow her disability to hold her back.
The 4-H community provides young people with hands-on educational experiences in positive environments. The program offers guidance from adult mentors and opportunities to fill leadership roles. 4-H exists in every county and parish in the United States, and reaches urban, suburban and rural farming communities.
4-H Horse Program
Anna found her niche in 4-H’s horse program. Several 4-H horse clubs exist in Alabama, and new clubs can be started in any county with the leadership of a volunteer coach. Horse programs are available to anyone with an interest in horses, and participants are not required to own a horse. Local trainers and barn managers open their facilities to 4-H’ers to learn about horses and facets of their care, such as first aid, grooming, nutrition, stable maintenance and training.
The program offers riding classes to 4-H’ers with special needs.
“Horseback riding has many tangible benefits, and improves participants’ fine and gross motor skills, motor coordination, balance, core strength, social skills and sensory stimulation,” said Alabama Extension Equine Specialist Courteney (McNamee) Holland.
State 4-H Horse Show
In Alabama, the annual July State 4-H Horse Show takes place in Montgomery at Garrett Coliseum. The week-long event showcases the 4-H’ers developed riding skills. Participants also may enter educational contests in categories such as horse judging, hippology, photography, artwork and public speaking.
Horse Show Contests
“The horse judging contest teaches 4-H’ers to objectively evaluate horses and use oral reasoning to defend their judgments fairly and honestly,” said McNamee. “Strength in oral reasoning leads to well-developed organizational and memory skills, the ability to speak clearly and improvements in self confidence.”
Anna participated in the 2013 4-H horse competition in Georgia. There she competed in the horse show’s photography contest, and her photograph was displayed at the Georgia National Fair in Perry, Georgia. Only 10 photos were selected from participants in the entire state.
Honors and Awards
Anna also competes annually in the District Project Achievement competition, in which participants research a topic and present their findings. They are judged on presentation, content and memorization. She has placed in all but one of the DPA competitions.
“I have grown in confidence, and in leadership and public speaking skills through participating in 4-H,” said Anna.
She currently presents her DPA project, “Living with a Disability,” to student and community groups to raise awareness and educate people about Down Syndrome and other disabilities. She now enjoys public speaking, though before she called herself shy.
In addition, Anna received the 4-H Key Award. Winners must earn more than 700 community service hours.
Anna serves as an officer in her local 4-H chapter. She attends monthly meetings, and participates in community service projects and fundraisers. Anna acted as secretary for three years. She recently ran for and was elected reporter, an opportunity for which she campaigned with posters and gave an election speech.
Anna also has built friendships with other 4-H Horse Club participants. Many form lifelong friendships through participation in the 4-H Horse Club, according to Holland.
The program further assists those seeking collegiate equestrian team scholarships and those interested in joining collegiate horse judging team.