Trace our present day's strength to it's source;
And you'll find that man's pathway to glory
Is strewn with the bones of the horse
------attributed to more than one author
Horses have been with us thousands of years. We know that cave paintings of the horse exist as old as 9900 B.C. The Greek Historian and Soldier, Xenophon, wrote his treatise On Horsemanship around 350 B.C., the oldest writing on the care of horses. Our intuitive, common knowledge permits us to know that the horse has carried soldiers and supplies, pulled plows, moved people, carried the soldiers of the Crusades, bore Spanish Conquistadors and Napoleon, and explored new lands throughout all of our Civilizations across the globe. Without the horse, much of what happened in the world would not have occurred.
As much as the Horse has given to us, today we owe the Horse. So much so, that we are duty bound to undertake this action as if we had an inborn code of honor to so act. As much as the Renaissance altered The Dark Age, our Techno-Digital-Information Age is changing us and the way we live. We are moving further away from a time when there is great need for the Horse to sustain our material lives, farm our lands, and go into battle. Yet, we are closer than ever when we need the Horse to sustain us emotionally and spiritually. Is it not only within recent years we have recognized Equine Assisted Therapy as something worthwhile, though horse lovers have known this throughout time.
There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man. ~Winston Churchill
While we need adoption and rescue volunteerism and all those good works, we need also a different kind of Volunteerism on behalf of the Horse. As the Baby Boomers (as I am) age out of this world, what will pass is the last of a generation who actually knew people (our parents and grandparents) who lived in Rural America, grew up on farms, and caused us to see and be on farms and touch horses. In Urbanized America, in the Digital Age, we have virtual farms and fewer and fewer young people exposed to the Horse.
The Horse will still be there for the horse lovers who will never die out, for the injured war heroes who need physical therapy, and for the emotionally and mentally challenged. But, we cannot rely on these groups to sustain the Horse Industry. One of the greatest challenges of Volunteerism in the Equine Industry is to introduce young people to the Horse and let the Horse win them over from its own magic and majesty.
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery (French Nobleman and WWII Aviator)
How to we go about this challenge? Maybe you can think of a new way to do it, but do not reinvent the wheel. We know from studies that young people are spending less and less time in outdoor recreational activities. The Outdoor Foundation conducted a lengthy study that found an overall downward slide in outdoor recreation among 6 to 12 year olds. While the drop wasn’t as significant as we’ve seen in past years, 62 percent of that Group participated in some form of outdoor recreation in 2009 compared to 64 percent in 2008 and 78 percent in 2006. Sadly, the Outdoor Foundation didn’t include Horseback Riding as a significant type of outdoor activity. Instead, riding was placed in the “Other” category with pool and ping pong. Horseback Riding trailed Ice Skating, Table Tennis, and Billiards in participation rates. Click here for the 2010 Outdoor Foundation Survey.
Interestingly, Oregon State University conducted a study of the Oregon Extension 4-H Horse Program. Most of the participants stayed in the 4-H Horse Program for 3-6 years. Ninety-four (94%) of the study respondents made A’s and B’s in school. In interviews, the respondents noted increased Confidence, Goal Commitment, Responsibility, Patience, Support for Others, Empathy for the Horse, Coping with Disappointment and Decision Making as important things they had learned through the program. The participants were very expressive when given the chance to speak. Click to see the 2010 Oregon State 4-H Horse Program Study.
My relationship with my horse is very special. I got him when we were both seven with no riding or
training experience. We have taught each other a lot. He means the world to me… He taught me
responsibility. I would do anything for him… He is my best friend. We can feel each other’s emotions--Study Participant------Since I am older I have the opportunity to watch younger members grow. The one thing that really
makes 4-H horse project stand out is the confidence young people gain. A young child being able to control/influence a 1200 pound animal gives that child a sense of greatness, of power, and of
meaning. Also when a child can reach a goal that they've been working for it's not just about them. It improves the bond and relationship they have with this animal--Another Study participant
-------Promoting programs like the 4-H Horse Program are critically important in continuing to bring young people into the world of the Horse.
No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle. --Winston ChurchillInvolving and Supporting Young People With Horses
Today, many youth programs are in steady decline in rates of participation. Our Volunteerism can help, can expand the programs, and work with these programs to bring the Horse to a new generation. If you haven’t looked at these programs in many years, a LOT has changed. Today the focus is much broader and the goals and outcomes sought are more focused and directed.
PLACES TO START
Girl Scouts of the USA: GSA works to empower girls in the US and 92 countries. The Girl Scouts promote Leadership, Self-Esteem, Financial Literacy, and Environmental Awareness. The promotion of Self Awareness, Leadership, Responsibility, Healthy Living, and Volunteerism. A strong current through the Girl Scout Program is to explore positive experiences and Girl Scout groups offer a good opportunity to introduce young people to the Horse.
Future Farmers of America (FFA) has officially changed its name to The National FFA Organization to reflect the diversity of Agriculture and is supported by donations and dues of $7 per year. The National Website has great support for starting new chapters, Supervised Agricultural Experiences (work-based learning) and Entrepreneurship. International experiences are offered through FFA Global. Collegiate FFA provides on-the-job Internships with Agri-Business companies. The National FFA Alumni Association provides materials to start Alumni Chapters as well as Mentoring Programs. You can find the FFA on Facebook and start today.
U.S. Pony Club: For young riders (pony means young), the program was designed "to provide a program for youth that teaches riding, mounted sports, and the care of horses and ponies, thereby developing responsibility, moral judgment, leadership and self-confidence.” Most members own or have access to a horse, but some clubs operate as equestrian centers providing horses for club usage. Founded in 1954 and headquarter at The Kentucky Horse Park, there are over 600 Clubs with over 12,000 members. The Adult Group (Horsemasters) serves to assist the Pony Clubs.
United States Equestrian Federation: Founded in 1917, the USEF supports the equestrian community, licenses competitive events, and funds the U.S. Equestrian Team. One of the most important actions by the USEF is the USEF High School Equestrian Athlete Program. It is open to all breeds and disciplines, grades 9-12, and offers a Varsity Embroidered Award and Varsity Jacket for participation in equestrian sports. The USEF also operates the USEF Youth Council.
Interscholastic Equestrian Association: Formed in 2002 to promote competition among middle and secondary students. Students in private and public schools are eligible aged 11-19. Member Forms and Coach Application Packets are available through their website.
4-H: Administered through the United States Department of Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture), 4-H operates 90,000 Chapters and nearly 7 million members, aged 5-19. 4-H Programs are closely connected to the nation’s Land Grant (A&M) Universities.
National High School Rodeo Association: Over sixty years old, the Association, as the name directs, promotes high school age rodeo competitions. Today there are High School and Junior High School Divisions, as well as Equestrian and Student Athletes of the Month Awards. The NHSRA Foundation Scholarship. The yearly competitions and point standings conclude with the National Finals.
Nearly every major Horse Breed Association has a Youth Division. If your passion runs to a particular breed and you are looking to help young people, check your National Breed Association as very likely there is already a Youth Program.
Boy Scouts of America: Boy Scouts, like Girl Scouts, offer a great opportunity to introduce young people to the Horse. You may find a lot has changed about Scouting since you last looked into it and there are numerous tie-in to Agriculture. Merit Badge Awards are offered to day in Horsemanship, Animal Science, Landscape Architecture, Farm Mechanics, and new fields like Disability Awareness. Additionally, the new VENTURING Scouting, for young adults, provide growth and service activities for young women and young men.
Local Groups: The group with which you choose to volunteer need not be nationally organized. Day Trips, Field Trips, Camps, Saturday Mornings and other opportunities are available through local Church Organizations and Youth Groups, Civic Clubs and Associations.
Just One Young Person: This will likely be the most important person to introduce to the Horse. Non-group oriented, non-member joining. Just you and one young person who does not know the Horse. You have an afternoon to give.