One youth tells how 4-H has blazed the path to future career plans

Read how 4-H exposed youth to career opportunities, as she went from loving horses one minute to dreams of shoeing them the next.

Meghan Winey with her horse, Tomorros Don Marshall.

Meghan Winey with her horse, Tomorros Don Marshall.

At 8 years old, an advertisement for 4-H caught Meghan Winey’s eye. She asked her mom if she could join 4-H, and it wasn’t long after she was riding a horse at her 4-H leader’s home. This lead to her purchasing her own horse and eventually plans for a career in horseshoeing. Learn how 4-H participation gave Meghan the passion to pursue a career in a related field and how her experience in 4-H helped her determine her career path.

D’Ann (D): How long have you been involved in 4-H?

Meghan (M): I’ve shown horses for nine years and have also submitted crafts and shown a goat once when my horse was hurt. I have been showing for so long, I wouldn’t be me without it.

D: What have you learned since you have joined 4-H?

M: 4-H has taught me how to conduct myself well. Sometimes at shows you don’t get the place you want and 4-H has taught me not to throw a hissy fit and stomp off. I have learned to congratulate everyone on their ride and go on with my day. The older I get, I have learned to be pleasant to the people who are helping me. Horse shows wouldn’t happen without show moms and show grandmas. Grandma is good at holding horses and straightening numbers, wiping off boots, getting drinks and food. Then there is my mom with her show mom bag with lipstick, wet rags, clothes, show sheen and fly spray. Everything you would need: safety pins, bobby pins, electrical tape and duct tape. I always can bounce stuff off my mom. She is the one who keeps track of my gloves, keeps me on track and reassures me when I have a bad ride. Show moms handle crisis.

D: Have you participated in 4-H Exploration Days?

M: I’ve gone a total of three times, the first time being when I was 14. Attending 4-H Exploration Days helped me come out of my shell. It was a great leadership opportunity for me because you may have to take charge in a session. You are responsible to get up and get to your class. You really get good at navigating around campus. This was a good experience to get out of my comfort zone and meet new people. I still talk to girls that I met at Exploration Days and it is the only time during the year I see them.

The sessions they offer are awesome. When you get the booklet, you look for things you are interested in, list them by priority and hope you get your top options. I lean towards the animal science sessions first, then recreational and performing arts. I’ve had to step up and take a leadership role in independence career ideas, horse judging, and K-9 search and rescue. The ones with animals fill up fast.

This prepares youth for college by helping to give an inside look as far as space in dorms and cafeteria. Sometimes when finding a seat, you have to interact with people to ask if seats are open. There are a lot of good life skills learned during Exploration Days.

D: Tell me about going to the 4-H State Horse Show this year for the first time.

M: It was an absolute blast! It was my first time showing somewhere other than Mason County Fairgrounds with the horse I trained myself. It was nice to have different people to compete against. In my county, we all compete against the same people show after show, so it was nice to hear other people’s stories.

The facility was awesome and clean, but a little bit hectic and fast-paced. I disliked the order they ran the classes because I had to pick between hunt seat and saddle seat and you could only do four classes. They split up stock and pleasure type horse, which was new to me. The sawdust vendor was awesome because they put your sawdust in your stall.

The shows went really well. I was able to go because I met my county requirements. You need to make a certain number of Horse Development Committee meetings, you have to be a walk-trot-canter and you have to either be in the senior division or junior division. I enjoyed looking at all the vendors. They sold horse stuff, horse hair jewelry and show supplies you may need. I would like to go again, but other kids should have the opportunity to go next year.

D: If you were to give an aspiring youth leader some advice, what would that advice be?

M: Keep an open mind, try your best to keep a good head on your shoulders, and if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Don’t get frustrated by any setbacks. This is important because there are going to be situations that will set you back, but you have to push through them instead of letting them shut you down.

D: What has been your biggest take away from your 4-H experience?

M: I have learned to be independent, a problem-solver and have good leadership skills. Independence all started as an 8-year-old being responsible for doing my own chores. Leadership was developed when I would help kids in my 4-H club. If I see kids struggling, I help. It was expected that the older 4-Hers would help the younger youth, so we can pass down the knowledge we have acquired.

Problem-solving started when my older sister, Sarah, started a horse club for youth without horses to learn more about horses. We noticed 4-H horse numbers declining, so we were hoping to get more youth interested in the program by teaching them about horses before they get one themselves. I had learned about horses by watching others take care of them. I struggled the first few years because I didn’t know how to do things. We wanted younger kids to have the knowledge we didn’t have. We wanted to be that resource for others to ask us questions.

We call our group the Youth Equine Education Club. We teach the names of grooming tools and how to use them, anatomy of the horse, nutrition, colors of horses and breeds. We have a workbook and we put together a slide show. We bring grooming tools into class and we play games. We use the horse kits from Michigan State University Extension.

We’re starting our third year with the club and kids really have fun with it. We are consistently adding and refining our activities. The kids have asked for more hands-on activities. They really enjoyed the end-of-the-year activity of grooming my horse at the fairgrounds. We would like to continue to grow.

D: What are your future goals?

M: I plan on attending Troy Price Horseshoeing School. After I graduate from there, I plan on coming back to Mason County and becoming a 4-H leader and staying involved in the program since it has been part of my life for nine years.

4-H grows career opportunities. If you would like to learn more about 4-H Youth Development, visit the Michigan 4-H website or contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas. To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, civic engagement, citizenship and global/cultural programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.”

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