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Join Up! With the horses!

Your child has been bugging you for months to buy a horse. Maybe all you know about horses is what you’ve seen in the movies. You want to ride, too, but just don’t know where to start. Joining one of the many horse clubs in the Falcon area is an excellent way for you and your child to learn about the responsibilities of horse ownership. Both the 4-H program (managed by the Colorado Agricultural Extension Program at CSU) and the U.S. Pony Club (a worldwide nonprofit organization) have youth clubs in the area.4-H is the country’s largest out-of-school program for youth development. The program focuses on helping kids develop practical life skills and enjoy hobbies by participating in projects such as cooking, livestock, archery and rocketry. Horse programs are a popular project. In the Falcon/Peyton/Black Forest area, a number of clubs focus on teaching kids about horse care and horse sports. The yearlong program culminates in the horse shows at the El Paso County Fair in July. The age range for participants in 4-H is 5 to 18.All 4-H leaders are required to submit to a background check and must participate in a leadership-training course. All 4-H materials are supplied by the state extension office at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.All 4-H clubs focus on the entire family. Parents are expected to attend all meetings and learn along with their children. It’s a great opportunity for adults as well as children to learn about horses and meet other horse owners in the area. Each group has a leader who coordinates the activities and monitors progress on each child’s horse project.To complete the yearlong horse project, each child must keep a project book, give a demonstration to the group (essentially a short speech about some aspect of horse care), attend clinics and participate in the county fair. The project book is a great learning opportunity: the children must record all information related to the care of their horse, including feeding, veterinary care, farrier visits and lessons and keep track of all horse-related expenses.Each club holds its own shows, including classes in Western pleasure, trail, showmanship, English pleasure and English equitation. The participants earn points that are tallied at the end of the season; awards are given for high-point standing. Kids can also participate in judging teams, attend training clinics as a group and serve on the El Paso County 4-H Horse Advisory Committee. All members who are high school seniors or college freshman are eligible to apply for a college scholarship.The newest club in the area is Golden Prairie 4-H, formed in October 2004 to accommodate the increased interest in 4-H in the Falcon area. “We get calls every day from new kids who want to come to our meetings, said Cheryl Nunnali, Golden Prairie general leader. Susan Kamlan serves as project leader for the Golden Prairie horse project and coordinates the horseless horse program, designed for kids who want to learn about horses before they buy a horse. Participating in this project gives kids and their parents the opportunity to learn about safety issues, proper tack and equipment and horse health care. The group also attends local horse shows and clinics so they will be more successful with their own horse. Kamlan recently took a group of 18 kids and their parents to Latigo Trails to watch the monthly Black Forest Saddle Club show.Kamlan emphasizes the importance of parent participation. “A parent needs to be there at every project,” she said. “You can teach an 8-year-old about feeding a horse, but it’s the parent who buys the hay! 4-H is for families.” The club meets four times a month. Their general meeting is on the second Tuesday of the month at Falcon Middle School; they ride on the fourth Sunday of the month in the afternoon at Pine Run Ranch at 13354 Meridian Rd. (near Latigo Trails); the horseless horse group meets on the second Thursday of each month at 3:30 at Kamlan’s barn (5840 Meridian Rd.); and they participate in the Black Forest Saddle Club’s winter horse show series at Latigo Trails (the next show is Sat., Feb.19). Contact Susan Kamlan at 495-3901.The largest 4-H in El Paso County is Countrystyle 4-H with 33 members this year. “Our emphasis is on safety,” said Lynn Wilkison, Countrystyle’s organizational leader. “All of our activities are age-appropriate, and the focus is on teaching responsible horse ownership.” Their program includes a horse bowl, a timed competition where club members team up to answer horse-related questions, and a hippology competition, where competitors have more time to answer questions but must complete a written test. The club meets at the Kit Carson Riding Club on Cowpoke Road (near the intersection of Black Forest and Woodman Roads) on the first Monday of the month. Contact Lynn Wilkison at 481-1010.Kit Carson 4-H usually meets at least three times each month for educational and horse-related activities. They often go to clinics and movies, and they also participate in non-horse-related activities, such as ice-skating. The group usually attends the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo in March. Terri Daniel, who serves as the project leader, said that membership is growing and now includes 18 members and their families. “Lots of the kids ride both English and Western, and speed events are always popular,” she said. In January, the group held a clinic that paired up a more experienced rider with a beginner. Members also brought show clothes they had outgrown to sell and swap. KC’s regular monthly meeting is held at the Kit Carson Riding Club facility on Cowpoke Road on the second Monday of the month. Contact Terri Daniel at 495-3992.Another national group for youngsters – one that focuses strictly on English riding – is the U.S. Pony Club (USPC), one of the leading junior equestrian organizations in the world. An overwhelming majority of the members of the U.S. Equestrian Team were long-time USPC members. Programs are offered on a national level in dressage, eventing, show jumping, mounted games, vaulting, foxhunting and polo Crosse. USPC members must be between the ages of 6 and 21, and, although it is not necessary for members to own a horse, they must have access to one when required. The emphasis of the club is to build an independent rider; parents are not involved in meetings and clinics, and members are mentored by older PC riders. Members work their way through structured riding levels and learn about horse and stable management, arena etiquette and showing competitively.The Mountain Meadows Pony Club meets twice a month at the Carey farm near the intersection of Highway 83 and County Line Road. Robin Lopez, district commissioner for the club, said that an equal emphasis is placed on riding and general horse management. “But our main focus is safety,” she said. All riders must wear approved helmets, and the focus on developing good riding skills helps keep the riders safe. One of the club’s main goals is to teach children how to evaluate a new horse, and riders are encouraged to ride a variety of horses. Unmounted meetings include clinics on how to wrap a horse’s leg and how to determine proper feeding needs. All members need to have access to a horse, but Lopez emphasizes that leasing is a good option to start. Contact Robin Lopez at 495-1000.If you’re not sure which group is best for you, go to a meeting or two, attend a local horse show or clinic and ask many questions. Check out the 4-H Web sites: ( and the U.S. Pony Club ( Call the El Paso County 4-H office at 636-8922. Horse people are always glad to introduce new people to the wonderful world of horse craziness.Next month: Riding clubs for the whole family

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