By KALEA hall
Jennifer Casanta of Columbiana always knew she wanted her 12-year-old daughter Taylor to join 4-H.
Jennifer, a former 4-H’er herself, knew the youth development program would instill values and responsibility in her daughter.
“It’s kind of a family tradition,” Jennifer said. “We try to teach kids how to be good citizens and we try to teach the kids to grow up to be good people.”
Jennifer, one of the advisers of the 4-H club Rock Solid Riders said its 13 members are also taught how to care for horses and properly ride them. Taylor, who has been in 4-H since she was 9, shows her quarterhorse Eagle’s Mark, better known as, J.R. at the Canfield Fair and was able to qualify for the Ohio State Fair this year. Although the important part of 4-H is to learn and have fun, winning is not so bad for Taylor.
“It’s fun to show,” Taylor said before one of her shows.
Taylor placed multiple times in the Junior Horse Show at the Ohio State Fair, which ran July 24-Aug. 4. She won first place for Hunter Under Saddle in the 9-12 Division, seventh place in the all ages Hunter Under Saddle Championship Class and eighth in the Western Horsemanship 11-year-old Division. Taylor was competing against the best in each of Ohio’s 34 counties.
Practicing on her horse is the only way Taylor has been able to meet those accomplishments. But not only does she practice for an hour before her day begins at 8 a.m. at the Canfield Fair, where she shows every day, she also has to clean her horse’s stall and make sure her horse is cared for and fed. Before each show she studies the patterns she has to take her horse around in the ring.
“It teaches the kids responsibility,” Jennifer said. “It keeps them busy and more active.”
Taylor is just one member of about 1,100 in 4-H, only some of whom show animals. Even if they are not showing animals at the fair, the members are still working together, learning leadership and doing community service throughout the year.
Emily Erb, a 17-year-old South Range High School senior who also has been in 4-H since she was 9, but unlike Taylor, she does not show any animals at the fair.
“That is something that is not really well known,” Erb said.
The well-spoken Erb is a member of the Kreative Kids club, one of 65 clubs in Mahoning County 4-H. She focuses on health and safety speech. She is also a member of the 4-H Royal Court, a title she takes pride in, and walks around the fair with her sash, just in case anyone has a question about 4-H. Erb was selected as one of 28 out of 500 youth in Ohio to go to the National 4-H Congress in Atlanta, Ga., in 2012. She was the first Mahoning County member of 4-H to attend. She also won the Health and Safety Speaking contest at the Ohio State Fair last year.
“[4-H] gets different kids from different schools involved with each other,” Erb said. “You do different things to give back to the community.”
Although several 4-H members are in it because it has been a part of their family, 4-H is for anyone to join. And even though the program is rooted in agriculture, it is not necessary to have animals to show.
“We try to make people understand it is not a farm group,” said Janice Hanna of the Ohio State University Extension Office who oversees 4-H in Mahoning County. “It’s a good organization of opportunity.”