James Meaux, Chaney, John A., Depew, Clinton G. | 4/22/2005 8:14:57 PM
LAKE CHARLES – Forty-eight 4-H Club members and the adults who accompanied them recently spent two days learning new skills and developing a relationship with their horses during the Southwest Louisiana 4-H Horse Camp at the Burton Coliseum Outdoor Arena here.
"These young people are eager to learn new skills in training and riding their horses," said LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Jimmy Meaux. "And they’re having fun doing it."
This horse camp March 28-29 and other LSU AgCenter events like it provide an opportunity for youth to spend time learning skills from professional horse trainers and sharing the knowledge they gain with fellow 4-H Club members.
"This is an opportunity for young people to develop relationships – both with fellow 4-H members and with their horses," said LSU AgCenter horse specialist Dr. Clint Depew.
Developing a relationship with a horse teaches the principles of reward and punishment for different types of behavior. The basic relationship skill taught in the sessions is for the horse owners to respond to positive behavior from the horse and to punish negative behavior. Learning to recognize behavior signs in horses will help these young people throughout life in dealing with human and animal behavior, according to the experts.
The Southwest Louisiana 4-H Horse Camp was held during the spring break for schools in the area to encourage youngsters to expand their educational experiences in an informal way.
It is just one example of the opportunities offered through the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H youth development program across the state – in which young people can learn through projects and activities that cover a broad range of topics from nutrition and health to computer science.
The horse camp was filled with challenging and educational activities. For example, during meal times and other group meetings, LSU AgCenter agents challenged youth by asking questions concerning information presented in previous workshops.
"Most youth accept the challenge of answering questions about their horses in a group," said Meaux. "And this helps the young people develop their leadership and communication skills – especially when they answer the questions correctly."
Such educational events provide an opportunity for youth to use both their hands and their minds to learn skills such as showmanship, horsemanship, basic horse training, basic horse care, health care and nutrition, and grooming.
Concurrent workshops also were conducted by people who graduated from the LSU AgCenter’s Master Horsemen class in the area. Those adults conducted hands-on workshops in basic horse training, selection, judging and showmanship.
"These Master Horseman share years of experience of training horses with the 4-H club participants," said Depew, adding that they shared how to use cues, voice commands and pressure to train their horses.
Another highlight of the camp was provided by LSU Veterinary School professor Dr. Dennis French and his students who divided the camp participants into small groups and let the members use a stethoscope to listen to a horse’s heart beat, lung movements and stomach sounds.
French cautioned the group to look for and pick up small pieces of metal, like staples or barbwire, in the horse pen or pasture – stressing animals might otherwise consume those items while eating grass or hay.
Holding a ball about 6 inches in diameter, French explained it was removed from a horse’s stomach and was caused by minerals accumulating around a metal object in the stomach over time.
"A mineral ball like this blocks the stomach and must be surgically removed," said French.
Another educational session on horse nutrition and health care was conducted by representatives from Nutrena Feed Co., a sponsor for the camp.
Other educational lessons conducted during the camp included topics such as selecting tack, proper bitting, problem solving, horse demonstrations, a quiz bowl, western riding events, roping and speed events.
The camp is about more than training a horse, according to LSU AgCenter officials and participants, who say it provides an opportunity to develop relationships, learn to communicate and practice important life skills such as trustworthiness, dependability, courtesy, responsibility and respect.
"Now, I challenge the participants to practice the techniques you learned at the camp and train your horses before competing in the 4-H Club parish, district and state horse shows in early summer," Meaux said.