Neely Heidorn, Cater, Melissa W.
Neely Walker and Melissa Cater
Research has shown that training in specific areas is an essential component of creating a strong volunteer workforce. Like many of the "Master" extension programs across the nation, the Louisiana Master Horseman program aims to educate equestrians and prepare them to serve as volunteer leaders within the 4-H horse program and the Louisiana equine industry. Using a hands-on approach to ensure mastery of horsemanship techniques, graduates of this training have indicated in a recent survey that the program has instilled confidence and a willingness to teach equine technical and management skills to others.
The LSU AgCenter Master Horseman program began in 2002 for the purpose of improving the horsemanship skills of adults and preparing them to serve as leaders in the 4-H horse program. Each class in the eight-week programs consists of a one-hour lecture and two to three hours of riding and training instruction. Upon graduation, participants are asked to volunteer a minimum of 20 hours in some kind of horse-related activity. Since its inception, more than 1,000 men and women have graduated from the program and serve in leadership roles in horse organizations and youth programs in the state.
Recent evaluation efforts of the Master Horseman program sought to determine if participation in the program increased knowledge, confidence and willingness to teach others. Results indicate that the Master Horseman program successfully instills willingness to teach equine technical and management skills. The program has also attained its goal of creating confident volunteer leaders to teach topics and techniques learned in the program, as indicated by changes in pre- and post-program test scores.
The success of this program, however, may be better indicated by the large number of youth, 263 in 2017-2018, involved in the Louisiana 4-H horse program, whose lives have been affected by Master Horseman graduates. Every year volunteers coordinate a two-day 4-H Horse Camp, host educational clinics, participate in teaching at the annual 4-H University in June on the LSU campus, work the annual Louisiana 4-H and FFA Horse Show in July, and serve as leaders and mentors for parish horse projects. Because of their dedication to the Louisiana 4-H horse program, Master Horseman graduates often exceed their 20 hours of service, and many commit to the program motto of “lifelong learning.”
Neely Walker is an associate professor in the School of Animal Sciences and the extension horse specialist for the LSU AgCenter. Melissa Cater is director of the LSU AgCenter Northeast Region.
(This article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
The LSU AgCenter Master Horseman program has educated more than 1,100 riders since it began in 2002. These equestrians then go on to help others learn horsemanship, including 4-H'ers. Read the story about some of these outstanding volunteers, Learning Mastery in Horsemanship and Leadership.
Master Horseman program volunteer Linda O’Connor, left, of Mamou, helps a 4-H’er use the rope to make her horse move forward during the Acadiana 4-H Horse Camp at the SugArena in New Iberia. Photo by Olivia McClure