GROWING UP, I was the kid in the family that my parents pointed to and said, “She’s horse-crazy.”
I disagreed then and now because I don’t think it’s crazy at all to have a passion for horses and all things about or including horses.
It’s the powerful love of horses, and all these horses, that binds us horse people together.
So it was both fun and informational catching up with Manon Heistand at last weekend’s 4-H horse show and discovering she is just as passionate about being a leader to the Pony Express 4-H club — which helps youths grow, learn and find success — as she was when I first met her almost 20 years ago.
41st year in 4-H
What I didn’t realize is this year is Heistand’s 41st year in 4-H.
She sounds just as enthusiastic about 4-H now as she did was when I first met her.
At that time, her daughter, Suzanne Heistand, was a young girl showing in the 4-H horse division.
And now, Manon Heistand said, she has grandchildren getting started in the 4-H program.
Because many 4-H leaders take a back seat after their children are grown I asked her why she’s still a leader.
She said it’s the reward that comes from taking on a kid who might not have the best financial or emotional support from their family, but they “work really, really hard in the program, and then when they get a blue ribbon, it makes my heart feel really good to see them feel good about all they’ve accomplished.”
Heistand went on to share how some kids might be given a wonderful show horse and so winning can be easy, but they might just have a blasé attitude because they themselves didn’t have to work hard for it.
“Some of my kids have to struggle and struggle to do well, and when they get a blue ribbon, well, to see how thrilled they are —the sense of accomplishment and confidence they get — is my reward,” she said.
She was a 4-H youth herself and then she had the satisfaction of helping her daughter flourish in the program.
Now she has grandchildren starting to participate.
“It’s just a thrill for me,” she said.
At last weekend’s show, she gave me the example of how her boss’ daughter went from a nervous rider to a confident horse handler in the three years she’s been in Pony Express.
The gal’s father approached Heistand at work and asked how he could get his daughter involved in horse 4-H.
“She didn’t have a horse, so she started riding and showing on my horses, but she was so timid around horses, I didn’t know how she’d do,” Heistand said.
“But she struggled and struggled until she gradually overcame her fears.
“Now she has her own horse she is training herself to show, and she has the confidence she needs to succeed.
“And that does my heart good to see how into it she is and how well she is doing.
“So it’s a sacrifice of time and money, but the rewards are so worth it.”
She feels the 4-H program itself can be a benefit to all youths.
“And 4-H isn’t limited to horses. I have one little gal who’s 6½ and she’s showing her chicken,” she said.
“She gave the cutest demonstration the other day on a chicken’s ears.
“I learned from her demonstration the chickens have ears kind of like ours, and they have these lobes, and whatever color lobe they have is the color eggs they lay.
“I never knew that. Brown lobe, brown eggs.
“I’ve been around chickens all my life and I didn’t know that.
“She’s just this little girl and she’s done her record book, she’s gonna show this chicken and it’s her passion. Her passion is just amazing, and that’s why I’m still doing this.”
Thankfully, Heistand said, her club is able to work with its horses year-round — even in the rain — because of the generosity of JusWen Farms in east Port Angeles.
Several of her club members board their horses there.
She said owners Wendy and Justin Petersen “are so gracious to let us practice there. They have an outdoor area, but if it’s raining, they have a beautiful indoor arena we can use.”
In addition, Wendy gives riding lessons to some of her club members, too.
The results of all those 4-H members can be seen first-hand at the Clallam County Fair, Aug. 17-20.
Jefferson County’s Fair and 4-H horse show is Aug. 11-13.
Once again this year, the Clallam County Fair will be offering classes and stalls to adult riders, as well as youths.
There is no entry fee, but horses must stay on grounds for the week and go through a vet check just like the 4-H horses.
For more information, contact LaDona Wilson at 360-461-0809.
Entries must be turned in by Aug. 1.
For more information about 4-H in Clallam County, contact Jenny Schmidt, 4-H program coordinator, WSU Extension Clallam County, at 360-417-2398 or [email protected]
Heistand said if you contact Schmidt, she’ll be able to put your child in the best 4-H fit for his or her needs.
Whether it be the most convenient location, type of riding or even type of animal or interest, she will put them in touch with the 4-H leader so they can talk.
• Star Spangled Horse Show — 8 a.m. July 28-30 at the Clallam County Fairgrounds.
For more information, visit the website http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Star-Spangled-Horses or call show manager Sherri Ellis at 360-460-8481.
• Joe Wolter clinic — Aug. 11-13 at Freedom Farm, 493 Spring Road, Port Angeles.
Call Mary Gallagher at 360-457-4897 or visit www.freedom-farm.net.
• Back Country Horsemen Sallstrom Ranch Ride — 10 a.m. Aug. 19 rideout on the Olympic Discovery Trail Adventure Route, followed by a potluck at Sallstrom Ranch, 278 Dunmire Road, Joyce.
For more information, call hostess Margaret Sallstrom at 360-928-3770.
• Ride the Hill — Aug. 25-27 at Layton Hill Horse Camp, 2514 Chicken Coop Road, Sequim. Register by Aug. 10. For more information, contact Anna Sage Neal at 425-737-7404 or [email protected] general camping information, contact Judy Sage at 360-775-6500.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at [email protected] at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.