Anyone who has done even just one year of 4-H, or known a kid who has, knows that Fair is the accumulation of a year of hard work. They spend months working with their project, in this case horses, and they finally get to see that work pay off during Fair week. It’s also a time to spend with peers with similar interests, eat your fill of Fair food and check out other 4-Hers projects in everything from robotics to agriculture. So, when Clark County Fair was cancelled due to COVID-19, 4-Hers were understandably upset. Amanda Ableidinger, leader of the Ravenna Riders 4-H Club, along with Mamie Wheeler, another 4-H horse leader, decided to put on a virtual horse show for the Clark County Horse 4-Hers as an alternative to the 2020 Clark County Fair.
“It was pretty elaborate,” says Amanda. “We had 110 classes being judged. Participants received ribbons and judge’s feedback for each class. It was a lot of work to organize, but it was really fun for the kids. I was excited to be able to offer them something 4-H show related this year.”
It’s not an exaggeration to say these kids look forward to Fair all year long. “I was so sad when fair was cancelled,” says 11-year-old Evie Schubach, who is a junior in the Ravenna Rider’s 4-H Club. “It was really hard for me to take in because last year at fair my horse Tilly was being so naughty and I wanted to make up for that Fair.”
“I was disappointed when I heard that fair was being cancelled because I had worked hard throughout the year to improve myself as a rider so I could do well at fair,” added 14-year-old Jenna Fennerl, a senior in the Ravenna Riders 4-H Club. “However, I understood that in order to keep everyone safe cancelling Fair was the best option. I did miss Fair because I didn’t get to see some of the people I knew from other clubs or be able to invite some of my friends and family to come watch me show at Fair.”
And of course, who isn’t sad about missing out on Dairy Women Milkshakes? “Everyone I know was horribly disappointed about that,” says Amanda.
But the show must go on! Amanda had helped some of her youth compete in other online shows, and Mamie has experience putting on in-person horse shows, so the two made a great team to organize the first Clark County 4-H Virtual Horse Show. The most important things were to make sure the kids enjoyed themselves and that all who wanted, could participate. “The Clark County 4-H Horse Leader’s Association felt that it was important to give the kids in the 4-H Horse Project a way to showcase their skills and what they had been working on and learning this year with their horse,” says Amanda. “We all felt that a Virtual Horse Show would be a wonderful opportunity to do just that while enabling them to stay safe and take care during the current pandemic. Our goal was to create patterns and courses for the show that could be ridden and filmed in the arena where they may board, in a pasture setting, or even in a decent sized yard. We also gave the participants two weeks from when the show patterns and specifics were released to video their classes and submit them. This was especially helpful to the youth in our county that had limited access to their horse(s) due to COVID restrictions. It was important that we made this show as inclusive as possible to allow as many youths that wanted to, the ability to participate.”
They offered as many classes that would have been a Fair as they could, with some exceptions. They were not able to offer gaming (like barrel racing) or advanced jumping due to concerns over proper footing. Also different was the ribbon system. “4-H uses the Danish System to award its ribbons,” Amanda explains. “Everyone gets a flat ribbon: Blue, Red, or White. We awarded rosettes from 1st to 5th place in each class for our top 5 placings.
“I was pretty happy when I heard there was going to at least still be a virtual Fair and I think it really made up for last years,” says Evie. “COVID was hard on Tilly and me because Tilly got really lazy and fat and I was not able to practice, but luckily it was not for long. Really the only thing I miss about Fair is seeing my entire 4-H club and the junk food.”
When they saw that other Fairs were being cancelled and other 4-H horse youth were not going to be able to show, they opened up the Clark County 4-H Virtual Horse Show to other counties. “We ended up having both Skamania and Klickitat counties participate as well,” says Amanda. “Had there been more time, we would have had more.”
The classes cost the youth just $5 each, which covered the judge’s fees, ribbons and postage of mailing the ribbons. Amanda and Mamie volunteered their time to organize the show. Amanda adds that the online show, while lacking the social aspect of hanging out with friends and speaking to the public about their horses, had a lot of benefits. “In doing a virtual show, you get to see and review your performance before you turn your video in to be judged,” she explains. “You can film it multiple times and really evaluate your riding and horsemanship skills to see if you can perfect things a little more. Also, my favorite part about this show is that we had the judge give feedback to each of the participants on every class they entered. Normally at a physical show, you receive feedback from the judge for Showmanship classes. Very seldom do you receive feedback for riding classes. That’s what makes this show so valuable! The judge was able to review each video and give the participant feedback on what they did well and what they could work on for next time. What an amazing learning opportunity!”
Evie had a great show and even had some new successes. “Being able to jump with Tilly and have her be able to jog slowly is my greatest riding accomplishment this year,” she shares.
“I was excited when I found out there would be a virtual show because it gave me the opportunity to show off all the work I had done throughout the year,” adds Jenna. “I think that having a virtual show in place was an amazing idea because it gave all of us an opportunity to compete and show how far each of us have come. I am grateful I got to be a part of it.”
There is talk of putting on another virtual show and opening it up to all the 4-H youth in Washington. If that proceeds, sponsors and donations for ribbons and judging would help make that reality. If you would like to help make a second show a reality, contact Missy Cummins, 4-H youth development regional specialist/faculty, via email email@example.com or phone 564-397-5714.