As you can imagine, it’s kind of hard to have a horse 4-H club meeting right now. But kids need the social interaction, fresh air and therapy the back of a horse provides, so Ravenna Riders 4-H club leader Amanda Ableidinger got creative and found ways to keep her 4-Hers involved in the club, from a distance. This not only includes time with the horses, but getting creative with fundraisers and community service, both of which are big parts of 4-H.
“2020 has been a very difficult year for everyone,” says Amanda. “Like everything else, 4-H shut down completely in March. When it started up again, it was only virtually due to state and 4-H restrictions and that is still the way we are currently operating. Having school, horse shows and other big events and activities cancelled due to the pandemic has taken its toll. Not being able to spend time with other club members and friends in person for so long has been emotionally difficult. Youth need social interactions. They crave togetherness and the pandemic has done a lot to make people scared, uncertain about the future, and feeling isolated and alone.”
Anyone who has met Amanda knows she is a glass-half full kind of person who doesn’t let anything get her down. Managing her 4-H club during COVID-19 is no exception. “For this 4-H year, we have decided that we won’t focus so much on what we can’t do, but what we CAN do,” she explains. “In our virtual club meetings, the members have done a lot of brainstorming on what we can do as a club to learn and socialize while following all of the restrictions and guidelines that are in place. I’m really proud of all of the wonderful ideas they’ve come up with and how passionate they are about making them a reality. It really took a lot of thinking outside the box.”
Horse Time & Learning
Working within the restrictions, Ravenna Riders are able to still come out for their individual lessons on the club’s wonderful gypsy horses, allowing the 4-Hers to get some fresh air and exercise. Other members have their own horses that they ride at home or their barns where they board. It was important to the club’s leaders that the kids not only get to keep riding, but also keep learning, another key part of 4-H. Part of this included a clipping clinic at the club, social distance-style. They invited Cora Mae Linn of Mane Masters and 4-Hers got to come out in shifts to learn how to clip the hair on the horses they normally ride. Other 4-Hers got to watch the clinic virtually and ask questions.
In addition to creative thinking of in-person events, the club does plenty virtually. “Due to COVID, we haven’t been able to meet in person since March,” shares Jenna Fennerl, Ravenna Rider club president. “Luckily, our club has been able to meet over Zoom for our monthly meetings and meetings for our club committees. Going to these meetings has helped me feel involved in 4-H in the virtual world.”
Those meetings have included fun ways to help the club members continue to learn about horses. “Our Club President Jenna Fennerl and Vice-President Kadence Wallingford have both worked hard to put together equine knowledge lessons over Google Classroom for club members to study, participate in, and receive feedback on to keep them actively engaged during the week,” shares Amanda.
The club has also done several virtual horse shows, so the 4-Hers can get feedback from judges and practice equitation patterns. They have enjoyed being able to do something fun with their horses. “Personally, shows being virtual has been a good thing as my horses are very new to the world of showing and starting off in their own environment has been good,” says Addie Johnson, a senior club member.
All 4-H clubs do some amount of fundraising to help with costs and/or to donate to charities. Normally in December, the Ravenna Riders put on a bake sale with proceeds going to help the 4-Hers continue to learn and grow. “It pays for guest speakers, clinicians, educational materials, and supplies that they need to participate in their Project,” says Amanda. With the pandemic, we’ve had to change the ways we communicate and learn together as a club and that has caused increased costs.”
Obviously, a bake sale was out, so the club got together and brainstormed. They decided custom ornaments would not only be fun to make, but would be a good fundraiser. The custom ornaments have colored glitter on the inside and a personalized vinyl image on the outside. The ornaments are just $10 and come fully customized. You can choose the color of glitter as well as the image and if you want any wording on it.
In order to have your ornaments by Christmas, order before December 19 at midnight. However, you can order ornaments through December 23 if you don’t mind it being a bit late for Christmas. To order, visit the Ravenna Riders Fundraisers Facebook group.
The club has also found ways to continue their community service, despite COVID-19. This year they have created care packages for homeless veterans. “The club members felt that the greatest need this time of the year with the cold wet winter weather that we have been having was to provide homeless veterans with items that they need to stay warm and healthy,” Amanda shares. “They are excited about getting the supplies for the care packages and assembling them.”
Partnering with Clark County Veterans Assistance Center, the club assembled the packages with items they themselves donated, along with a few friends of club members. The packages include essentials like gloves, hats, scarves, snacks and personal care items. Once assembled, the Veterans Center will help with distribution.
2021 is still a mystery for all of us in terms of when restrictions will ease and what will be allowed as we move forward. But, the members, like their fearless leader, are all optimistic. “I hope this next year we will be able to do more in-person activities with the club,” says Eva Overbagh, a new club member who was just getting to know everyone. She found if hard when in-person gatherings were cancelled. “I look forward to 4-H as I feel really accepted by the people there as they have similar interests as me. It’s where I fit in.”
“For the new year I am excited for the possibility of in-person meetings in the future,” adds Jenna. “Our club has done a really great job keeping our sense of community virtually through this time. However, returning to in person events is still something I am excited for.”