Since 1972, the Marion County 4-H Horse Specialty Club has taught youth not only about horses but also life skills.
If you need a poster boy, or in this case man, for the Marion County 4-H Horse Specialty Club, Kevin Yutani fits the role. From 1978-83, ages 13-18, he was a club member. Beginning in 2005, he served as the club leader right up until March of this year.
“I learned so much about not only horses and competing in horse shows but about how to navigate life from the club,” says Yutani, who is currently the club’s consultant. “While we are a single focus group within the 4-H organization, we also follow the 4-H mission of youth development. We just happen to do it through horse-related activities.”
A 501(c)(3) non-profit, the MC 4-H Horse Specialty Club is open to youth ages 8-18 who have an interest in horses. Owning a horse or wanting to compete in shows is not required.
“Most kids want to compete, but some don’t. Those who don’t can learn about horses, and we offer a horse-judging team,” says Yutani. “But most kids want to ride and compete. If a child doesn’t own a horse, there are leasing opportunities.”
The MC 4-H Horse Specialty Club puts on five shows a year in October, November, January, March and April. All the shows are held at the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion. Club members compete in Junior and Intermediate (13 and under) and Senior (14-18) divisions. Competition classes include both English and Western disciplines. A sampling of classes includes grooming, showmanship, halter, barrel racing, hunter, dressage and ranch riding. There are Beginner division (riders with less than two years of experience), Beginner Horse (horse with less than two years of experience) and Green classes (horse and rider combination with less than two years of experience). Club members are required to ride and/or work in three shows a year.
“The kids operate four concession events a year to raise funds to put on all the shows. The money raised pays for the show judges, awards and other show expenses,” says Yutani. “This teaches them responsibility and teamwork. We also offer $500 scholarships with certain requirements to club members who go to college, a trade school or enter the military.”
In addition to the Marion County 4-H Show Series, club members can also move on to compete in other 4-H shows. This includes the annual area show in Sumter County, state show in Tampa and regional show in Perry, Georgia.
“We are an active club and accept members year-round,” says Yutani. “We think the club provides a great youth experience.”
Learn more › Kayla Madore, club leader › (352) 572-5950 › horsespecialtyclub.com