Dr. Kristine Vernon: 4-H Southern Regional Horse Show

Dr. Kristine Vernon
Assistant Professor, Animal and Veterinary Sciences
4-H Southern Regional Horse Show

July 27th through August 1st, Clemson University hosted the Southern Regional 4-H Horse Championships at the T. Ed. Garrison Arena. The Southern Regional consists of 13 states that come together for educational contests as well as a horse show.

I am Kristine Vernon and I am an assistant professor in the Animal and Veterinary Sciences Department at Clemson University, but I am also the South Carolina 4-H horse project specialist.

It was an excellent opportunity for us to showcase not only our Garrison Arena facilities, but the volunteers that we have as well as our extension staff.

It brought a huge economic impact because we filled up hotels and restaurants and it brought about 2,500 people to the area. Hopefully they’ll return for vacations because it was a very nice vacation for many of the parents that came to support their kids.

The 4-H horse project in many states is one of the largest project areas and youth compete in a variety of different things. They do record books, record keeping and one of the major components of the 4-H horse projects is horse shows. They compete at the state level and then they can go on to compete at the Southern Regional event that we just hosted.

The horse project instills the 4-H motto, which is, “To make the best better,” and it teaches citizenship, leadership and responsibility; particularly since there is an animal involved.

Within the Southern Regional there are 6 divisions that the youth can compete in and those are: roping, Western events, Hunter events, saddle seat, non-trotting and speed events.

We have just 2 classes of roping that involve steers and the kids have to rope in the traditional Western fashion that harkens back to the days when we used cowboys to work our cattle. 

For the Hunter division, we have equitation on the flat where the riders have to ride through a prescribed pattern and it showcases their control over their horse and the connection that they have with the horse, as well as classes where the horses are judged based on their form, their movement and their beauty.

We also have the over fence jumping event and that was our most popular. We had over 175 kids involved in that particular division.

The Western events include reining, Western riding; which is a pattern-based event where riders have to do very athletic maneuvers; Western pleasure, horsemanship; which is equitation for Western riders; and showmanship, where riders lead their horse through a prescribed pattern.

In the speed events they run fast and turn hard around barrels and pole-bending, and the third speed event is the stakes race.

I’m proud to say that a South Carolina youth won reserve champion in both the speed events and the Western division, so we’re really excited about that. South Carolina held their own and placed in every division across the board. 

We really ran the gamut of all the different events that you would find at a horse show, so there’s something for everybody at the Southern Regional.

One thing to note about the Southern Regional is that it is not just the horse show; we also had six different educational contests.

The kids had to study different parts of the horse industry and they have to be very well-rounded; and then they competed in the horse show, so they put a lot of effort into both their knowledge tests and their riding.

I think that’s another thing about 4-H; its not just getting on a horse and competing in a horse show, we also have the educational and service components.

The thing that I feel has resonated the most within the 4–H horse project is the camaraderie that is built among members within a club as well as within state delegations.

This was the largest Southern Regional in the last 5 years in terms of participation numbers, so it was a huge endeavor and our leaders, youth and agents managed to get it done, so we’re really proud of that. I hope that our South Carolina 4-H kids realize the magnitude of the experience that they just got to participate in.