Teen leadership opportunities for managing horse shows

Teens can take on important leadership roles by managing a horse show.

With summer in full swing and many horse shows wrapping up, now is the time to start thinking about next year’s show season. This is also an opportunity to begin developing youth leadership skills for 4-H teens to take a more active role in not just showing at horse shows, but learning the roles and responsibilities of managing a show.

Managing a 4-H horse show is a great opportunity for teens to work side-by-side with an adult leader, in what is called a youth-adult partnership, in order to develop the skills needed to manage a show. Youth-adult partnerships utilize the wisdom and expertise of the adult along with the enthusiasm and thinking outside the box that teens have, thus resulting in each learning from the other.

The following are some ideas of leadership roles and responsibilities for teens to take on at a 4-H horse show where they can develop communication, planning and organizing skills.

  • Contact the judges prior to the show. Youth practice communication skills by placing a phone call and following up with a confirmation letter.
  • Set up and tear down the different arena configurations. Youth practice planning and organizing skills.
  • Register participants. Youth practice communication skills by greeting exhibitors and assuring they are registered for the individual classes. They can also learn money management skills, as they are responsible for taking money and making change.
  • Announce classes. Youth practice public speaking skills by projecting their voice over a microphone to announce the exhibitors in the class.
  • Ring stewards. Youth learn the art of judging horses as they will work side-by-side with the judge learning what the judge is looking for.
  • Take the judge to lunch. Youth can be an ambassador for the program by accompany the judge to lunch. Learn meal etiquette and how to have a meeting during a meal.
  • Responsible for class sheets. Youth will have to demonstrate writing skills as well as be organized in developing a system to assure all class sheets are correct.
  • Serve on the rules committee. Youth will learn to handle conflict and communicate effectively in difficult situations.

Setting teens up for success through trainings is the important part of having them serve in leadership roles. Michigan State University Extension’s leadership and civic engagement work team members can assist you with educational workshops around youth and adult partnerships, how to set up programs for youth and adults to work together as well as teen leadership trainings.

The key to teens learning leadership roles and responsibilities is having adult volunteers willing to work with teens in developing skills as well as letting go of their own control of the responsibilities. It is crucial the teens receive proper instructions or training to be successful in these roles.

It may take a little longer to manage a horse show with teens managing as well as showing, but how can any program not involve them at this level when it meets four of the seven Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles?

  • Youth develop positive relationships with adults and peers.
  • Youth are activity engaged in their own development.
  • Youth are considered participants rather than recipients in the learning process.
  • Youth develop skills that help them succeed.

There are numerous roles and responsibilities a teen can be responsible for in the 4-H program and at a 4-H horse show. For more information, email 4-hleadership@anr.msu.edu. As you get ready to plan next year’s show season, look to get youth involved in the planning and operations of the show. 

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