COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Due to the increasing popularity and reach of the Texas State 4-H Horse Show, significant changes are on the horizon to meet more participant needs and continue the show’s trajectory for growth and impact.
This year’s 61st annual Texas State 4-H Horse Show is open to the public from July 23-28 at the Brazos County Expo in Bryan.
Typically, more than 350 4-H youth from throughout the state and their family members attend the show.
“The state show is the pinnacle of the 4-H horse project and offers many opportunities to 4-H youth including up to 40 classes of competition, educational programs, scholarships and college preparation opportunities,” said Chelsie Huseman, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horse specialist. Huseman, based in Bryan-College Station, is also an assistant professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Increased participation, changing demographics
Huseman said the changes are being brought about to meet the needs of the changing competitors. Since 2019, the state horse show has seen a 10% increase in participation and entries, as well as an 18% increase in the number of horses competing.
“We have been fortunate to see continued growth over the past five years while many state 4-H shows have been declining in participation,” she said. “Texas continues to have the highest number of horses of any state in the U.S., so it is no surprise that we have a strong 4-H horse project.”
Huseman said to respond to the increase in show participation and the fact that more participants are coming from urban areas, show coordinators have made a few significant changes in its guidelines to better serve the needs of youth and their families. The changes were voted on and approved by the State Show Committee.
What are the changes?
Huseman said the most significant change that will be in place starting this year is that participants will now be allowed to show horses they lease, as well as own.
“This is a big change from our previous guidelines that only allowed for horses owned by the exhibitor to be shown,” she said. “However, many 4-H youths reside in more urban areas and do not have the opportunity to keep a horse and therefore must lease them instead. But these youth still provide their horses with care, exercise and other management needs, plus use them to develop their riding skills.”
Huseman said the responsibilities associated with caring for horses and learning to ride help with the development of core life skills such as leadership, decision-making, communication and self-confidence, which is the ultimate goal of any 4-H project.
The second change starting this year will allow open qualification in all divisions for the state show instead of requiring participation in the district shows to qualify. The only exception is for the futurity division, which requires district participation facilitated by their county agent to ensure the safety and success of these young horse projects.
Removing the qualification requirement allows district administrators more freedom to develop horse opportunities that more closely fit the needs of participants at their local level.
“This change also alleviates pressure on many active 4-H families who must choose amongst the multitude of activities that are all offered in the month of June, as the district horse shows have been,” Huseman said.
However, she said, district 4-H horse shows will still be an option for competitors to develop their skills as they prepare for the state show.
“This change will help districts develop meaningful engagements with their local 4-H youth in the horse project to prepare them for the state show,” said Huseman. “The Texas State 4-H Horse Show provides a unique opportunity for equestrians to exhibit their horses and develop meaningful life skills.
“These new rules will help to ensure more 4-H’ers have an opportunity to participate, and we are looking forward to seeing how these changes expand the reach and opportunities available to 4-H youth across Texas.”
State show overview
The Texas State 4-H Horse Show is presented by Texas 4-H, a youth development organization administered by AgriLife Extension. Annually, more than 550,000 youth ages 8-18 are involved in a variety of 4-H youth development experiences.
Huseman and Jennifer Zoller, Ph.D., also an AgriLife Extension horse specialist, along with a team of more than 35 AgriLife Extension county agents, volunteers and supporters, manage the seven-day event. The show is supported by sponsors, donors and industry partners statewide who share their resources, including providing monetary donations, services and awards.
The show awards more than $20,000 in scholarships each year, Huseman said. As a testimony to the importance of these scholarships, she said that since 2018, 92% of the division scholarship winners from the state show have enrolled in college. Of those, 95% have enrolled in a Texas institution of higher learning.
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications