Cornell CALS - College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Horse Connections

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by Haley Claes

two people on horseback

Haley Claes and her horse ‘Missy’ featured at her local 4H Bi-County Show in 2011. Courtesy of Haley Claes.

When I started taking lessons at 8 years old, my instructor, Marsha Douglass, introduced us to 4-H. Mrs. Douglass had a club when her kids were young, so my family and I decided to look into it. We eventually started our own club; Horse Lovers Unlimited, with Mrs. Douglass as our leader and my mom as the Project Coordinator. Through 4-H I met many other young ladies and participated in a 4-H horse camp, a horse quiz bowl and I have done Horse Communications for seven years making it to states four times. Horse camp is held at our local fairgrounds for a week, and some kids stay the night in campers. It is open to all 4-Her’s in Fulton-Montgomery Counties. Every day we have clinics with volunteer instructors and trainers. We also have guest speakers come in to teach a topic. Sometimes we have a vet talking about first aid or equine diseases. I have learned so much during these 4-H horse camps.
I have had the pleasure of having many horses throughout my life. The first horse I ever rode was an eleven year old quarter horse named Misty. When I turned eight, I decided I wanted to do more than ride around in our backyard; I wanted to show. We had another quarter horse named K.C. who was also eleven, and he was a lazy bomb proof horse: perfect for a beginner show horse.
I was only able to show K.C. for two years because he had an infection in his coffin bone, and had continuous abscesses. 4-H horse quiz bowl helped me understand and learn about where the coffin bone was and what an abscess was. I ended up with another horse called Little Bit. I continued taking lessons from Marsha and going to horse camp and small 4-H shows like at the local fair. We didn’t click very well and my mom starting riding him so I had to look for another horse for myself.
It didn’t take long until we found a beautiful sorrel mare; Belle. We connected immediately.
I was about twelve when I started showing Belle in 4H and open shows. I started boarding Belle at a local barn two years after we got her, so I could ride in the winter. After only being there for 3 weeks, one day something was wrong. Belle kept coughing and began acting different. We thought she had choked so we ended up going to the vet clinic. Belle stayed there for a week and we learned she had a tear in her esophagus. We also learned there was nothing we could do. So we had to have her put down and I will never forget that day.
It took me a while to get over losing Belle. A few months later we found Missy. I was very lucky to find another wonderful horse; she was perfect for me, again we connected immediately.
I plan to show her and ride her in our 4-H show, 4-H horse camp, local fairs and open shows. I can’t wait until the 2012 show season starts.
Haley Claes, age 16, is in the Horse Lovers Unlimited 4-H Club of Fulton and Montgomery Counties.
For more information on how to join 4-H visit https://nys4-h.org

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Maryn Carlson

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