4-H Horse Project Builds Self-Confidence
Story by Susan Collins-Smith • Photos by Kevin Hudson
Noah Carpenter will tell you himself that he wouldn’t have the life skills he has today if not for 4-H.
“My involvement in 4-H has taught me responsibility, teamwork, and leadership skills,” he says. “I’m better at communicating with others because I’ve built self-confidence through showing horses.”
A member of the Mississippi State University Extension Service 4-H youth development program in Tishomingo County for 5 years, Noah began showing his miniature pony at 7 years old. Now, Noah and his American Quarter Horse, Sugar, compete in walk-trot, halter, and other showmanship and performance classes in 4-H competitions.
His family has always had several horses, and they, especially his dad, Bubba Carpenter, encouraged Noah to get involved in the program.
“I was in 4-H. I participated in a woodworking club, submitted a record book each year, and attended conferences,” Bubba says. “I made friends for a lifetime and had a blast. I wanted Noah to be involved because I knew it would have a positive impact on him.”
And it has. His parents and other adults note a marked change in Noah—from a reserved child to an engaged teen. Noah takes initiative in school, in 4-H, and in his personal life, volunteering for leadership roles and helping other 4-H’ers. He spent most of his summer at Joey Hall’s horse-training facility. Each day, he devoted time for grooming, feeding, riding, and working on technical maneuvers with Sugar, but he spent the rest of the day helping Hall around the grounds and tending to the other horses that board there.
“Since I’ve been working with Noah, he has matured a lot,” Hall says. “When you are involved in the kinds of programs 4-H offers, you have to take on the accountability for it, especially with horses. That’s a 1,000-pound animal, and they have to learn to communicate with it. It is just the two of them in the show ring. They have to want to do the work to improve. No one else can do it for them.”
Noah’s 4-H agent, Zach Yow, sees the same maturity and motivation born of the guidance, support, and hands-on learning Noah received through 4-H.
“Noah reflects the image of what you expect to see from someone who is involved in 4-H,” Yow says. “He is a well-mannered young man who is well respected by both adults and his peers. He puts in the hard work and dedication preparing for his shows, and it is reflected in the show ring.
“He is the type of individual who will step up and do anything that is asked of him.”
Although it’s been a lot of work through the years, Noah says he also has a lot of fun.
“I spend a lot of hours practicing and getting ready for shows, but it’s worth it,” Noah says. “I’ve made a lot of friends in 4-H. Showing is exciting, and it’s fun to win. But I have fun even when I don’t win.”