4-H makes learning fun for mom and daughter
It was inevitable that Lauren Bryant would at least try 4-H.
Her father’s family has been active in the Mississippi State University Extension Service 4-H Youth Development Program for two generations. And she has attended 4-H events since she was a toddler.
Now, the 11-year-old is showing her own livestock and participating in various 4-H activities through the Extension Service in Tippah County.
“Lauren is a third-generation 4-H’er,” explained her mother, Leigh Bryant. “Her granddad and her daddy were both 4-H’ers.”
At 8 years old, Lauren Bryant began showing dairy cows. She also shows chickens and participates in poultry judging, shooting sports, and 4-H Project Achievement Day.
“I’ve been in 4-H since I was born, really,” she said. “Since I’ve been doing projects, I’ve had a lot of fun and met a lot of new people and learned a lot of new things.”
In 2017, she added horses to her livestock projects. To help prepare for shows, she participated in the 4-H Winter Classic, a 3-month series of informal horse shows aimed at allowing 4-H’ers to try new riding classes and develop their skills. After two shows a month and a lot of practice, she won the show’s award for most improved participant.
“That was a surprise,” she said. “It was pretty exciting, but I was a little shocked.”
Although her family always had horses, she had never worked with them. As she trained with 13-year-old Little Bit during home practice sessions and at the Winter Classic, her confidence and trust with the horse grew. She got faster and discovered the riding classes that suit them both.
“When she first started, she just led the horse around,” Leigh Bryant said. “When she got in the saddle, she started out at a trot, and now she’s up to a lope. She has done a bit better, but she has a long way to go.”
Leigh Bryant is trying out 4-H along with her daughter. A Louisiana native, she was not involved in the organization as a child and began learning more about it when her daughter wanted to get involved.
“I knew nothing about 4-H until I moved to Tippah County,” she said. “Growing up, my parents owned their own business, and we lived in the city. I have always loved animals, but we never had any because my family’s schedule didn’t allow us to devote the time that animals need.”
Leigh Bryant said she is up for anything her daughter wants to try and enjoys learning along with Lauren.
“Anything she wants to do, I say, ‘Yes, we’ll try that,’” Leigh Bryant said. “I’m eager to learn, and I think 4-H has helped me just as much as it’s helped Lauren. The longer we do this, the more we learn. We’ve learned things like how to tell the age of a horse by its teeth.”
Leigh Bryant also loves that 4-H is a family-oriented program that teaches her daughter hands-on life skills through age-appropriate projects.
“4-H livestock projects are a good way to teach children responsibility,” she said. “With animals, they depend on you for their care. They must be fed twice a day, every day. They have to be exercised and groomed for shows. You can’t push that responsibility off on someone else. Of course, she has help with some tasks, but she participates even if she can’t do it on her own.”
Connie Walker, Extension 4-H agent in Tippah County, said she has enjoyed being a part of the Bryants’ 4-H experience.
“It’s been great to watch Lauren improve and Leigh become a part of this organization,” Walker said. “I am proud to have them represent our program.”