In 4-H, the Horse Project includes learning about equine science, care and training of horses, exhibiting at county and state 4-H horse shows, Western Heritage (roping, goat-tying, cutting/sorting) and a leadership opportunity called the Dan Patch Award.
Since 1966, one member of the 4-H Minnesota Horse Project has been awarded the Dan Patch Award based on the individual’s overall achievement, leadership and service. The award is named after a famous horse, Dan Patch, who set the world pacing record for the mile of 1:55 on Sept. 8, 1906, at the Minnesota State Fair.
This year, Crow Wing County was represented in the top 10 finalists by Alexis Visser of Pequot Lakes.
All applicants are judged on a submitted resume and portfolio that highlight what they have learned from their life experiences and how they have applied that learning and used it to provide service to 4-H and to their communities.
Each component of an applicant’s evaluation is judged by a team of adults selected from 4-H, business and educational areas within Minnesota. The goal is to provide each applicant with feedback that will contribute to their personal growth while competing for top state awards.
The top 20 applicants competing for the Dan Patch Leadership Award are invited to attend a judging day that includes a personal interview, group problem solving and a horse-related presentation. In addition, these applicants also participate in a personal coaching session, receiving feedback on their resume and portfolio.
The top 10 applicants are selected based on their composite scores for all five activities and are awarded state horse show trips. The finalists ride in the grand entry and receive their awards during a ceremony.
In the competition at the Minnesota State 4-H Horse Show, Visser placed fourth in Pole Weaving, third in Key Race, third in Jumping Figure 8 and 11th in Barrels out of 42 contestants in her age division. She improved on her own personal time in barrels by two seconds with a time of 15.4 (the winning time was 14.2).
Barrel racing can be the most difficult of the gaming events as the horse has to step in all the right places and the focus of the horse/rider has to be consistent and in complete partnership.
Her equine partner, Hope, is a horse adopted from the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue during the 2008 Trainer’s Challenge. The 14.1 hand, 8-year-old Mustang mare showed potential when working cattle. In looking for a horse for Western Heritage, Hope was found to be a good fit. They both like the events that are fast-paced and require focus.
Visser describes her horse as exuberant, willful and having a “lot of try,” which compliments her own competitive mindset and determination. They did much better at this year’s state show over last and Visser attributes this to her decision to treat herself and her horse as athletes in training, following strict diet and fitness regimes throughout the past year in preparation for the county and state horse competitions.
When asked what stands out for her as leadership experiences, Visser responded: “I help fellow 4-H members hone their riding skills for shows and teach them how to groom their horses for show such as clipping, bathing, braiding and banding. I volunteer as a youth mentor in 4-H, have led worship music and service projects at my church, served as a director in Youth-As-Resources, taught skiing at Ski Gull, and helped many kids at my local stable. I have had the delightful privilege to be one of the State Western Heritage co-chairs and love interacting with people across the state.
“This past year I have taken on another position as co-chair for the Horse Expo Tack Sale, which is the Minnesota 4-H Horse Association’s biggest fundraiser. I enjoyed being at the tack sale through the entire duration because I like to meet and work with many people involved in the 4-H horse project,” Visser said. “I have held several officer positions such as president, vice president, reporter and treasurer at the local club level and held various officer positions within Crow Wing County and on the State Horse Project Development Committees.
“The fact that I have worked with so many different people of all ages has made me value the opinions of others. My various experiences have given me familiarity with decision making and planning,” she said. “Recent opportunities with the Horse Knowledge Bowl have allowed me to practice planning meetings and learning activities. I am always working to improve these skills. I have come to value the importance of building relationships in achieving goals.”
Visser said her favorite subjects are math, science and writing. Currently she is enrolled in the post-secondary enrollment option, allowing her to obtain her associate degree from Central Lakes College and her high school diploma from Pequot Lakes High School next May.
She is an ambitious and focused individual with an obvious love of learning and challenge. As a high school senior she has thus maintained a 4.0 GPA and is strongly considering North Dakota State University in Fargo or River Falls, Wis., majoring in biology or economics. She is looking at these colleges because they both have rodeo clubs and she wants to take her horse with her to college.
In addition to being an active 4-H member and community volunteer, Visser has participated in competitive trail and endurance rides. She said she will cherish 4-H, school and community learning experiences forever and hopes to use them to teach others that life isn’t about how far you get but the lives you touch and all the little things you learn along the way.
For more information on local 4-H programs, contact Crow Wing County Extension in Brainerd or Jeanne Rohr at 218-824-1069. Or go to http://www1.extension.umn.edu/youth/mn4-h.
(Brenda Myers is a Pequot Lakes resident and Alexis Visser’s grandmother.)