4-H’ers aging out get a last lap around the show ring
Photos by Tom Rivers
KNOWLESVILLE — Madison Bale (left), 17, and Kaitlin Zwifka, 19, ride together in a last lap around the show ring at the Orleans County Fairgrounds.
They took a final lap to the song, “My Wish,” by Rascall Flatts to close out the fair on July 27.
The last lap is a long-tradition in the 4-H horse program, said Shelly Daggs, the horse superintendent. This fair there were 67 riders in the 4-H program.
Madison and Kaitlin have been riding horses together in 4-H for about a decade.
Kaitlin just finished her freshman year at Brockport State College. She is a math major. Kaitlin is involved in the college’s equestrian club. She has been riding horses since she was 6.
“4-H has completely changed my life,” Kaitlin said. “It’s been the highlight of my summer. You meet people from all over Orleans County.”
Besides the fair in Knowlesville, Kaitlin has competed at the Erie County Fair and the State Fair, and has amassed many ribbons.
She started riding with Patty and Paige Levandowski, and then Linda Fuller and Company. Now the Zwifkas own their own horse and a mini-horse. Kaitlin’s 10-year-old sister, Lauren, also rides.
Marty Zwifka is pictured with his daughter Kaitlin and her horse, Lucy. Marty volunteers as the Orleans County Fair manager. He never expected to be a “horse person” but he said he loves being around the horses and the riders.
He said the 4-H program has taught his daughter responsibility and connected her with many friends.
“They become better people,” Zwifka said.
He remembers his daughter being nervous when she was a 10-year-old rider. Now, Kaitlin exudes confidence and has a caring nature.
“I see her love for Lucy, that bond between her and the animal,” Zwifka said.
Kaitlin’s riding awards include three victories at the State Fair.
“She has taken us on a ride we will never forget,” Zwifka said. “She has made us extremely proud because of her hard work and dedication.”
Madison Bale rides her horse, Cowboy, during her last lap at the fairgrounds. Madison is entering her senior year at the Orleans County Christian School. She is planning to enlist in the Marine Corps after graduation and likely won’t be around to ride at the fair next year when she is 18, her last year to be eligible in 4-H.
“I’ve met a lot of people,” she said about her 4-H experiences. “I’ve learned how to take care of situations and help others.”
Madison also competed in high school rodeo the past two years, which tests barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying. Last month She competed in the National High School Rodeo Finals in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
Madison’s mother, Amanda McDermott, said 4-H and the horse program have been great experiences for her daughter.
“She has grown up a lot,” said McDermott. “She has learned to be patient with the younger kids. She is attentive and caring.”
Madison also gained confidence through public speaking in 4-H. Madison and Kaitlin, and the other riders have a friendly rivalry.
“There is competitiveness where they push each other to be better,” McDermott said. “It’s a family.”