Tioga County 4-H member Emma Smith has achieved the monumental goal of qualifying to represent her county at national-level competition. Smith, a Union Endicott high school senior, earned this distinction at the New York State Fair’s 4-H Horse Judging competition.
As the only Tioga County 4-H member to achieve national qualification in 2019, Smith’s goal is to raise funds to travel to Louisville, Kentucky to compete in the Eastern National 4-H Horse Roundup on Nov. 8-10, 2019.
Youth involved in 4-H across the United States spend the year working on projects and raising animals to exhibit at their county fairs in the summertime. Qualified judges then select the most deserving youth to move on to statewide competition. By winning a collection of blue ribbons in horse shows at the 2019 Tioga County Fair, Emma Smith earned a spot to compete in the New York State Fair. She then earned the rare distinction of qualifying to compete at the national level by receiving a high placing in the New York State Fair 4-H Horse Judging competition.
Horse Judging, which is a knowledge-based competition, requires participants to act as horse show judges. They must correctly evaluate and place a group of riders, including defending their decisions with sound reasoning and advanced knowledge of horse showing. The competitive event demands youth to have expert knowledge of what judges look for in horse shows.
After earning a top placing at the New York State Fair, Smith’s next goal is to represent Tioga County and New York State 4-H by competing against the best 4-H representatives from other states in November.
Smith, who has been a Tioga County 4-H member for four years, worked hard to achieve this accomplishment.
“I was actually pretty shocked when I found out I made it to Nationals,” Smith said. “I was proud of myself, though, because I did work hard for this. I spent a lot of time getting together with one of my 4-H friends to watch horse show videos, go over judging, and study.”
Smith belongs to the Ranch Riders 4-H Club, led by Mary Gleason of Owego, N.Y.
“It’s great having Emma in our club and in the 4-H horse program,” Gleason said. “She’s always pleasant and upbeat, and she helps the younger kids out with their horses. She’s been learning a lot. I’ve seen how much she’s advanced and progressed from the time she first joined 4-H until now, in the way that she rides and in the knowledge that she has. She would be a wonderful representative for Tioga County at the national level.”
When Smith isn’t busy with 4-H or high school, she can be found working with her horse or volunteering for the Special Olympics Therapeutic Riding Program at Fargnoli Farms in Apalachin, N.Y.
“I’m here at the barn almost every day after school. I’ve been volunteering for the therapeutic riding program every Wednesday in the fall and spring for about four years,” Smith said.
The therapeutic riding program at Fargnoli Farms helps local people with mental or physical disabilities to build muscle, coordination, communication skills, and confidence through riding horses. Smith lends her own horse, Sunny, to the program, and leads riders on horseback while giving them riding and safety instruction.
“I like to help people bond with horses, and I love to see the smiles on the riders’ faces when they’re doing something that they care about,” Smith said.
Linda Fargnoli, executive director of Fargnoli Farms, was excited to learn that Smith qualified for the national 4-H horse judging competition.
“Emma will be such a great representative for Tioga County,” Fargnoli said. “She gives so much to our community through volunteering. She volunteers not only her own time, but also volunteers the horse that she has trained herself. She gives so much to others, and we’re very proud of the work that she does.”
Smith attributes much of her giving spirit to 4-H, stating, “I like that 4-H is very community centered, and everyone in 4-H is kind and always caring. It’s a very positive environment to be in. 4-H has taught me to help my community, and give back for what we’ve gotten.”
In reference to all of the time that Smith spends in 4-H, volunteering, working with her horse, and competing in horse shows herself, she said, “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. I love what I do.”
Smith will be spending the next several weeks studying for the national horse judging competition, and fundraising for her trip to Louisville, Kentucky. She must raise a total of $600 by mid-October to be able to travel with the New York State 4-H team and compete.
The Tioga County 4-H office is currently accepting donations from anyone who would like to sponsor this promising teen in reaching her goal to travel to the Eastern National 4-H Horse Roundup and represent her community at the national level. To help the Tioga County 4-H program send Smith to Nationals, make tax-deductible donations out to Cornell Cooperative Extension, Tioga County. In the memo line, write “4-H National Trip.” Any funds raised will go directly to Smith’s trip. For more information, email Tioga County 4-H at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about the Tioga County 4-H Program, contact the 4-H Office, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Tioga County at 687-4020 or visit tioga.cce.cornell.edu.