Yates Co. 4-H alum reflects on lessons learned from 4-H

Laura Bagley

My 4-H journey started at 8 years old. That’s when I first learned that 4-H was about “Making the Best Better.” Notice that the word “making” is continuous, which means that it represents an ongoing action. You never stop making the best better. It is something you continue to work on throughout your 4-H projects as well as throughout your career and life.

Yates County 4-H alum Laura Bagley with one of her prize-winning chickens, just one of the many species she worked with and showed in her years with 4-H.

One prominent highlight of my 4-H career was working with my pony, Daisy. Daisy was not a perfect show pony, but I worked with her for many long, hard, and sometimes frustrating hours. One year, I worked with Daisy all winter, spring, and summer to prepare for dressage at county fair. Daisy was a champ at home and I was able to transform her into a nice dressage mount. When the day of the fair came, Daisy was not having it. She bolted, jigged sideways, would not break down to a walk, and threw her head up in the air multiple times during our first test – the same test we had worked so hard and perfected at home. I was so upset when we finally finished. I could not believe I had done all that hard work for nothing. However, with feedback from the judge, I continued to be persistent and worked with Daisy to prepare for State Fair. That same year, not only did we place in all our dressage classes, but we also got a First in one of our western dressage tests! Lesson one; your "Best" might not come through when you would like it to. Accepting this and continuing to work through your failure is crucial. Hard work is what counts and sometimes you just have to be patient.

In 4-H I completed projects in painting, sewing, writing, poetry, and photography. Even though I had fun in these areas, animal science was my focus and where I had the most fun. I first began showing horses at county fair when I was nine, moving on to state fair when I was a young teen. In addition to showing horses, I began showing rabbits at 13. With the help of past 4-Her's, I learned as much as I could to show at county fair and even went on to state fair. A few years later, when I got my dog Shad, I also decided to start showing dogs at the fair. The last species I added to my list of 4-H projects was in 2018, when some friends hatched chicks at the fair and gave me two, much to my poor mother's dismay. My flock grew from there and I showed poultry my last two years in 4-H. It turns out chickens are really entertaining! Adding new species that I did not know a lot about seemed a bit daunting at first, but they have all been great opportunities to try new things, learn new skills, and venture out of my comfort zone. Lesson two; don’t be afraid to try new things.

When I first started competing in horse knowledge competitions (Horse Bowl, Hippology, Judging, and Public Speaking), I thought I already knew a lot about equines. However, through consistent exposure to content, teamwork, and by actually studying (when I became older and more competitive), I learned material relating to horse care, scientific knowledge, and so much more. Not only did I learn about these topics, but I also learned how to properly articulate and effectively communicate my knowledge. These skills were refined through impromptu team presentations in Hippology, the reasons phase in horse judging, as well as in researching and presenting a speech in horse communications. Lesson three; there is always more to learn and improve on.

In 4-H I was able to attend the 4-H Capital Days Trip in Albany. On the trip, I learned more about state government, met with our local representatives, and watched the state Senate and Assembly in action. I went to Capital Days for the first time in 2017 and was on the Teen Planning Committee for the 2018 statewide event. Planning a large event with a team from across the state was an exercise in leadership. Furthermore, through participation in Teen Council and Teen Ambassadors, I was able to learn how to properly run meetings, plan and put on events, and resolve conflict. 4-H provides so many unique opportunities to try new things and learn new skills, as well as meet new people and see new places. Lesson four; each opportunity provides experiences to learn, grow, and develop. Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can.

I will not forget the 4-H friends I have made and the opportunities I’ve had. From county and state fair to district, state, and national competitions. I have visited the state capital, toured Keeneland Racetrack, watched horse races at Churchill Downs, and explored the Kentucky Horse Park. As my time as a Yates County 4-H’er has come to an end, I plan to continue my involvement and volunteer in all the areas I competed in, to provide more young people the opportunities and experiences I had. I do not know where I would be or what I would have done without my time in 4-H. The knowledge and skills I gained are something I will carry with me for the rest of my life, as I continue to “Make the Best Better”.

For more information on 4-H in Yates County, be sure to like us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, @Yates County 4-H. For more information on the Yates County 4-H Program, visit us on-line athttp://yates.cce.cornell.edu/4-h-youth or reach out to us at 315-536-5123 or jja26@cornell.edu. Cornell University Cooperative Extension provides equal program and employment opportunities