The Northwind Rider 4-H Horse Club is an upper Peninsula club for youth ages 3rd-12th grade. Their leader is Geri Litzen. The club is an equine-education based club, with lots of opportunities to learn about horses and share experiences and activities with other kids who also love horses.
You do not have to own a horse to be in the Northwind Riders, we have kids who don’t own a horse, kids who lease a horse, kids who use their leader’s horses for their project horses, and kids who are seasoned horse owners. There is a place for anybody who just loves and enjoys horses! Our club focus areas are: equine education, vet science, Alaska Horse Contest, community service, teen leadership, horse care/handling, and youth outreach. We get together frequently to do horse activities, field trips, business meetings, community service projects, and other events. We have a lot of fun growing and learning together!
For many years now, our club has competed in the Alaska State Horse Contest. With our older girls, now graduated, we have gone to Nationals twice and placed very well. Now we have some of our younger kids participating. The Alaska State Horse Contest is an equine-knowledge based contest for 4-H horse club members. Each year the contest travels to another part of Alaska, on a five-year rotation from Kenai, Palmer, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Fairbanks. Last year we went to Juneau. This year was in Palmer.
The competition doesn’t involve the kids riding the horses, although there is a Youth Horse Judging section. There is also Hippology (kind of a hands-on stations approach) a difficult written exam, Public Presentations, and Buzzer Bowl. Buzzer Bowl is the one everyone works very hard to win, it’s everyone’s favorite event — plus winning it means you may be able to go on to Nationals.
We form our teams each fall, and start meeting for weekly study sessions. We get together at least once a week, and sometimes more. We practice with the “buzzers” (it’s like a game show format, four on a team facing one anther across a table). We get together and judge real horses on their conformation/structure. The kids also are very dedicated and they have homework each week. They study together a lot!
This year our Northwind Riders team won the Buzzer Bowl! This qualifies us to go to Nationals in Denver, Colorado in January. Our very young team (team one) did an amazing job! In the first match they lost to the top (expected to win) team and knew they were about to be eliminated if they lost again. We all took a deep breath, and dove back in to the next match with gusto! They won that round! So they were back in the game, and team after team met their match in the Northwind Riders.
Finally, it was the championship round! They again were to go up against the best team, the one that had already defeated them. In a tense round, they won it!
But since that team was completely undefeated, our team had to play them again! So after a quick break, they were back in their seats, sweaty little thumbs on the buzzers. We coaches could hardly breathe!
The room was soooo silent and the questions were so hard! I couldn’t even sit down, I paced in the back of the room and tried to stay calm. They tied! Now it was on to a final tie-breaker round — oh my goodness! Our first player got the answer wrong, making it a negative one point.
She straightened her shoulders, took a deep breath, and buzzed in on the next question right! That meant still no points, since we had a negative (wrong) answer. The questions went on and we got some right! So did the other team!
Then, the other team got a question we knew the answer to — but they buzzed in first. Everyone waited and I bit my lip, and she got it wrong! That meant we won the championship! It was an exciting and heroic finish!
Along with that win, we also placed in both first and second place for Senior Public Presentations, and also placed in Youth Judging (individual championship) and second place High Point for questions answered correctly.