The Mississippi Horse Park will host the 4-H District Horse Show Wednesday, June 15 through Saturday, June 18.
4-H members from ages 8 to 18 will represent 22 counties of northeast Mississippi in competitions testing equestrian speed, skill and style. The show is free and open to the public, with concessions for sale throughout.
Julie White, Oktibbeha County director for the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said this was the first time in seven or eight years that 4-H has held their District Horse Show in Starkville. The event's venue changes every year, she said, and last year, it was hosted in Saltillo at the Lee County Agricenter.
While the welcome ceremony takes place Thursday at 4 p.m., White said, several competitions for the show that don't involve horse riding take place Wednesday. These include a public speaking competition focused on horses and a similarly focused quiz bowl called the Horse Bowl, she said, and the winners for those will be announced at the opening ceremony.
"Most of the time the youth talk about current events that are happening in the horse industry," White said in reference to the public speaking competition. "It gives kids the opportunity to learn how to talk in front of people, so it's one of those character traits that we're trying to build in our youth."
The opening ceremony will also feature a Parade of Counties and appearances from Mayor Parker Wiseman and Greg Bohach, vice president for agriculture, forestry and veterinary medicine at MSU. White said a representative from the county board of supervisors would also be on hand, but it has not yet been decided who the representative will be.
Contests will begin earlier on Thursday, with the horse judging contest kicking the contests off at 9 a.m., followed by trail classes and roping classes starting at 4:30 p.m. White said there are four different types of roping events: goat tying, where contestants must tie up the legs of a goat already tied to a post; calf roping, where competitors must tie a calf's legs after lassoing the calf on horseback; breakaway, where competitors only have to lasso the calf; and team roping, where one competitor ties the calf's legs after his or her teammate lassoes it.
Thursday will also feature trail events, in which competitors must guide their horses through different obstacles. White said these obstacles include crossing bridges, opening mailboxes, and backing through an L-shaped log, among others. The number of obstacles depend on how old competitors are, White said, but hurdles are absent at all ages.
"We don't do jumping at the district horse show," White said. "They do that at the state horse show in Jackson."
"Roping events for the most parts are things that were derived from a typical working ranch, and developed into something competitive. If you look at some of the history of the South, that's how these things got started.
Friday and Saturday's events, both starting at 9 a.m. and ending around 6 p.m., are competitions that focus on different styles of equestrian showmanship: halter, Western, gaited, and English. Saturday will also feature speed events, which White said are the most popular among competitors and spectators alike.
"If you ask the kids, it's because they can go fast," White said. "Even for people coming to the show, there's more people coming to the speed events. It's real fast paced."
Each competitor in the show is a winner at 4-H's county level, White said, and winners at the district show will advance to the state-level show in Jackson. Beyond that, she said, is a regional show in Tunica, the highest level for 4-H horse shows.