Ponytails, hay covered shirts and muddy boots are a tell-tale sign that a girl is a horse girl. So are perfect braids, crisp shirts and polished boots, especially during Fair. While many people are looking forward to the Thurston County Fair and all the rides, games and food, Katelyn Dorsey, a member of the South Bay Horse 4-H club, is prepping for competition.
At 12-years-old, Katelyn has been participating in 4-H for four years. Her mom, Billie Dorsey is the club leader at South Bay Horse 4-H, which is how Katelyn got involved. Each year, Katelyn works hard to be ready for the week of showing at the Thurston County Fair.
But it’s more than just about the ribbons. Katelyn has grown as a person, learning to be more confident. She said 4-H helped her to not be shy and how to speak up more. “Having to get up in front of people is very scary for me,” she explains, “and in 4-H I had to learn to stand up and give presentations about my project. I’ve since learned it’s okay.” She adds that she also learned how to work with others in a group setting.
This year, Katelyn will be showing in both English and western disciplines at Fair, along with showmanship, which every horse 4-Her must compete in, to demonstrate they can safely handle a horse from the ground as well as in the saddle.
The soon to be eighth grader at Sunrise Beach Middle School says that she has not accomplished all this on her own. She has help from her mom, fellow 4-Hers and a very special volunteer, Heidi Fair-Hughes. “She teaches me,” Katelyn explains, “helped me pick out my clothes. I’ve learned so much about myself, and my abilities to ride, from her.” In fact, Heidi’s generosity is the reason Katelyn is able to do 4-H: She rides Heidi’s horse, a 16-year-old Quarter Horse Paint named Vegas. She has been riding him for the last year after the horse that was originally intended for her did not work out.
“I grew up in 4H and some of my lifelong friendships have been with people who belonged to South Bay,” explains Heidi. “Not only did I have to teach Katelyn how to ride my horse, Vegas, it involved teaching her how to ride in general to ensure she was not only successful, but safe.”
“Heidi has help me with my patterns, helped me with confidence in myself,” Katelyn expresses. “She is my best friend. She taught me how to band his mane, be responsible for myself and my horse.”
It’s paid off. Heidi has noticed a big change in Katelyn. “In 8 months, she has grown from a shy, scared, easily intimidated girl to a person that steps up and accepts any challenge that comes her way,” Heidi shares. And Heidi gets something out of it too. “I like seeing her have fun, learn responsibility and self-discipline,” she says.
Katelyn is looking forward to spending time with her “4-H family” as she calls them, as well as groom squad, gaming, food and getting to camp for a week, though she adds that the heat is the worst part. So, what’s groom squad? “Groom squad is where three people come together, dress up, and get a totally strange horse they know nothing about,” explains Katelyn. “They have to groom the horse and be able to answer questions about equine knowledge.”
She has a lot to do before even getting to Fair. Washing Vegas takes time because of all his white that needs to be sparkling. Then he is blanketed so he doesn’t get dirty again. Katelyn says after that it’s time to clean tack, get food ready, and finally make sure her show clothes are clean, along with her hat and boots.
When asked what her goals were for this year, Katelyn answered exactly the way we would hope a young equestrian in training would. “To do our best, and enjoy the ride,” she says.
Look for Katelyn and Vegas at the Thurston County Fair Happening July 31 – August 4.