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The perfect Christmas gift: 4-H

4H mounted meeting - Poudre River Stables - Fort Collins - Colorado - 80521
One of our old 4-H mounted meetings. Looking back, the riders in this photo all benefited from 4-H.

Wondering what to give my college-age kids for Christmas, I got to thinking about the best gifts I ever gave them.

I remembered a quote by Gary Gadsby, a longtime stable owner, who once said, “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a kid.” I would add that combining horses with 4-H makes that horse even more effective. Turns out I'm right. 4-H participation grows better kids. Research proves it:

“Participants in 4-H programs had higher school grades, greater emotional engagement in school, and were more likely to see themselves as going to college.” (Tufts University)

“4-H participation has a significant positive effect” on reading and math test scores. (University of Florida)

Done right, 4-H focuses on positive youth development. It is a time investment, but so is all good parenting. My childrens' 4-H careers are one of the best, and most life-forming, gifts they ever received. So, if you’re still out there looking for that perfect Christmas gift for your child, consider the gift of 4-H. To find your local 4-H office, follow this link: (Scroll down the page and click on the “Find Now” button.)

P.S. I would also advocate getting the horse, but there are plenty of non-horse 4-H projects as well, including in many counties, a Horseless Horse 4-H project.

4-H'ers might also enjoy our free horse quizzes.

(Karin Livingston was a career 4-H leader specializing in horses, and is the author of the teen horse novel, Winning Bet.)