Chances are, when you become a national champion, you have learned some life lessons along the way.
That’s the case for the four young women from Nebraska who recently took first place in the 4-H Western National Roundup Horse Bowl, a quiz competition.
Years of studying went into their success.
Marie Day, a 19-year-old from Bellevue, reels off a couple of the things she learned, beyond the muscular and circulatory systems, diseases and history of horses.
About making mistakes: “Don’t be afraid to get things wrong,” said Day, who graduated from Bellevue West High School. “It’s OK to get things wrong as long as you learn from your mistakes and move forward .”
About being a woman in the sciences, a field dominated by men: “Horse Bowl has taught me to speak up — to speak my answer,” she said. “It has taught me to have confidence .”
Other members of the winning team were Jennifer Tidwell, 18, formerly of Omaha and now of Palmyra, Nebraska; Breanna Wilkinson, 17, of Bellevue; and Makenna Parks, 16, of Omaha. They were coached by Taylor Barnes, herself a 2010 national winner from Gretna. This was the second Omaha area team that Barnes has coached to first place nationally.
The team and their coach said there’s something else useful about learning the biology of horses. You learn a lot about humans, too. As it turns out, horses and humans — really any mammal — have a lot in common.
“For the most part, what they learn applies to every species,” said Barnes, who is studying animal science at Texas A&M University.
Day, a biology major at Creighton University, said Horse Bowl has given her a leg up in college-level studies of human anatomy. Her goal is to become a dentist.
“It’s basically the same,” she said. “Once biology finds a way to do something, it’s easier for biology to do that and not change it across the board,” she said.
Tidwell, who is home-schooled and is studying at Metropolitan Community College, said one of the things she appreciates about being around horses is the amount of work involved and the bond that can develop.
“You build a partnership,” she said. “You have to like it to really enjoy it. Talent alone will only take you so far — you have to work really hard. It’s something that pushes you and challenges you, and I like that.”
Wilkinson, a Bellevue West senior, has been showing horses since she was 8 years old and can trace her love of horses through her mother, grandmother and grandfather.
“It’s kind of in my blood,” she said, “And research is appealing.” She wants to become an animal health technician and work in the processing of market animals.
After countless hours of studying, travel and sacrifice, the team has developed into a second family, she said.
“Competing as a team really solidified our bond,” Wilkinson said. “I know I’m going to be close to these guys the rest of my life.”
Parks, a junior at Omaha’s North High School, said her opportunities in 4-H underscore that “you don’t have to live on a farm to experience the things that (farm) people do.”
And she echoed the thoughts of many who love horses.
“Honestly, horses seem to understand you and feed off of you,” she said. “If you’re calm, they’re calm. They’re very perceptive animals. They seem to understand you on an emotional level.”