Hannah Iupichuk

Horsing around at the annual Fall Fair

Life skills just as important in 4-H horse program, says coach.

“Katie, elbows! What are you doing? I’m going to put some Velcro on there!” admonishes Carole Walton, the Equine Canada Certified coach preparing the horse division of Port Alberni’s 4-H club for the 2014 Fall Fair.

She’s giving direction to five girls who are training for the 4-H Horse Show taking place during the Alberni District Fall Fair, taking place this weekend at the fairgrounds behind Glenwood Centre.

The girls, all Port Alberni residents, range between nine and 12 years old and their horses range from ponies for the younger ones to horses for the older ones. But more than the riders, it’s the horses that are making things difficult by getting a little snappy.

“That pony keeps attacking that grey horse,” Walton says. “We have problems.”

4-H riders line up

Walton has been training riders for close to 50 years now and one of the girls taking part in the Fall Fair Horse Show is riding Walton’s horse, Ruby. The 29-year-old mare has had a long run with Walton, having given her two generations of show horses.

Dolly, one of Ruby’s brood, is 21 years old now, while her foals are Kira and Peek, both American Quarter Horse Association Champions. Kira once finished ninth in the world in halter.

“These horses are lovely to ride, they’re so well trained,” Walton says.

The stable where the horses are housed used to include a clubhouse. “Back in the 70s, we had huge quarterhorse shows here so we needed a clubhouse, a place for people to congregate. We had a bar upstairs; it’s now a hayloft,” Walton says. “We had a concession across the front, we danced here, we had a riding club and parties here.”

She used to breed horses for sale but in recent years she’s stopped, worried as to what might happen without proper veterinary care.

“We have no vet in this town, no large animal vet any closer than Courtenay or Nanaimo, both over an hour away.”

So in lieu of breeding horses, she’s helping to train them and their riders.

Carole Walton

“We have been doing lessons every couple of weeks to start and then it’s been every week after that, trying to teach [riders] how to do competitions as well as just plain ride the horses,” Walton says.

With most of the girls never having been on a horse until April of this year, the preparation is a lot of work, both in and out of the saddle. But amidst the hard work, there’s also a little time for fun.

“I try to give them some work on the ground, leading, some work in the saddle, riding and some fun, which are games on horseback and trail riding.”

It’s crucial for the girls to learn it all well, because when the fall fair comes they’ll have to do it all themselves as per 4-H rules, with no parental help.

“They had to learn how to saddle and bridle and tie up their horses properly, put the halter on. They had to learn to do everything for themselves and that’s what the preparation has been about.”

For Walton, the independence that 4-H breeds is one of the best things to come out of the program. Riding horses is fun, but if the girls can apply the independence to their lives outside of the show ring then she’s done her job.

“I’ve been at this for a long, long time, I’ve had grandchildren come back to ride, but the riders, as they look back on their young life when they used to come here have said that those were the best years ever.

“They love it.”

It’s easy to see why; the property boasts 150 acres of land to ride on and includes a quarter mile of riverbank. There’s rapids coming down from Sproat Lake; the coming together of the Stamp and Somass Rivers.

The only bad thing is that Walton doesn’t know how long she’ll be able to keep teaching.

“The awful thing is, I’m getting old and that’s not good because I want to keep doing it forever. I love it, I love teaching these kids, I love to make a difference and I think riding horses makes a difference.”

The girls get to learn how to handle a responsibility and in return get a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, something that Walton believes that young girls need.

“Girls need to feel that they have control over something because girls don’t have a lot of control,” she says.

And the horses are really testing the girls’ control here.

Abbie McFarlane and her pony Jubejube

“Rambler… Rambler! Rambler!” scolds Paige Franks, 9, whose pony has decided that he prefers banging his feed bucket into the stable wall, spilling the feed, rather than eating from it. “That’s such a waste!”

Abbie McFarlane, 11, has a more optimistic viewpoint.

“At least the chickens will be happy.”

But Franks manages to capture Rambler’s attention.

“You don’t want this? Fine, then I’ll give it to [McFarlane’s pony] Jubejube.”


The Fall Fair Horse Show goes from Friday, Sept. 5 to Sunday, Sept. 7 with a riding clinic and 4-H Achievement on Friday and English and Western riding on Saturday and Sunday respectively.



Just Posted

Kinder Morgan protest in Port Alberni draws both sides

‘An ad hoc group of citizens really concerned about the future’

Alberni’s Reconciliation Committee hosts community forum

The community event will take place on the anniversary of Walk for Reconciliation

Port Alberni’s breakfast program receives community support

The Read and Feed program runs on donations, grants and fundraising

Cherry Creek Shootout is a family affair

Alberni Men’s Club opens on Sunday

Vancouver Island’s Best Videos of the Week

A look at some of the best video stories from the past week ending March 23, 2018

Health officials called after acid spill near B.C.-Alberta border leaks into creek

Tanker truck crashed south of Dawson Creek, spilling 17,000 litres of hydrochloric acid

Embattled band Hedley plays last show in B.C. before hiatus

About 3,000 tickets had sold for final performance at Kelowna’s Prospera Place

Trudeau to exonerate B.C. First Nations chiefs hanged in 1860s

Prime Minister to absolve Tsilhqot’in chiefs in relation to deaths of 14 construction workers

Canucks sing the Blues as they fall to St. Louis 4-1

Berglund nets two, including the game-winner, to lift St. Louis over Vancouver

Calving season brings hope for Cariboo ranchers

Still a lot of work ahead to recover from the wildfires

Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond wins figure skating world title

The 22-year-old fwon the women’s singles crown with her Black Swan routine

Vancouver Island pooches celebrate National Puppy Day

Check out some of the submissions we received from around the region

Alberta tells B.C. to stop opposing pipelines if it doesn’t like gas prices

John Horgan said he would like to see the federal government step in to deal with high gas prices.

Most Read