McKee wins top prize in provincial Communications event



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By Lauren McKee

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Lauren McKee of the Rapid City 4-H Rodeo Club received first place in Intermediate Public Speaking at the Provincial 4-H Communications event held in Brandon. Her speech, “The Need For Speed”, took top honours among a field of 10 speakers representing areas from across Manitoba.

The Need For Speed

Good evening chairperson, honourable judges, ladies and gentlemen, and fellow 4-H members.

It all started one evening at 4-H.  And it wasn’t like it just came to me all at once.  I didn’t even know then, how much I would love it.  But, the second that I drove a miniature horse, I knew I wanted one of my own.  From that moment, the search was on, and it didn’t take long before I found what I was looking for.  Mary Ann Bartkewich had a miniature gelding for sale and I was soon on my way to try him in a cart.  She called him JEM Blue Northern, and he hadn’t been driven much yet.  He was smart and he was fast and I knew right then that he was the one.  We brought him home and I spent some time getting to know my new miniature.  I decided that his name would be Jasper.  We found a set of harness and a cart to train him in, and I started by driving him around the yard, venturing further and further until I could take him down the road to pick up the mail.  Every time I took Jasper out, he got better and better.  And, he got faster!

Later that summer, Jasper and I were invited to attend a clinic to learn about the Combined Driving Event.  Combined Driving is a three-day sport containing three events, dressage, marathon and cones.  The first event, dressage, is simply a dressage pattern with a carriage attached.  Some of the manoeuvres done on horseback are not possible to do with a carriage, but as a driver you are trying to achieve a similar pattern.  This demonstrates the calmness and well mannered side of your horse.  

The second event is the marathon.  This event tests the stamina, endurance and agility of the horse and driver.  The course is divided into three phases and covers 22 kilometres.  The first phase is a warm up drive at a trot, followed by the second phase driven at a walk and then a vet check.  The third phase consists of another drive which includes obstacle courses set up within it.  The obstacles are timed and the goal is to get through them as fast as possible with the fewest penalty points.  

The third event is cones and this shows the ability of the horse and driver to respond to quick changes in direction and speed.  The carriage is driven through a course of obstacles set just centimetres wider than the wheels of the carriage. The object is to get through the course, within a set time, without hitting any cones or knocking off any tennis balls.  Penalty points are given for any knocked cones or balls, or exceeding the time limit.  

The cones event is definitely Jasper’s favourite.  He is naturally quick at making turns, and loves to go hard when he gets the chance!  In this event, I have to memorize the pattern, the turns, the obstacles, and guide Jasper through it at top speed.  

Kelwood Fair was my first chance to try competing in the cones competition.  Before I climbed aboard my cart, I went through the obstacles on foot to memorize the pattern.  My turn came at the end of the day, and I was the last competitor to try the course.  By this time, many of the other competitors had gathered to watch.  I was nervous, but ready.  I made a lap in front of the starting gate to warm him up, and we were off!  The course was tricky and I did my best to turn the sharp corners and go as fast as we possibly could.  There was a moment when I thought I had forgotten what was next, but I managed to figure it out and continue driving.  We made it though the course without touching a single cone and when we headed for the final turn, I could hear everyone cheering us on.  Jasper kicked into high gear, and we crossed the finish line!  With no penalty points and a quick time, I won my division, and I was only 4 seconds off the fastest time of the day!  

I can hardly wait to see what the future will bring for me, and my miniature horse, Jasper.