Youth in Action

Mastering Horsemanship

January 7, 2014

Maria Burdette dishes on how the Junior Master Horseman program prepared her for horse ownership, plus barn and business management.

Maria Burdette learned about the American Quarter Horse through the AQHA Junior Master Horseman program

Maria Burdette, a senior at Mount Desert Island High School in Maine, participated in AQHA’s Junior Master Horseman program. JMH is a great program to prepare high school students for college. (Photo courtesy of Maria Burdette)

By Maria Burdette

Every Sunday, students from Mount Desert Island in Maine gathered at Double L Stables Equestrian Center to learn from our teacher, trainer and leader, Wanda Lounder.

I was lucky enough to count myself among that number. My name is Maria Burdette, and I’m a senior at Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor, Maine. From winter until the beginning of summer 2013, I participated in Level 3 of the Junior Master Horseman program. If you aren’t familiar with the JMH program, Level 3 is targeted at grades 9-12, and it’s a great program to prepare high school students for college. Not only that, activities in Level 3 encourage participants to visit horse professionals and to begin shadowing different horse careers that best prepare the participants for a life with horses.

For a few hours on Sunday mornings, we would study from our Junior Master Horseman books, memorizing the ins and outs of the Quarter Horse, as well as the finer points of managing a barn and a business. Then we would go down into the barn, where we would test our knowledge on the Quarter Horses there. Later on in the day, we would get a chance to ride, as well as practice showmanship and learn about other AQHA disciplines.

All of the JMH’ers also had an opportunity of going to see an AQHA team penning clinic and an AQHA team penning competition during the winter of 2013. This allowed us to experience another aspect of the AQHA world and its many different disciplines. These unique experiences also allowed us to see what other disciplines we might also be interested in our future.

Wanda also put on a Junior Master Horseman clinic in March 2013, to which horse kids from barns all over Maine could come to test their knowledge in a huge knowledge bowl. All of the participants were also able to judge a halter class, as well as take a test on what we have learned from the JMH books. This clinic not only gave us first-hand experience on judging, as well as testing our knowledge, but also gave us the opportunity to see other equestrians from around the state of Maine, plus it united equestrian barns in the state of Maine.

Do you know a teen leader in a youth development organization such as 4-H, FFA, YMCA, Boys Club, Girls Club or Scouting? Have them use the Junior Master Horseman teaching guides in after-school programs to earn leadership credits!

The JMH program is a fantastic program because it has enabled me, as well as others, to learn about the ins and outs of the Quarter Horse, plus the knowledge behind taking care of a barn and managing your own business.

By participating in this program, I have learned about myself as a person, as well an equestrian, and that the equestrian world and AQHA will always be a part of my life and lifestyle. I’d also like to thank my amazing leader, Wanda, who put all of her time making our learning and experiences a once in a lifetime opportunity!

About Junior Master Horseman

Junior Master Horseman is the most comprehensive science-based horse resource available, developed specifically to engage young horsemen. AQHA has underwritten the JMH program and is in charge of its development, marketing and distribution. Many other breed associations have supplied photos and information for the book.

This multi-level, experienced-based curriculum meets the McRel Educational Standards, and Junior Master Horseman uses activities and offers hands-on workshops to teach kids all about horses. This awesome program is a perfect supplement for 4-H horse and pony clubs, as well as classrooms and rainy-day craft sessions for any horse-crazy kid.

Because opportunities abound for horse-interested kids, the new AQHYA blog, Youth in Action, captures those adventures. Learn more about the endless prospects for young horsemen through AQHYA at