Kendall, Kane counties 4-H teams win state horse contests

2019 Illinois 4-H Horse Bowl Contest: These Kane County 4-H members earned first place in the senior division of the Illinois 4-H Horse Bowl Contest held April 14 at University of Illinois in Urbana. (Photo courtesy of Illinois 4-H)

In September 2018, four Kane County 4-H members began meeting weekly to begin a new year of preparation for the competitive Horse Bowl program in Illinois 4-H.

In January, they began meeting two to three times weekly. Even the day of the state contest, Coach Sandy Klinkey quizzed the girls during lunch and between rounds.

The hard work paid off when the team was named champion of the senior division of the 2019 Illinois 4-H State Horse Bowl Contest held April 14 in Urbana.

Members of the winning team are Gwen Klinkey, Elizabeth Melton, Ella Melei, and Alex Garcia. Gwen was also the high individual point winner of the senior contest. Gwen plans to attend Milliken in the fall, studying literature and biology.

The Kane County 4-H team was challenged by a team of 4-H members from Logan and Tazewell counties who finished three points behind the winners. Carroll and Whiteside counties combined for third place in the senior division, and a team of Southern Illinois 4-H members from Union, Massac, Pope, and Hardin counties finished in fourth.

In addition to Gwen, other top 10 finishers in senior division include Elizabeth Melton of Kane County, who finished fifth.

In the junior division, a team of Kendall County 4-H members are champions: Michaela Persico, Karrington Kirkby, Sara Buss, and Kailey Wietting.

Like the Kane County senior team, the Kendall youth are committed, and led by passionate volunteers. They meet to practice weekly in the fall, and then twice a week starting in January.

2019 Illinois 4-H Horse Bowl Contest: These Kendall County 4-H members earned first place in the junior division of the Illinois 4-H Horse Bowl Contest held April 14 at University of Illinois in Urbana. (Photo courtesy of Illinois 4-H)

Whether studying solo or with the team, they employ some unique learning methods: guest speakers, field trips, quiz apps, and even fun nights out together. The Kendall County team also practices with a mock competition against former 4-H members, families, horse committee members, and one another.

“We also play games that allow the children confidence to grow yet learn at their own speed,” said Patti Wietting with her fellow coaches Debbie Granat and Kim Kirkby. “Members also are asked to choose a topic and deliver a presentation. This year, we used Facebook to challenge one another with fun ways to study or to post any questions. Any child that needs special accommodations, we come up with ways to help them succeed too.”

Two Kendall County youth made the top 10 finishers in the junior division, Michaela Persico who took first place and Sara Buss, who finished third.


The top finishers will compete in the national 4-H contest in the fall with the support of the Illinois 4-H Foundation.

Horse quiz bowls operate much in the same fashion as school academic quiz bowls with teams of youth answering a series of questions as quickly and accurately as possible. The questions can come from all fields of the equine industry. Teams advanced to state through regional championships.

“The primary objective of these contests is to provide an opportunity for youth to demonstrate their knowledge of equine-related subject matter in a competitive setting where attitudes of friendliness and fairness prevail,” said Debra Hagstrom, University of Illinois Extension equine specialist.

Young people with a passion for horses can participate in 4-H educational contests related to the equine industry regardless of whether they even own a horse, said Hagstrom. These educational programs enhance members’ knowledge of horse health, breed characteristics, management, and feeding.

Participants also learn to work as a team.

“Each member has their own strengths that they teach other members,” said Wietting. “The students challenge one another and keep each other accountable. The kids may represent many different 4-H clubs but their love of horses bind them together in one county team. Horse bowl may be over, but this group of students will support one another through the whole 4-H year and for years to come.”

University of Illinois Extension