Giz-A-Goo the horse was rescued, starving and emaciated, from deplorable conditions at the Whitingham Horse Farm in February 2004. But now the once-neglected horse is the center of attention for a group of children in a new 4-H club in Whitingham.
Giz-A-Goo, which 4-H leader Leslie Adams says is Micmac for “wise old man,” came to the club through a donation from Donna Roy, of Searsburg. Roy, who got the horse from the Windham County Humane Society, offered the horse in the hope that the club would be able to provide more attention than she could. “I wasn’t spending enough time with him,” she says. “I wanted him to go to someone that had children, who would not ride him hard, but would play with him, and spend a lot of time brushing and caring for him.”
When she heard that a new 4-H club in Whitingham was looking for horse equipment and donations, she called and asked them, “How about a horse?”
And with that, Giz-A-Goo had the undivided attention of the nine members of the Whitingham Reins 4-H club. Club organizer Wanda Walkowiak says the Whitingham Reins is “strictly a horse club,” and provides education, training, and experience with horses to local children ages 8 to 13. Although the membership numbers less than a dozen now, Walkowiak says the club is starting small and planning to grow.
Students in the club have already participated in regional events, including a Hippology (study of horses) Quiz Bowl in Woodstock. The next event is a regional gathering that includes 4-H clubs of different disciplines, a fair where club members can submit entries for judging and compete with stage presentations on their subjects of interest.
Whitingham Reins club members meet on the first and third Friday of the month, gathering at Adams’ place to work with, and learn about the horses. With Giz-A-Goo, a mare that belongs to Adams, and another horse of Walkowiak’s, students learn about the general care and feeding of horses.
The club members have not progressed to learning riding skills yet, but Walkowiak says horsemanship is the goal. “They aren’t at that level yet, but that’s what we’re gearing for,” she says. “We wanted to give kids who were interested in horses but have never been exposed to them a chance to learn.”
And despite Giz-A-Goo’s past experiences with humanity, Adams says he’s calm and patient with kids. “He’s really good with the kids,” she says. “It’s amazing to watch them together.”
Walkowiak says she got interested in organizing a local 4-H club after the one her children attended in Dummerston disbanded. Adams, a foster parent, says she was interested in opening up the world of horsemanship to children who might otherwise be unable to afford to explore their interest in horses. “In this valley there are too many kids who want to be around animals but can’t afford the $30 or $40 a week for an hour of riding lessons,” she says. “I don’t think that opportunity should be limited by income.”
Adams also invites club members to come to her place to help with afternoon chores – giving them more exposure to the animals.
The group is still accepting interested club members. “We’d welcome any child, boy or girl, who’s interested in horses,” Walkowiak says.
To support their activities, 4-H members are sponsoring a bottle drive, and the club is still seeking donations of equipment and money to cover feed and other expenses. “One of the big things we need is children’s saddles,” Walkowiak says. “And we’d like to get a horse trailer, that’s a biggie. But we need everything from brushes to bridles.”
For more information, or to make a donation, call Walkowiak at (802) 368-2020 or Adams at (802) 368-0069. Donations can be sent to Adams at 2016 Maple Hill Lane, Whitingham, VT 05361.