Pony Ex­press 4-H Club cel­e­brates 40th an­niver­sary

Founders to be rec­og­nized dur­ing fair

Record Observer - - News -

CEN­TRE­VILLE — This year, 2016, marks the 40th an­niver­sary of the Pony Ex­press 4-H Club. Started in 1976, Pony Ex­press be­came the or­ga­ni­za­tion that headed up the Queen Anne’s Fair horse shows each year, and it has con­tin­ued to do so ev­ery year since.

The name Pony Ex­press came from orig­i­nal club leader Bev Platzke-Shamer’s nephew’s belt buckle.

“The buckle had the im­pres­sion of a horse and rider gal­lop­ing and the words ‘Pony Ex­press’ un­der the im­age,” said Platzke-Shamer. “My nephew stood up in our or­ga­ni­za­tional meet­ing and pro­posed that be the club’s name.”

Also re­lated to the club’s name, “Our fam­ily fa­vored Western rid­ing, so many, but not all of our orig­i­nal mem­bers rode Western,” Platzke-Shamer added. “We did game shows, rodeos, trail ride, and lots of speed events. That’s all part of the his­tory of the club’s name.”

Don Pot­ter of Wye Mills was a leader of the Pony Ex­press club for nearly a decade (1989-1997). He said, “I be­came in­volved with my fam­ily at the 10th an­niver­sar y of the club (1986). About three years after join­ing, I be­came the leader. I have to give 95 per­cent of the credit to Bev for mak­ing the club what it be­came. She was the leader be­fore me, and we just car­ried on the good things she has started, hav­ing the kids wear sashes to show all the ac­tiv­i­ties they have been in­volved in, es­tab­lish­ing the Outstanding Mem­ber Award cri­te­ria, and so forth.

“Back then, we had the county fair horse show on Satur­day as the fair was end­ing,” said Pot­ter. “Both English and Western shows were run the same day. There was no horse barn back then, and the show ring, which the Jolly Cir­cle Horse Club built, was an all grass sur­face.”

He added, “At club meet­ings we al­ways asked the kids what they wanted to do, and if they voted for some­thing, we, as adults, tried our best to make it hap­pen. We did ac­tiv­i­ties like joust­ing, fox hunts, team pen­ning, vault­ing, Ro­man rid­ing, tak­ing the horses for a swim while on horse­back, calf rop­ing. We tried to give the kids a broad over­view of what you can do with horses.

“Kids learn lots more in 4-H than just work­ing with their ‘pro­ject animal’ you know,” Pot­ter con­tin­ued. “I had a teacher tell me once that they could tell within a week after school starts which kids are in 4-H. ‘They’re more out­go­ing, and nice kids, re­spect­ful to adults,’ I was told. I agree with that teacher’s as­sess­ment.”

Lona Todd of Cen­tre­ville grew up as a Pony Ex­press mem­ber dur­ing the 1980s. She had a Ap­paloosa mare she loved, but “it was an App with no spots! My grand­fa­ther bought that mare for me when I was 11 years old. We didn’t have that many horse shows back in those days, but we rode our horses ev­ery night. That’s all we did! We lived out here in the countr y.”

Todd has a copy of a Record-Ob­server news­pa­per dated Aug. 12, 1986, show­ing her at age 16 with sev­eral other peo­ple at the barn ded­i­ca­tion dur­ing the Queen Anne’s County Fair. So, that makes the horse barn 30 years old this year.

She said, “A lot of peo­ple do­nated money to have that barn built. My grand­fa­ther was one of them, and all those who do­nated had their names posted on one of the stall doors. Many of the names are no longer there. The names have fallen off over the years, and that’s a shame.

“4-H was fun,” Todd added. “We had good fam­i­lies. We rode our horses in pa­rades and went trail rid­ing.”

Also re­mem­ber­ing Bev Platzke-Shamer, Todd said, “She was awe­some. I love that woman. She was al­ways happy and al­ways had a smile on her face. She’d tell you like it was too, and not hurt your feel­ings.”

Todd still owns horses and said, “My next dream is to do cow­boy-mounted shoot­ing. I’ve tried it, and I’ve never had a big­ger adren­a­line rush in my life.”

Platzke-Shamer was the orig­i­nal leader of Pony Ex­press 4-H Club, how­ever, she is quick to tell you, she was not the only leader dur­ing her time.

“I del­e­gated to other par­ent lead­ers who ful­filled roles in the club,” she said. “For­tu­nately, we worked to­gether and not against each other. If only one per­son’s do­ing all the work, it lim­its how much can be done.”

Be­fore Pony Ex­press, there was the Queen Anne’s 4-H Eques­trian Club, run by Kathy Downs. Then a cou­ple named Alvin and Char­lotte Lane took over from Downs.

“Kathy and the Lane’s ran that club for a num­ber of years be­fore I came along, and Kathy was a English rid­ing in­struc­tor,” said Platzke-Shamer. “When they gave it up, we started Pony Ex­press.”

Platzke-Shamer or­ga­nized the suc­cess­ful ef­fort to build what is to­day the horse barn at the 4-H Park. She said, “That was a team ef­fort too. We pre­sented the blue prints to the Park Board and we raised the money to buy the ma­te­ri­als, hav­ing the barn built by vol­un­teers.”

She de­scribed her­self, laugh­ingly, as “a thorn in their side” “I told them we had to get stalls built for our 4-H eques­tri­ans, and we did it,” she said. That horse barn is one of the great rea­sons why the 4-H Park in Cen­tre­ville is “the envy of the state of 4-H parks,” many have said. The Queen Anne’s County Fair is one of the only fairs that has a fa­cil­ity where the 4-H youth can stay all week at fair with their horses, mak­ing for a unique ex­pe­ri­ence.

She said, “Our kids would al­ways go to the state fair each year and do well. We also had Horse Bowl and Horse Judg­ing as ac­tiv­i­ties which helped the chil­dren to learn more. Over the years, the num­ber of mem­bers do­ing English and Western rid­ing has changed. At times, more English, and at other times more Western, what­ever the chil­dren’s per­sonal in­ter­ests.”

The plan is that Platzke-Shamer and Don Pot­ter will be rec­og­nized dur­ing this year’s Queen Anne’s County Fair for the work they did many years ago, which has con­tin­ued through oth­ers who have taken over “the reins of leadership” in fol­low­ing years.

There are and have been ad­di­tional eques­trian 4-H clubs in the county as equine in­ter­ests have been di­verse, all evolv­ing out of Pony Ex­press. The next club formed was the Kent Is­land Young Riders 4-H Club, about 10 years later. Their fo­cus was on “flat classes,” mean­ing English and Western Plea­sure rid­ing at shows.

In 2007, a third equine club, Dream Riders 4-H was formed, fo­cus­ing on be­gin­ner riders. Six years ago, the Young Riders club merged with the Queen Anne’s County 4-H Ca­nine Club and was re­named Wags & Whin­nies 4-H Club.

Pony Ex­press con­tin­ues to be the largest of the three clubs in mem­ber­ship. The club has had nu­mer­ous other lead­ers since Pot­ter gave up the reins; Roxie Cross and the late Robin Gearhart ran it to­gether for a few years, be­fore Cross took it over fol­low­ing Gearhart’s de­par­ture. Even after turn­ing over the club six years ago, Cross had con­tin­ued to be the county fair horse show chair­man un­til this year, as her daugh­ter, a for­mer PE mem­ber in her youth, Shan­non Cross, has taken over as fair horse show chair­man.

Tom and Dotie Gan­non are the cur­rent lead­ers. “I’m not sure they know this,” said Pot­ter, “but the farm they now own is where the Pony Ex­press 4-H Club ac­tu­ally started back in 1976. The farm was where Kathy Downs gave rid­ing lessons for many years.”

PHOTO BY ANGELA PRICE

The Pony Ex­press 4-H Horse Club takes part in the Cen­tre­ville Christ­mas Pa­rade.

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