Morgan Mahoney talks about what she will miss at the end of her 4-H career. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/
Morgan Mahoney talks about what she will miss at the end of her 4-H career. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/
Morgan Mahoney remembers wandering through the barns at the 4-H Fair as a youngster, looking at the horses and hoping to get a chance to work with the animals.

This week, Mahoney completes her final year as a participant at the Jefferson County 4-H Fair. She watches young 4-Hers wander through the barns just like she used to do. This marks Mahoney's 10th year in the program.

"It's kind of bittersweet," she said.

Mahoney joined the Hanover No Names 4-H Club in the third grade. Her older brother, Tanner, participated in 4-H, as did other members of her extended family.

"I've always been around it," she said.

During her first year in 4-H, she chose to participate in the horse and pony project. Mahoney had always been drawn to horses, she said, and the projects allowed her to be like many of the members she remembered seeing at the fair before.

Mahoney had a few friends with horses prior to joining 4-H, and she learned to ride when she was 6 years old. She'd been bitten and bucked off horses over the years, yet she always got up and went back to ride again.

Mahoney found her horse, Fancy, during her first year in the 4-H organization.

"As soon as I started 4-H, I went out and found her," she said.

Mahoney and Fancy connected from the very beginning. She showed Fancy throughout her 10 years of 4-H horse competitions - including the English and contesting show and the Western horse show.

Although 4-H is a lot of work and responsibility - especially leading up to the fair - the competitions are fun, she said. The shows are one of the many things she'll miss as her 10-year participation comes to an end.

Unlike other horse shows and competitions, the 4-H shows are more about learning than competing against one another for the top spot. Mahoney competed with several of the same participants in the horse shows over the years, and the competitors are more like friends.

"It's pretty friendly," Mahoney said of the competition. "4-H is more relaxed."

The 4-H shows are about knowing how to care for the animal and how the horse responds to the rider during the shows. Other competitions are more about the win, she said.

Mahoney also participated for years with swine projects.

"It was kind of difficult when you're little because they're running everywhere," she said of the pigs.

Yet animal projects become a bit easier with experience each year - and helpful suggestions from older 4-H participants.

"I always looked up to them," she said of the 10-year members.

But this year she is one of them.

Mahoney knows there will be something different about the fairs after this year. Even though she still plans to attend to support other 4-Hers, she won't be one of the competitors ready to meet visitors in the animal barns or showing her photography and garden projects in the exhibit hall.

"It's not going to be the same," she said.

Even though this is her last year, Mahoney encouraged current 4-Hers to enjoy each of their experiences.

Make the most of the 10 years, she said. The years go by pretty fast.

"Don't wish it away," she said. "Just go out there with everything you have."