There is a special bond between an animal and its owner. Whenever a person takes on the care for animal, the pet becomes dependent on the human to provide for its physical needs.
In some cases, the roles are reversed and the animal can become the caregiver, providing therapeutic needs for the human.
Such is the case for Megan Plattner, 12, and Andrew Ferguson, 21, who competed Friday at the Missouri State Fair Therapeutic Horsemanship Show for 4-H and FFA members.
“Our philosophy and focus is on positive youth development,” Debbie Davis, 4-H youth specialist with the MU Extension Office, said. “It’s more than the blue ribbon; it’s about the blue ribbon kid.”
At Friday’s competition both Plattner and Ferguson proved they definitely were blue ribbon kids.
Plattner, of Marshall, was competing for the second year at the State Fair.
“I love my horse Inca,” Plattner said. “She is calm and I help take care of her. I feed her and do everything for her that she needs me to.”
Inca is owned by Jennifer Lappin. Her daughter, Jana Lappin, rode Inca in 4-H shows since 2008, as well as competing with Inca at events at the State Fair.
She continued showing Inca until 2013 when she became too old to compete any longer.
That is when Plattner stepped in.
“We always went to a ham and bean dinner at the First United Methodist Church,” Jackie Plattner, Megan’s mom, said. “One year there were some riding lessons available for auction at the dinner from Jennifer.
“We had been interested in a long time in getting Megan involved in riding,” Jackie Plattner said. “My husband, Ron, and I bought the lessons and that’s where it began.”
Jackie Plattner said Megan had showed pigs and goats in 4-H events as a way to help her overcome her shyness and to calm her anxiety.
“She gave up the goats in a heartbeat once she met Inca,” Jackie Plattner said.
Jackie Plattner said her daughter was scared to move once she started to ride Inca, but Lappin had a method to help her overcome her fears.
“Jennifer has two adopted Chinese daughters,” Jackie Plattner said. “Whenever Megan gets on Inca and needs her to move, she counts to Inca in Chinese. “
Jackie Plattner explained that while it does give the horse commands, it is a way to distract Megan from her nervousness.
“It gives her something to focus on and concentrate on,” Jackie Plattner added. “It builds her confidence.”
When Megan began to count in Chinese, she erupted in giggles when she came to the number five, which is wu.”
“Every time she says ‘wu’ she laughs because she always adds ‘whoa’ in front of it so it sounds like ‘whoa–wu,’” Jackie Plattner said.
“Just seeing the confidence in her is what’s important,” Lappin said. “She never quits and she always keeps trying and moving forward.”
Moving forward is what Ferguson has been doing for his young adult life as well.
“It’s funny how we came to have horses and how Andrew started to ride,” Kim Ferguson, Andrew’s mother, said.
Andrew and his younger sister Haleigh had shown livestock in 4-H events. It was after one of their cows had to be taken to a meat processing plant that the family decided to buy a horse.
“It really got to Haleigh so we bought her a couple of horses to work with,” Kim Ferguson said. “One day she was at the stables working with her horses.
“I never thought it would be safe for Andrew to ride,” Kim Ferguson said. “Trish, the manager at Fischer Stables, and Haleigh had gotten Andrew on one of the horses and let him go. He owes his career to his sister because I was too over-protective to let him try,” she added.
This will be Andrew Ferguson’s last year to show with both 4-H and FFA.
“I wish I could keep showing,” he said. “I love it and I’m really excited about today.”
Andrew Ferguson has won awards for his livestock in previous years. He exhibits cattle, pigs, and horses.
Most recently, he won Senior Showmanship at the Smithton Town and Country Fair.
Andrew Ferguson also took second place at the Therapeutic competition at the State Fair last year.
“I love riding Bo,” he said. “I work with him a couple of times and week and would ride him every day if I could. I’m just happy to ride.”
“The best part of what I get to do is seeing the kids progress from year to year,” Jamie Daniel, superintendent for horsemanship for 4-H and FFA at the State Fair, said. “I’ve seen some of these kids from the beginning of their careers and I get a great deal of satisfaction from that.
“I always hate to see them move on, but it is nice to see the new ones begin their career and come into their own too,” Daniel added.
At Friday’s competition Andrew Ferguson took first and Megan Platter took second.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484