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4-H Horse Riding Club Has Heart

Article Date: 
1 July, 2011 (All day)


“To make the best better”, is the 4-H motto. It’s also the feeling conveyed when talking with Jessie Franich about her 4-H Horse riding Club. Jessie has been a 4-H leader with the riding club “The Wet Blankets” since 1980. How the name came to be, she remembers, “When the kids were working on a name for the club, they thought when a horse works hard the blanket gets wet. Wet blankets make good horses.”

The 4-H riding club carries the flags at the rodeos in Morgan County every year, with Jessie riding right alongside. For the past few years, some of the older 4-Hers, and Franich organized the wrangler contest, which is held during the county fair. This work is in addition to training for competitions.

Jesse helps those who she teaches understand and apply the four Hs to their own lives.  The four Hs stand for:

Head to clearer thinking

Heart to greater loyalty

Hands to larger service

Health to better living for the club

The work of the 4-H club does not stop with education about horsemanship.  As a part of the 4-H focus there is substantial service.  Franich has found many opportunities to teach this value to her club members over the years.  Each year they focus on a special service project.

When they were a new club, one of their first projects was to take some horses down to the blind school and give the students rides. The riding club did this for a few years until someone got hurt. Though the blind students loved the horses, Jessie decided to pursue other areas of service for her club.

She had heard of an opportunity to provide service at the State Mental Hospital.  The service opportunity would bring comfort and joy to patients there. 

The official name is “The Forgotten Patient Project.” The hospital reaches out to groups & organizations across the state, to make sure all 500 people there have a good Christmas, explained Franich. 

In the late Fall, the club receives two patients’ names with a list of things they want and need. In December, the club members deliver Christmas to these two individuals. “It’s a worthwhile project the kids look forward to each year,” stated Franich.  This has now been the Wet Blankets service project for over twenty years.

This year the 4-H club has 20 members, ranging from 9 to 19 years old.  Using their own resources, the club obtained the gifts needed for the two recipients. When they gathered it all together, the wrapped presents filled four large paper towel boxes, which were also adorned with wrapping paper and a filled Christmas stocking for these two patients.

Jessie mentioned, “We get thank you cards every year by those that receive the gifts.” She described this service project experience saying,  “I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!”

“4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization with more than 6 million club members. 4-H fosters an innovative ‘learn by doing’ approach with proven results,” the 4-H Club website reads. Learn by doing is the approach that young people take when joining the riding club. They like horses, but some don’t know much about riding them. Over time, they have learned the responsibility of riding and caring for a horse. “There is a big difference between going for a ride and riding a horse,” explained Franich.

“Most of them bring their own horse. A few use my horses. This past year, a 15 year-old girl from the Wet Blankets, rode one of my horses and went all the way to the State [4-H competition],” Jessie proudly stated.

The boys and girls start at 9 years old with 4-H and some have stayed for the long ride of ten years. Jessie is now working with the second generation of club members.

“It’s a labor of love working with these kids; the reward is in the relationships. I’m hard on those kids but they keep coming back,” she described with emotion.

“Some have gone on to other horse riding associations,” stated Franich. She expressed, “that it is necessary to get a good foundation under them, and it’s fun watching them grow and learn.” 

Franich has grown and learned with a love for horses and horseback riding. Born and raised in Porterville, Franich has been around horses all her life. She is named after her grandfather, Jesse, who also loved horses.

Franich has been riding since the age of 3 or 4, and as a teen in 1957 she was crowned Morgala Days Queen. She said there wasn’t a 4-H riding club around when she was young, but she did join the riding clubs that were available such as the Miltonas; the High Country Riders, and Morgan County Utah’s Mounted Sheriff’s Posse, of which she was Commander for two years in 1997 and 1998.

All through the years, her supportive husband Matt, has encouraged Franich to, as she would say,  “do my own thing, when its come to the horses.” The love of horses and riding has been passed on to her four children, who continue to help from time to time with the 4-H club. Though her five grandchildren aren’t members of the 4-H riding club, they love to come visit and ride her two horses and three mules.

“Working with the youth for over 30 years has helped to keep me from getting old and stale,” laughed Franich.

In the summer, besides organizing the flag carriers, the wrangler contest, and the Wet Blankets, Franich drives trucks. Her work includes hauling and delivering roll-over containers (for garbage or clean-up projects) in Salt Lake County.

Franich closed with, “As long as I can board them [horses], I’ll ride. I’ve had a good run with it; there are no regrets.”Franich is a great example to the youth of Morgan County and sets the example of the values of the 4-H.  Her teaching by words and example help those club members live up to the 4-H pledge:

I pledge my head to clearer thinking,

my heart to greater loyalty,

my hands to larger service,

my health to better living for my club,

my community, my country, and my world.