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Couple honored for service to 4-H youth

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By Lorrie Kinkade

A Trimble County couple’s commitment to the Commonwealth’s 4-H horse program was recognized at this year’s state 4-H horse show.

For 25 years of volunteer service to the organization, Gus and Beth Wagner were honored at the annual show held July 2 at Broadbent Arena in Lexington.

The couple’s initial involvement with the club was due to the participation of their children, Elizabeth and Robert.

Although Elizabeth focused primarily on western hunter and Robert’s interest was team penning, roping and reining, Beth Wagner said the couple tried to offer help wherever it was needed within the club.

“We went to shows and did whatever we could to help out,” she said. “I wanted every kid there to have a great experience.”

Always on the lookout for ways to assist the horse program, Beth said the couple was somewhat alarmed and disappointed 15 years ago to discover makeshift jumps were being used at a state-qualifying event.

“They had folding chairs with bars laid between them and hay bales stacked. That was what they were using for jumps. We just thought that wasn’t fair for the kids. These kids would get to the state show and have a disadvantage; they wouldn’t be familiar with real jumps like the other kids there. So we offered to make a set for the qualifier and one for the state fair [contest],” she said.

Beth said that over the years she and her husband have constructed multiple jumps, though they now focus on those needed for the state level event. Her husband, who she says “is the backbone” of their service projects, has helped judge various keyhole competitions and faithfully takes his annual vacation from work to help with the state contest.

Despite being a Pennsylvania native with no equine experience, Beth said he remains enthralled with and devoted to the program even though his children are grown and no longer involved as heavily in 4-H, though Elizabeth manages a Lexington horse farm and Robert trains and mentors young competitors.

“I grew up riding horses. My mom started the Long Run Pony Club when I was little. I learned to ride and care for them at a young age. He didn’t. But now he says if he could go back into the past, he’d be a cowboy out west,” she said. “He’s addicted to it.”

Beth said the couple was shocked to learn of the award and had never expected such an honor.

“It was great. We never expected anything like that. I appreciated it so much and it really meant a lot to see my husband recognized. He puts his heart into helping the kids and the program,” she said.

Gus Wagner works at River City Metals and Beth oversees the couple’s horse farm on U.S. 42. Beth personally provides care for up to ten boarded horses, as well as various “rehab” horses she adopts and donates to children in the 4-H program.

“Everything we do is about the horses and the kids. It’s the best thing ever to see the kids progress and build their courage and confidence,” she said. “It’s the little kids who give me the motivation to keep going.”