When she was a little girl, Reagan Stephens read all about county fairs. She’d even seen the movie “Charlotte’s Web.” When her dad parked the car at her local county fair, all she wanted to do was see the animals. But, her mother had a different plan.
“My mom insisted that we look at all the art exhibits in the air-conditioned rooms,” said Stephens, a Custer County 4-H’er. “There was so much for me to look at – quilts, paintings, jams and so much more. When we walked out the door, I was already planning what crafts I would do for next year’s fair.”
Stephens pushed the thoughts of baked goods and art to the back of her mind once she entered the poultry barn. She was in heaven and examined every chicken and duck with awe. The family then moved to the livestock barn where some nice 4-H members let her pet their animals.
For Stephens, however, the best part of the county fair that year was the horse show.
“I sat captivated in the stands watching every class I possibly could,” she said. “My mom said it was hot and we should go, but I begged to stay, and we did. That night when I got home, I knew I wanted to be in 4-H.”
And the rest, as they say, is history. Stephens enrolled in 4-H, and through hard work and dedication, she has had a successful nine-year 4-H career. All of her efforts were rewarded recently when she was inducted into the State 4-H Hall of Fame during the 97th State 4-H Roundup. This is the highest award a 4-H’er can achieve on the state level.
With the help of her mom, Michelle, they restarted the horse club. Because she didn’t have any horse experience, Stephens said they started slow. But the inexperience was short-lived, and she went from a self-described “floppy cowgirl,” to State Horsemanship Champ, as well as the 2-Year-Old Trainer Champion and the Oklahoma Reining Horse Association Buckle winner.
Through her involvement in the horse project, she has reached more than 6,200 people through workshops and speeches. Her favorite project started out as the Pony and Pony Show where she taught youngsters about horse safety. That was so popular it evolved into full-blown horse camps and field days serving more than 500 kids at each field day.
“While 4-H has helped me explore many interests, my passion for all things equine is still what I enjoy the most, and I’ve made it my goal to find ways to share it with those who had no access to horses, or with those who had no real horse experience,” Stephens said.
She took this passion and started the Eclectic Equine Riding Academy where she gives riding lessons. She even developed her own curriculum based on what is important for young 4-H equestrians to know and her students enjoy their “horse homework.”
Continuing to want to do more with her horse project and expand the educational opportunities available, Stephens applied for and received a 4-H Enhancement Grant for the Custer County 4-H Horse Club. After receiving the grant, she planned a field day in conjunction with the Custer County 4-H Performing Arts Club land run play.
Stephens serves as a state and national officer in the National Reining Horse Association where she uses many of the skills learned in 4-H to promote youth leadership within the industry.
Horses aren’t her only passion. Stephens is passionate about visual arts. While she enters her art in the Custer County Fair, she also has won numerous national art contests, including the Congressional Art Award. She was flown to Washington, D.C., where one of her pieces hung in the United States Capitol Building for a year. In addition, she has used her artistic talent by implementing a painting party as an alternative activity during the Southwest District Leadership Conference. Stephens also has conducted a painting workshop at the 4-H Special Clovers Camp.
In addition to the Hall of Fame honor, Stephens received the Ira Hollar Advanced Leadership Scholarship. This $1,200 scholarship is sponsored by Bill Doenges. She also completed her term as vice president of the State 4-H Leadership Council. Other leadership roles include State 4-H Ambassador and Southwest District vice president.
“Over the past three years, these leadership roles have given me new mentors who have helped me better myself as a leader and a person,” she said. “Now I have younger 4-H’ers who I help on a weekly basis, whether its riding lessons, helping with public speaking skills or just helping younger 4-H members learn how to conduct a workshop. 4-H truly builds self-confidence and leadership skills. I have learned to believe in myself and have become a stronger leader in the process.”
She is a senior at Weatherford High School and is the daughter of Brian and Michelle Stephens.
Story by Trisha Gedon