SARANAC -Seventeen-year-old Marissa Horton is passionate about resolving the negative impacts overpopulation has on horses across the country.
The Saranac High School senior earned the title of Senior Level Presentation Champion at the New York State 4-H Horse Public Presentation for her speech titled "Unwanted Horse." Horton, who has been involved with 4-H for the past 11 years, gave the speech at Cornell University in Ithaca May 16, and it's a topic which she's very passionate about.
"This is a topic I've always been interested in because due to our economy and some natural disasters that have occurred in different parts of our country, the number of unwanted horses is getting to be a humongous problem," said Horton.
Horton, who has competed at the state level competition for the past four years, said she spent roughly three to four months researching the topic which has been widely reported in the media.
"There are unwanted horses everywhere - farms, places that house race horses and even where backyard owners just no longer want their horses," said Horton. "This is something that's just going to get worse if people aren't informed about it. They won't know what to do when this problem gets worse."
The 2007 closure of the final three remaining horse slaughterhouses in the United States have also contributed to the number of unwanted horses, said Horton, which, until that time, helped keep the horse population in check,
In her presentation, Horton gives proposals of how to resolve the issue, based off examples given by the American Horse Council.
"Throughout the presentation I shared what they are suggesting and a couple of those things were encouraging owners to do things like
leasing horses to someone who doesn't have one or donating your horses to therapeutic riding centers or colleges or contacting local rescue facilities," she said.
Now having the state title under her belt, Horton will present her speech at various 4-H exhibits, including the upcoming Clinton County Fair in Morrisonville and New York State Fair in Syracuse. The next step will be to bring her presentation to the National 4-H Horse Public Presentation in Kentucky this November.
The requirement of participating in the national competition is having the most up-to-date information possible, said Horton.
"I've been reading and researching my topic every day since [winning the state competition]," she said. "Since this problem is something that's happening right now and is just getting worse, every single day there are more stories and more proposals to solve this problem."
"It's a topic that's constantly changing and with that, my presentation has to constantly be changing with it," she added.
Horton would have actually qualified for nationals last year when she was a junior, but juniors are restricted from moving on to the national competition, she said.
"You can only go when you're a senior," she explained.
However, she now looks forward to competing in November. In order to do so, Horton said she was told there will be approximately $400-$500 in associated expenses.
Those interested in making a donation toward Horton's expenses may contact Alexa King or Darlene Medeiros at the Clinton County office of Cornell Cooperative Extension at 561-7450.