The fourth annual Hawaii Horse Expo Mana Award, honoring those who inspire and educate, will be presented to Fern White on Sunday at the Paniolo Heritage Center at Pukalani Stables in Waimea.
The award ceremony will follow the 9:30 a.m. traditional blessing of the horses. Hawaii Island Humane Society Executive Director Donna Whitaker and Dr. Lisa Wood of Veterinary Associates, the award sponsor, will present White the award, which is named after an abandoned mare named Mana, who spent the final months of her life in the care of the Hawaii Island Humane Society Waimea Shelter.
Past Mana Award recipients are Laura Rose (2010), Pudding Lassiter (2011), Franz Dick Solmssen (2012) and Edwin Nobriga and Wallie Kimura-Nobriga (2013).
The Hawaii Horse Expo, slated for today through Sunday, includes an already sold-out Equine Medicine Symposium, a Low Stress Cattle Handling Demo, two full days of simultaneous clinics and demonstrations, a marketplace with vendors offering state-of-the-art services, medical and nutritional information and programs, saddle making, and related equine services including clothing, art, a silent auction and ono food.
Hawaii Horse Expo tickets are available for purchase at Hawaii Island Humane Society Waimea, Keaau and Kona shelters, Parker Ranch Store in Waimea, and Alfalfa Hay &Cubes in Paauilo. Hawaii Horse Expo is sponsored in part by AK Ranch, Parker Ranch, Pony Express Mail Services, Alfalfa Hay &Cubes and Aloha Auto Group.
Proceeds from Hawaii Horse Expo benefit Hawaii Island Humane Society’s Horse Rescue Fund. The mission of the Hawaii Island Humane Society is to promote respect for all animals, prevent cruelty to animals, eliminate pet overpopulation and enhance the bond between humans and animals. HIHS has a contract with the County of Hawaii to enforce certain animal-related laws and it offers 24-hour service for injured animals and other animal emergencies, humane education classes, low-cost spay and neuter services, lost and found assistance, microchipping and more. Visit HIHS.org or call 329-1175.
Most people might remember a tutu, or an aunty, as their first babysitter.
Not Fern White — she remembers Pepper. At the tender age of 2 1/2, her family was immersed in paniolo life at Ulupalakua Ranch on Maui. When it came time for housekeeping chores, Pepper — her father’s all-around polo pony and hunting horse — was roped into service as the family babysitter. Pepper gently grazed the front yard all the while balancing this precious, if irksome, toddler on his bareback.
White’s father trained polo ponies for the Baldwins on Maui and Fern’s lifelong connection with horses began when she was still in diapers. By age 5, she was a “hot walker” and just a year later her rodeo career was launched. Since then, she has become a celebrated horsewoman and credits her father’s early coaching, discipline and sage advice of keeping an open mind to learn from others.
“The formula for knowledge looks something like experience plus coaching plus clinics. Wisdom is gained by knowledge plus experience plus experiments plus more experience,” White said. “Women have less-powerful upper body strength than men, so we need to use more skill and finesse over brute strength.”
This classic, old-school rodeo rider thought trophies were nice, but more important was the common appreciation of ability and the coming together of ranching, riding, horse and cattle loving people to celebrate everyday work.
White, who started breaking state records as early as the 1958 Honokaa Rodeo Barrel Race and became the first Hawaii Rodeo Association State Champion Barrel Racer in 1964 and again in 1965, revealed that her all-time favorite rodeo event is saddle bronc riding.
“Horses teach people the value of balance, patience and integrity. They teach us interdependence and respect,” White said. “Horses are the noblest creatures on earth; they exemplify graciousness, forgiveness, goodness and dignity. They are courageous and kind. Horses and humans develop partnerships that involve both work and play and the emotional benefits to humans are numerous.”
White conducts weekly therapeutic horsemanship services through her Lio Lapaau-Healing Horses Hawaii in North Kohala. She provides horsemanship instruction as a nationally certified instructor and continues to participate in team roping events. In fact, White has served more than 500 riding students in her hometown alone, along with numerous pau units and pa‘u queens. She also judges open horseshows, conducts horsemanship clinics and specialized rodeo clinics for barrel racing across the state.
When not riding, White is an English language arts teacher and curriculum coordinator at Kohala High School. She is deeply involved with many student projects, including the highly competitive robotics team.
“I try to ride a minimum of four days a week,” she said. “My students joke that they know when I have not ridden because I become extremely grumpy!”
White’s many years of community service work have benefitted, among others, the Hawaii Quarter Horse Association, Hawaii Rodeo Association, Kohala Rodeo Club, Cancer Benefit Rodeo, Kohala High School Speech Club, Arthritis Foundation Benefit Rodeo, All Girls Rodeo, Paniolo Rodeo Club, North Kohala Community Development Plan Steering Committee. She has won many state and national awards for her horsemanship and for her good works as an educator and community volunteer.