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Johnson earns Eagle Scout rank

June 14, 2007

Matthew Dale Johnson, 15, of Keedysville, was awarded the Eagle Scout rank April 7 at a Court of Honor at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hagerstown.

He is the son of Dale and LeAnn Johnson.

His scoutmaster is Doug Smith.

Matthew began his trail to Eagle as a Cub Scout in Pack 265 under the direction of Jay Bracken and Ruth Moyers, earning the highest Cub Scout achievement, Arrow of Light, as well as his religious Faith in God award before bridging over to Troop 265 in 2002.

In the troop, Matthew has served as Patrol Leader for the past two years.

For his Eagle project, he teamed up with the Washington County Horse Council - which promotes equestrian education and involvement by sponsoring clinics, shows and other activities - and built jumps that are now being used at shows held at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center.

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Jumps are used at horse shows for many of the English classes referred to as "Over Fences" classes and at Jumper shows where the goal is to jump a preset course as fast as possible without knocking anything over or refusing any jumps.

A jump is made of two parts, the obstacle, part the horse jumps over, and the standard which holds the obstacle at a designated height but allows the obstacle to fall over if a horse hits it.

The Eagle project involved making four obstacles, four sets of cavaletti, six cross poles and one mounting block. Obstacles included a 2-foot, 6-inch "brick" wall, a 2-foot panel with "Washington County 4-H" painted on it, 2-foot brush jumps which hold cut branches to look like bushes sticking out from between wooden fence panels, and a set of flower boxes, which are low obstacles with holes in the top that hold silk flowers.

Cavaletti are smaller supports shaped like X's that hold a cross pole 6 to 18 inches off the ground. They are used in training to help a horse prepare for and collect themselves for bigger jumps. They can also be used in front of a larger jump when you want a horse to not only jump high, but to also jump wide.

Cross poles are used above the main obstacle to make a jump higher or by themselves for simple jumps called verticles and cross bars. The mounting block is to help small people who ride big horses.

Prior to this project, each time a horse show was staged, all jumping equipment had to be borrowed from local stables and hauled to and the Ag Center. This made weekly practices impractical, too.

A student at Boonsboro High School, Matthew participates on the Physics Olympics and Its Academic teams.

He is a member of Saddles 'n' Spurs 4-H Club, but he is not a rider. Instead he focuses on other project areas such as photography, woodworking, and arts and crafts.

He is also raising turkeys for a food bank and capons to sell at the Market Animal Sale at this summer's Ag Expo.

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