May 17, 2010

Florida 4-H Horse Program

5/17/10 |
Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Agent, Pinellas County Extension

The mention of a youth horse program usually brings to mind the image of young riders on their horses or caring for the horses. Surprisingly, only two of the six events of the Florida 4-H Horse Program actually require the use of a horse. Further, the purpose of the Florida 4-H Horse Program is to offer youth opportunities to “improve citizenship, sportsmanship, horsemanship, character, competitive spirit, discipline, and responsibility while creating an atmosphere for learning and awareness of the life about us” (Dr. Ed Johnson, Florida 4-H Area & State Horse Shows Official Rules 2010).
One might say that the horse program is more than just horsing around.

Here are the six events of the Florida 4-H Horse Program:
Horse Demonstrations & Public Speaking allow 4-H youth to teach others something they have learned through their horse project work. These presentations are the result of the 4-H’er processing and applying the lessons they have learned. Demonstrations and speeches are first given on the club or county level. The top presentations then go to the State Horse Events at the University of Florida.

Horse Judging is the event where youth learn to evaluate a horse’s form and rank or place it to other horses or a standard. In addition to learning about horses, the 4-H’er also develops decision making skills. The oral reasons section teaches the participant to defend his or her decisions to others. This is definitely an important life skill in any situation.

Horse Quiz Bowl is a team competition on all equine topics. Team competitions teach cooperation as well as competitive skills. This competition is part of the State Horse Events.

Hippology participants use a combination of horse knowledge and experience to complete a written exam, ID items, place items, judge, and team problems. This state competition takes place in March at the Orange County Extension Office.

Horsemanship School does require a horse and enough experience and skill to care for the horse for the five day camp. This includes grooming, saddling, and mounting without assistance. Each day riders are on horseback for approximately five hours. This is an intensive week of hands on learning and fun.

Horse Shows are often seen as the reward for participating in the horse project. Many clubs, associations, or counties host their own shows as a way to qualify riders to the Area show. There are six Areas in the state and each has a show to qualify riders for the summer State 4-H Horse Show. In Pinellas County, the 4-H leader determines when the rider is ready to participate in an Area show and only after the 4-H member presents a demonstration or speech to their club and shows significant progress in their project book. The ability to ride well and safely is only the first requirement to compete in a show. One must be organized, prepared, knowledgeable of the rules, and have the persistence to continue when things don’t go as planned.
The 2010 Area E 4-H horse Show took place April 23-25 at the Florida State Fairgrounds. There were 179 riders and horses from ten counties registered for this event. Of the 36 riders from Pinellas County, 11 have qualified to attend the State 4-H Horse Show. Amanda Benedict of All Things Equine, Charly Miller of Seminole Riders, and Jade Baranich of Pony Pals received high points for the county. While the number of points gained varied from rider to rider, all were winners because of the life skills they gained while competing in this horse event.

For more information on the Florida 4-H Horse Program, go to

For information on the Pinellas County 4-H Program, go to

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