What you'll do
In this event, you will make a careful study of a horse, measuring it against an accepted ideal. Horse judging is the art of ranking animals, using your knowledge of ideal horses. Then, use your public speaking skills to defend your choices.
Anyone can be on the horse judging team; you needn't be enrolled in the 4-H Horse Project. Coaches are experienced in judging and giving oral reasons. Judging teams can form anytime and the earlier in the school year that you start, the better off you will be. Contests are usually held in the summer and fall. You may form a team with youth from other counties.
There are no regional contests required to compete at the state horse judging contest. The state contest is held each year at the Minnesota State 4-H Horse Show in September. Just sign up with your local 4-H office. Check with them for deadlines and forms.
Already enrolled in this project?
Being on a 4-H judging team teaches youth the skills to become an authoritative person. The commonly accepted ideal type and performance should be learned for each of the various breeds (Arabian, Morgan, Quarter Horse, Paint, etc.) by practices held by the coach. You should also learn the parts of the horse, blemishes and unsoundness, and conformation faults. After learning the background on breeds, you'll learn to evaluate and compare animals in a class of four (Quarter Horse mares, Arabian geldings, etc.). Taking notes to weigh the differences in faults and blemishes assists young judges in making the decision on how to place the class.
At a contest, participants have 15 minutes to evaluate one class and then defend their placing orally. To do this, you must understand the various breeds and know the terminology for the attributes of each breed. Oral reasons are the most demanding part of being on a judging team—especially at a real show when defending your placing to horse show parents! Coaches will prepare you to give a flowing comparison and contrasting set of reasons. You should be able to describe the placing of the class in two minutes or less. Practicing beforehand is vital.
These organizations offer many helpful resources:
- Minnesota Horse Council
- Minnesota Horse Expo
- Minnesota Trail Riders Association
- Arabian Horse Association
- Morgan Horse Association
- National Extension website and resources
- US Equestrian Foundation (formerly IHSA)
- American Quarter Horse Association(AQHA)
- American Saddlebred Horse Association(ASHA)
- Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC)
- Pinto Horse Association (PtHA)
Find all support materials for this project on the 4-H volunteer site.
To volunteer, contact your local 4-H office.