4-H is a popular organization for young people to learn about leadership, responsibility and other life skills. The four H’s in 4-H represent head, heart, hands and health. Each of these areas is developed through educational opportunities like meetings, workshops, demonstrations and exhibitions. The premise of 4-H is very hands-on, so it fosters and positive and exciting learning environment for young people.


4-H began during the late 1800’s as a teaching tool for young people. As agricultural advances were developed, it was the young farmers and not the old who were willing to try out the new ideas. Many adults were skeptical of new technologies as they developed. 4-H was developed as way to teach the young people about advances in technology through hands-on learning.

This model continued as the program began to expand. Children used 4-H as a way to learn about farming and technology outside of the classroom. The children were challenged to practice these ideas at home. In 1902, Clark Count Ohio, a tomato and corn growing club was formed. At the same time in Minnesota, and after-school agriculture club was forming. By 1910, the signature clover emblem and four H’s of 4-H were born.

4-H Horse Program

Horsemanship is taught in a hands-on setting, but also as a science in 4-H. The curriculum created by 4-H is intended to teach children of all ages about horses and horsemanship. In learning, the young participants learn about different horse breeds, marks and characteristics. While the young people learn the basics, 4-H participants learn about the horse’s anatomy and other more advanced knowledge.

The 4-H horse program is focused on youth development. By teaching young people how to care for horses, the youth are learning good character development and sportsmanship. The participant learns about how to be a contributing citizen while growing enthusiasm for horses.

The 4-H horse program includes horse showing. Horse shows are generally held by county, but this is dependent upon specific chapters. County winners then go on to compete in the State Fair. Horse showing is split in categories either based upon age, level or some combination thereof. Age competitions can be unfair because some children may have been riding longer than others, but for clubs that do not have established levels, it is the easiest way to sort contestants.
Horse shows that are split by levels foster a more equal playing field. Additionally, riders that are more advanced are given a challenge, riding against other advanced riders. Unfortunately, this method can pit much older riders against much younger participants. State Fairs divide the show by age as well as level. In this method, children of the same age and same level compete against one another. With the wider pool of participants at the State Fair level, this generally divides the groups up well.

Horse Show Judging

4-H Horse shows are similar to other horse shows in judging. The horses are judged on many physical attributes and mannerisms. Conformation is an important standard by which to judge a horse. The conformation of the horse judges the smoothness of the horse, as well as the muscles, balance, form and general way of going.

Horses that score well in horse shows have a smooth and sleek appearance. Bulky muscles and disproportioned body parts will not score well. The physical qualities of the horse are scored, as well as the horse’s mannerisms and movements. The horse is judged on its ability to stand in a perfect position, without pointing toes in or out, bending knees of have too narrow or too wide of stance.

Beyond the physical qualities, the horses are just upon temperament. The horse and rider should appear to have a smooth relationship. Since 4-H is primarily about fostering interest in young people, the relationship between horse and rider carries weight in a 4-H competition.

The horse must also be very well-groomed, which is the responsibility of the young person showing the horse. The hooves should be trimmed and neat, and sometimes even polished. The coat should be shiny and clean, although the overuse of oils is not encouraged in all divisions of horse showing.

The 4-H program also provides an opportunity for young people to judge horses. The young judges spend time learning all of the signs of a good horse, from body shape to stance to movements. The participants view the horses in harness as well as under saddle. The 4-Hers watch the horse move and judge four horses.

There is also a section for conformation where the young person will have to observe the balance, muscles and structure of the horse. The young person will choose which horse has the best conformation and why. This teaches the young people not only to show horses, but how to judge, which expands their knowledge of horses in general.

Importance of 4-H

4-H is an environment that fosters learning, growth and good citizenship. Children are given a world of disciplines to choose from and develop the skills necessary to be a healthy, functioning member of society. 4-H members train and care for animals, learn about scientific advances and brainstorm solutions for a better world. The slogan for 4-H is “learn by doing” which has created a learning environment that is both fun and informative for over 100 years.

4-H also has the advantages of teaching rural life to urban communities. In those urban communities, 4-H develops youth and teaches them about life outside of the city.

4-H is a proven method for educating and encouraging students. In a study conducted about 4-H children, it was discovered that 4-H participants are more likely to do well in school, move on to college and positively contribute to the community. 4-H children are also less likely to start risky behaviors.

4-H exists in communities in over 80 countries with 6.5 million members in the United States alone. The programs help growth and development, and have made a large impact in societies both rural and urban. 4-H focuses not only on agricultural and other rural parts of life, but also on technological advances, global education, alternative energy projects and other challenges and insightful disciplines. Students in 4-H learn to problem solve and use their minds and skills to make the world a better place.