COLUMBIA, Mo. - Four east-central Missouri youth placed in the top 10 at the University of Missouri Extension state 4-H Horse Judging Contest in Columbia, March 15.
In junior individual competition, for ages 8 to 13, Johannah Richardson, Gerald, Mo., in Gasconade County placed third; Allie Dunkin, Madison, Mo., in Monroe County placed fifth; Emily Workman, Troy, Mo., in Lincoln County placed seventh; and Evan Scherder, Bowling Green, Mo. in Pike County tied for 10th place.
The youths were among 150 participants from around the state who tested their ability to judge horse traits from several breed classes at the MU Trowbridge Livestock Center.
To compete, participants must know several horse classes and breeds, their ideal traits, and be able to evaluate a group of four horses from each class. Each class has specific ideal qualities, which include features such as body size, muscle tone, head shape, leg line, and how a horse walks and tracks. Competitors must then rank each horse based on the class ideal and give oral reasons explaining their decisions to a panel of judges.
"Quarter horse mares will be judged very differently from Arabians, and they'll have markedly different ideal traits," said Marci Jennings, MU Extension equine specialist. "The students should be able to look at the horses and explain why the first beat the second, the second beat the third, and so on."
Ben Gallup, MU Extension 4-H youth specialist, said judging contests teach youth about more than livestock: they foster critical life skills. The challenge of learning and articulating equine differences also is a valuable hands-on form of youth development, he said.
"There are certain ingredients you use to build a cake - you mix flour, eggs, sugar. It's the same with building good kids," he said. "We hope to build team experience and skill sets like public speaking, a sense of generosity, and a sense of independence. The judging process is just one tool that 4-H has used since the beginning."
A judging clinic at the same time as the contest taught youth less familiar with horses or judging how to evaluate horses, and stressed how horse form affects function.
Upcoming 4-H equine events include the 4-H Horse Bowl Contest on April 19 and the state 4-H Hippology Contest on April 20. Both will take place in Columbia at the MU Animal Science Research Center.
Youth who want to join a 4-H horse club should contact their local MU Extension office.