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New 4-H horse team tests knowledge at state level

New 4-H horse team tests knowledge at state level

New 4-H horse team tests knowledge at state level
Madison County’s new academic 4-H horse team competed in the Ohio State University statewide Horse Bowl for the first time in April: (front row, from left) Lily Yoder, Taylor Ray, Ryann Wyatt-Sipos, Olivia Ray, Hanaa Fram; (back row) Kaylan Varner, Arabella Bacon and Lillian Brady.

(Posted on July 9, 2024)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

For the first time in a long time, Madison County is home to an academic 4-H horse team. The group has already competed in one competition, and the next one will be held on July 15.

Each year, Ohio’s 4-H program organizes statewide competitions that test youth’s horse skills and knowledge. Counties can form teams to compete against other teams from around the state. Teams are divided into two categories: Junior, for youth who are 13 years old or younger as of January 1, and Senior, for youth who are 14 to 18 years old as of January 1. There are also opportunities for individual placements. Youth who participate in all competitions can win an award with the most points.

The Madison County team began when 10-year-old London 4-Her Lily Yoder expressed interest in earning the high point award. Her mother, Elyce Yoder, is co-advisor of the Exclusively Equine and Friends 4-H Club along with Sara Boyd. Both Elyce and Sara studied animal science in college, both with a focus on horses. In addition, Sara participated in an academic horse team in the early 1990s. The two decided to survey members of their club about their interest in starting a team.

“When we asked about it, every kid in the room raised their hands. We didn’t expect that,” Elyce said. “We just accepted it.”

The team, which falls into the junior category, was formed in January and began regular training in February. Members include Lillian Brady, Hanaa Fram, Olivia Ray, Taylor Ray, Kalan Varner and Lily Yoder.

Elyce and Sara take turns leading practices and sending team members home with study materials and independent assignments for the time between practices. The knowledge required to compete successfully in academic team competitions is “high-level,” Elyce said, comparing much of it to the knowledge she learned in college.

Madison County team members put their knowledge to the test for the first time in April at the Horse Bowl and Hippology Competition, the state’s first academic horse team competitions of the year, held at Ohio State University.

In Horse Bowl, participants competed in teams of four and reported answers to questions. Teams earned two points for each correct answer and lost one point for each incorrect answer. Madison County fielded two teams. Arabella Bacon and Ryann Wyatt-Sipos, Summit County 4-Hers, helped round out the list of eight participants. One group finished 11th and the other 18th, both about mid-pack. In Hippology, which focuses on the structure and function of horses, participants answered questions individually at stations; their individual scores were combined into a team score. Again, Madison County finished in the middle of the pack.

“We were excited to see them do so well in our first year,” Elyce said. “For them to even be competitive in their first year was great. It was a good opportunity to continue to improve in the coming years.”

Also at the April event, Lily Yoder submitted a poster explaining the history of the sidesaddle and gave an interview about the poster. In June, she received news that she had placed second in the state and her poster and ribbon will be displayed at the Ohio State Fair.

Next up for the team is a horse judging competition at the Ohio State Fairgrounds on July 15. This competition requires youth to serve as judges, evaluate a class of horses and decide on placements. As part of the process, they must give two reasons why they placed each horse the way they placed it.

“This level of understanding is pretty advanced for these kids,” Yoder said.

The final competition of the year, a grooming and cleaning, is scheduled for Aug. 24 at Ohio State. Competitors must cover their horses in mud, let the mud dry and then make them presentable again. The competition also requires them to complete a showmanship pattern and participate in a question-and-answer session.

“This competition is more fun and hands-on. It’s a great way to end the summer,” Yoder said.

Yoder and Boyd are open to other youth who would like to join the academic horse team. Those interested can be members of any 4-H club. You don’t have to have a horse, just a desire to learn about horses. For more information, contact Elyce Yoder at (614) 705-9988.