During the pandemic when so many other things were canceled, I started riding lessons. When I started I didn't know much about horses, and all I knew was what I watched on TV or had learned at camp which wasn't much. I love horses, but I don't own one. However, 4-H has given me the opportunity to learn about real horses without owning one. Back in January of 2021 my county started a Junior Hippology/Horse Bowl program. In our group there were members who owned horses and members like me, who didn’t own a horse. We met every Friday night either in person or by Zoom.
Our first meeting we learned that mares have 36 teeth and geldings/stallions have 40 teeth. This was just the beginning. We used buzzers to answer questions while we learned about anatomy, nutrition, digestion, reproduction, and markings. My favorite night was when we learned all about tack. My coach showed us all of her tack including her saddles. We even tried them on ourselves for fun. My least favorite topic is parasitology, but I know now that strongyles cause diarrhea in foals. I also learned about a few other nasty organisms.
Last year regionals were online, but it was still fun because we met as a team at the extension office and it became a kind of party during breaks and afterwards. When we were preparing for state we learned reining, not with horses though, we did it ourselves by pretending to be the horse and rider. It was hilarious!
This year there was an in-person state horse judging. In horse judging sometimes we judge the horse and other times we judge the rider. At the end, you have to tell the judge why you decided to place a particular class that way. Some people think giving reasons is hard, but because of my experience showing general projects, I don’t think it's scary: I think it's fun.
4-H Hippology is fun, not just because it's all about horses (even though that's fun), but because there’s a team and that team becomes your friends. Don't get me wrong, I still really want to own a horse, but until then I will keep learning about horses and having fun with my 4-H team.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bailey Callahan is a member of Magical Muggles 4-H Club in Rock Island County. Her interests include horses (obviously), soccer, softball and music. In 4-H her favorite projects are horse, woodworking, video filmmaking and small animals.