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Horse Judging


North Dakota 4-H horse judging contest provides an opportunity for youth enrolled in 4-H horse projects to enhance their equine evaluation and selection skills. Additionally, a judging contest improves their communication and decision-making skills, giving them invaluable life skills toward career development. The purpose of the 4-H horse judging contest is to teach youth how to evaluate horses and how to make and defend their decisions. Participants will judge classes that include halter and performance classes. Participants then will prepare sets of oral reasons and meet one-on-one with an official to describe the reasons for their class placement. Competition in horse judging fosters self-confidence, organization, critical thinking, teamwork skills and oral communication skills. Just as important, this contest advances their knowledge of the equine industry, giving youth the tools to help select horses for longevity and athleticism. This contest provides an educational program for all project members, including those who may not own a project animal.

The winning 4-H senior team will have a choice to represent North Dakota at the national 4-H horse judging contest at the Western National Roundup in Denver, Colo.

Objectives and Outcomes:

  • Stimulate learning in equine science and agricultural industry.
  • Youth develop positive interests and attitudes about equine evaluation, animal science and related careers.
  • Youth gain a base of knowledge of equine projects.
  • Youth will utilize skills and abilities to solve everyday situations.
  • Youth gain valuable producer experience.
  • Reward 4-H members for knowledge gained in a subject matter area.
  • Provide a competitive setting where attitudes of friendliness and fairness prevail.
  • Participants will process information, analyze complex scenarios and make informed decisions based on breed association rules and apply those rules to difficult decisions.
  • Youth develop teamwork, self-confidence, public speaking and decision-making skills.
  • An increased number of participants seek higher education opportunities and careers related to animal and equine science.

Who May Enter

  • Contestants must be enrolled in North Dakota 4-H (4honline) as a full-time member in the county they represent. Short-term 4-H members are not eligible to compete at the state level.
  • Counties may enter any number of participates in either age division without specifying a specific “team.” The high three individual scores from all individuals entered will determine the overall team score.
  • All participants are eligible for individual awards.
  • Counties may combine to form a team provided neither county has more than two participants. Combination teams must preregister together for the appropriate age group. A team of three may not pick up a fourth member from another county.
    • Counties and coaches from teams must approve combining of individuals for a team.
  • Contestants in the senior division must be 14 to 18 years as of Dec. 31. The junior division is for members 8 to 13 years of age as of Dec. 31.
  • While the contest is in progress, no conferring shall occur between contestants or anyone else other than the contest superintendents, group leaders or their representative. Fifty points will be deducted from the total score for each talking infraction reported.
  • Individuals with disabilities are invited to request reasonable accommodations to participate in NDSU-sponsored programs and events. To request accommodations, please contact Holly Halvorson at 701-231-7251 or two weeks prior to the contest to make arrangements.
  • 4-H members are not eligible for this contest if:
    • They have judged at the national 4-H horse judging contest in Louisville, Ky., or Denver
    • They have participated in official post-secondary (university, college, junior college or technical school) competitive events of a similar nature in the same subject matter area. Neither can they be members of a post-secondary team undergoing training in preparation for an event.

Age Requirements

Each age division is considered a separate contest, and youth may enter one of the following divisions:

  • Junior 4-H division: Youth 8 years of age before Sept. 1, to age 13 as of Dec. 31.
  • Senior 4-H division: Youth ages 14 to 18 as of Dec. 31, and enrolled in North Dakota 4-H as a full-time 4-H member (not a short-term member)
  • Open division: Participants ages 8 to 18 not eligible for 4-H divisions. 4-H/FFA dual members choosing to judge only in the state FFA horse judging contest this year may enter this division. Individuals from another state are welcome to enter this division.
    • The senior first-place team overall in the state 4-H horse judging contest has the option to represent North Dakota at the Western National Roundup contest in Denver, Colo. The team is awarded $1,000 from the North Dakota 4-H Foundation to help with travel expenses. Contestants already must have passed their 14th birthday and may not have reached their 19th birthday as of Jan. 1 of the year in which the national 4-H competitive event is held. However, the state 4-H leader may grant a special authorization to compete for youth with developmental disabilities who exceed the upper age limit.
      • To request funding for the national 4-H horse judging contest .The Extension agent in the county of the representative team will need to write a formal letter to the North Dakota 4-H Foundation director, Penny Dale, ( and copy the state 4-H animal science specialist at on the email as well. Request funds for $1,000. Include: who the 4-H Foundation should write the check to, where to mail the check, the names of those competing on the team, and the name and date of the national event.

County agents and coaches are responsible for determining the age and member eligibility of participants in the state 4-H horse judging contest from their respective clubs.

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