New 4-H equine team tests knowledge at state level

Madison County’s new 4-H equine academic team competed for the first time in April at the statewide Horse Bowl at The Ohio State University: (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 July 9, 2024)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

For the first time in a long time, Madison County is home to a 4-H equine academic team. The group has already competed in one competition. Their next one is July 15.

Each year, Ohio’s 4-H program organizes statewide contests that test youths’ skills and knowledge when it comes to horses. Counties can form teams to compete against other teams from around the state. Teams fall into two categories: junior for youths who are 13 years old or younger as of Jan. 1 and senior for youths who are 14 to 18 years old as of Jan. 1. Opportunities for individual placements also are available. Youths who participate in all of the contests can earn a high-point award.

Madison County’s team got its start when London 4-Her Lily Yoder, 10, expressed interest in pursuing the high-point award. Her mother, Elyce Yoder, serves as a co-advisor of the Exclusively Equine and Friends 4-H Club with Sara Boyd. Both Elyce and Sara studied animal science in college, both with a focus on horses. Additionally, Sara competed on an equine academic team in the early 1990s. The two decided to poll members of their club for interest in forming a team.

“When we asked about it, it’s like every kid in the room raised their hands. We did not expect that,” Elyce said. “We just started rolling with it.”

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

Elyce and Sara take turns leading the practices and send the team members home with study materials and independent work to do between practices. The knowledge required to compete successfully in academic team challenges is “high level,” Elyce said, comparing much of it to the information she learned in college.

Madison County’s team members put their knowledge to the test for the first time in April. The Horse Bowl and the hippology competition, the state’s first equine academic team contests of the year, took place at The Ohio State University.

For the Horse Bowl, participants competed in teams of four, buzzing in with 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, 4-Hers from Summit County, helped to fill out the roster of eight. One group placed 11th, and the other placed 18th, both about mid-pack. For hippology, which focuses on horse structure and function, entrants answered questions individually at stations; their individual scores were combined for a team score. Again, Madison County finished mid-pack.

“For our first year, we were thrilled that they did that well,” Elyce said. “To be competitive at all their first year was great, and it was good exposure so they can improve in years to come.”

Also at the April event, Lily Yoder entered a poster explaining the history of side saddle and completed an interview about the poster. She received word in June that she 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 contest on July 15 at the Ohio State Fairgrounds. At this contest, youths must serve as judges, reviewing a class of horses and deciding on placements. As part of the process, they must give two reasons for why they placed each horse as they did.

“Having that kind of understanding is pretty advanced stuff for these kids,” Yoder said.

The final contest of the year, a groom and clean, is slated for Aug. 24 at Ohio State. Entrants must cover their horses with mud, let the mud dry, then make their horses presentable again. The contest also requires them to complete a showmanship pattern and a question-and-answer session.

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

Yoder and Boyd are open to other youths joining the equine academic team. Those who are interested can be members of any 4-H club. They do not need to have a horse, just a desire to learn about horses. For details, contact Elyce Yoder at (614) 705-9988.

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