Hippology Rules

The primary objective of the NYS 4-H Hippology contest is to provide - in a friendly but competitive setting - an opportunity for youth enrolled in 4-H to demonstrate the breadth of their horse knowledge, understanding of equine science and management, and the practical application of this knowledge and skill. It is hoped that this contest will generate new friendships, stimulate further learning, and be a rewarding experience for the contestants.

Dress Code: Safe, neat clothing appropriate for the event and weather conditions is expected. Contestants may be judging live horses and should wear appropriate footwear (close-toed shoes).

  • Contestants should bring at least two pencils and a clipboard and may bring snacks and drinks to the contest.
  • The use of electronic devices is prohibited during the contest and sportsmanlike conduct is expected of all contestants, coaches, and parents.
  • National rule changes will be automatically reflected in NYS 4-H educational event rules in following year.

A. Regional Contests

  1. Regions may select their teams in any manner deemed appropriate by the majority of the counties within the region.
    • Regions are encouraged to allow as many youth as possible to participate in regional competitions. Teams should consist of 4 members. Short teams may compete and may be combined with other teams.
    • Divisions:
      1. Senior Division - Senior contestants must be 14 years of age but not yet 19 years of age before January 1 of the current calendar year and must never have been a member of an official Hippology team representing New York in an out-of-state contest.
      2. Junior Division - Junior contestants must not have had their 14th birthday prior to January 1 of the current calendar year. Please note: For state events, a junior youth must have reached their 9th birthday prior to January 1 of the current year.
      3. Novice Division - Regional novice contestants must not have reached their 14th birthday prior to January 1 of the current calendar year and must never have participated in a Hippology contest at the Regional level, except that youth 10 years and old and younger may compete for a maximum of 2 years. A novice division is not offered at the State Contest.
  2. It is recommended but not required that all contestants must be enrolled in a 4-H horse project.

B. State Contest

  1. Only those contestants who participated in regional contests are eligible for the state contest.
  2. The State Contest will consist of Junior and Senior Divisions.
    • Senior Division: Senior contestants must be 14 years of age but not yet 19 years of age before January 1 of the current calendar year and must never have been a member of an official Hippology team representing NYS in an out-of-state contest.
    • Junior Division: Junior contestants must not have had their 14th birthday prior to January 1 of the current calendar year.
  3. Each region may send four Junior and four Senior teams to the state contest. If a region decided to split into an A & B, each may send twoJunior and two Senior teams. Regions will be responsible for the selection of their teams.
  4. Teams must consist of three or four members to qualify for team awards at the State Competition. Teams with one or two individuals may compete but will only be considered for individual awards (including National Contest Participation) and may be combined with other teams at the discretion of contest officials.
  5. Members of the team representing New York in out-of-state competition will become ineligible for further Hippology competition.
  6. Event Registration
    • Team preregistration is required. Registration must be completed online by CCE County Educator or staff only by the deadline indicated at via the CCE Event Registration for Programs portal.
    • Contest Day Helpers: When entering, each team is to designate one adult volunteer or educator as a contest day helper. This individual will be recruited during orientation on the day of the event to help with scoring, room running, etc.

C. National Contest

  1. Four high-placing Senior individual contestants will be invited to represent NYS in the National 4-H Hippology Contest based on rank, availability for the contest, and confirmed eligibility.
  2. The National 4-H Hippology Contest is usually the first weekend in November and takes place at the Eastern National 4-H Horse Roundup in Louisville, Kentucky. The NYS 4-H Horse Program National teams travel together on a four-day bus trip to the contest and for horse-related tours in the area. Contestants choosing to participate in the National Contest will be asked to cover a portion of the cost of the trip. Senior contestants should come to the contest prepared to decide if they will participate in the national contest if they receive a top placing.

A. Examination Phase (approximately 200 points): This phase of the contest will include:

  1. A written exam consisting of multiple choice and/or matching questions.
  2. A slide exam with photos that may include, among other topics, questions regarding breeds, health conditions, conformation faults, color, color patterns, activities, proper appointments, and anatomy including external points, skeleton, internal organs, gastrointestinal tract, reproductive organs, foot, and limbs.

B. Station Phase (approximately 200 points): This phase will consist of a series of stations at which contestants will respond to the requirements of the station. Stations may be interactive (oral questions and answers) or reactive (written answers and questions). Examples of stations include but are not limited to:

  1. Identification of:
    • Types of saddles (actual or pictured) and parts of saddles
    • Tack, bits, bridles, horseshoes, and parts of shoes
    • Tools and Equipment and assembly of specific parts of various pieces of equipment
    • Grains and forages including various forms and methods of preparation
    • Internal and external parasites including actual examples, pictures, life cycles, and effects on the horse
    • Blemishes and unsoundnesses
    • Aging equines based on teeth
    • Breeds, colors and markings
  2. Assessment of a horse’s health based on measures including but not limited to temperature, pulse, respiration, hydration, and anemia.
  3. Measurements including, but not limited to height, shoe size, girth collar size, gullet width and seat length of saddle.

C. Judging Phase (approximately 200 points): Contestants will place at least four conformation or performance classes. Every effort will be made to use live horses, but pictorial or video classes may be used.

D. Team Problem (approximately 200 points) Teams in a division (Junior or Senior) will be presented with the same problems.  The prepared team problem allows for 10 minutes to prepare a response, followed by 7 minutes to deliver, with 3 minutes allowed for questions. For the impromptu team problem, the judge will read the problem, 7 minutes will be given to deliver the response and 3 minutes will be given for questions.

  1. Examples of team problem topics may include but are not limited to:
    • Balancing a horse’s ration
    • Farm management for specific (breeding, training, boarding, nursery, lay-up) horse operations and considerations for the establishment of a new horse facility
    • Recommendations for selecting, locating, and purchasing horses for specific purposes
    • Causes, management of, and corrections for behavior problems
    • Training and conditioning programs – equipment, schedules, methods, nutrition, problem avoidance
    • Breeding and/or leasing contracts – specific clauses for liability, insurance, payments, care, termination, transport, etc.
    • Teaching lessons in horse management to a group of 9-11 year old beginner riders
    • Explanation of use or assembly of equipment. Demonstration of skill or ability to use specific equipment
    • Oral reasons based on a class from the Judging section of the contest. If included, this problem will be announced at the beginning of the contest and contestants will be allowed to take notes.
  2. Evaluation will be based on apparent understanding of the problem, practicality and probable success of the solution presented, thoroughness of the response, clarity and logic, style of response, and more importantly, the involvement of all team members in making the response. (See score sheet at the end of the Hippology section).
  3. Team problems will generally have no unique solution or single set of established procedures; the solution must be a true team effort. A suggested approach is to have each team member state facts in response to a facet of the problem and to remark after another team member’s presentation if they can contribute additional knowledge. Responses should include “how” and “why” with special attention given to the rationale leading to the responses given.
  4. To prepare the solutions, a standard outline should be used to keep the main points and supporting material in proper sequence and designate which team member(s) should start or finish according to the strengths of each individual in reference to the problem presented.
  5. Sources of material may include the individual’s own experience as well as recommended reference material.
  6. A summary or conclusion should briefly restate some of the major points made during the presentation.
  7. The judge may ask questions of any or all team members to clarify the presentation.
  8. Discrete use of notes during the presentation will not be penalized.
  9. Team problem scores will not be included in determining the rank of individuals in the contest but will be added to the team scores of the other three phases to determine overall team standing.
  1. Illustrated Dictionary of Equine Terms, by New Horizons Equine Education Center (Author), Vera Bergstgen (Editor), Collete May (Editor, Catherine O'Hala (Editor). (2019.)
  2. Horse Industry Handbook, by the American Youth Horse Council. (1999).
  3. Feeding and Care of the Horse (2nd edition), by Lon D. Lewis. (2005).
  4. Equine Science. Basic Knowledge for Horse People of All Ages, by Jean T. Griffiths. (2008).
  5. The Coloring Atlas of Horse Anatomy (2nd edition), by Robert A. Kainer & Thomas O. McCracken. (2008).
  6. Horse Smarts: An Equine Reference & Youth Activity Guide, by the American Youth Horse Council AYHC. (2021)
  7. Dover Saddlery - Apparel, tack and horse care items, for the English rider. Visit their website to request a free catalog
  8. Schneider Saddlery – Apparel, tack and horse care items for the Western and the English rider

      Other Resources:

  • Grains, forages, and feed preparations used in this contest will be representative of feeds utilized in horse rations.
  • A limited number of current event questions may be asked about topics covered in NYS or national media that pertain to horses.
  • A limited number of cultural questions may be asked about topics including historical events, books, movies, music and art that pertain to horses. 

A. The Hippology Contest will now require a four person team. All four team scores will count for the team phase. If a team of three completes, scores of zero will be used for the fourth individual. No scores will be dropped.

B. If a team consists of only one or two members, they will be considered for all individual placing awards but will not be eligible for any team awards.

Short teams may be combined for the contest at the discretion of contest officials.

C. Tie-breaking

  1. All ties, individual and team, will be broken using the following sequence.
    • Examination scores
    • Station scores
    • Judging scores
  2. Ties within a phase are to be broken using the overall score first and then the same sequence as above. If further tie- breaking is needed, the scores at each station, in order starting from the first station, may be used.

A. Rosettes will be given to the ten high individuals and to members of five highest teams (5 each for Junior and Senior).

B. Verbal recognition will be given to the ten high individuals and to members of five high teams in examination, judging, stations and identification.

A. No source of information is infallible. Answers may be given to questions which are not in agreement with recommended sources or reflect conflicting information between sources. Any queries or complaints should be submitted in writing to the chairperson of the contest by the coach of the individual or team making the inquiry. Spectators, parents, and visitors may not protest verbally or in writing to the chair but should direct their actions to the coach or agent of their respective county or region.

B. Unseemly behavior, unsportsmanlike conduct, or any actions which are generally accepted as detrimental to the contest may subject 4-H competitors, parents, and/or coaches to dismissal from the area of the contest. Dismissal decisions are at the discretion of the contest chair and county 4-H educators in attendance.

C. Unless assisting in the contest, coaches and parents must not remain in the immediate area surrounding the contest proceedings. Every effort will be made to allow viewing of the contest but in some instances this may not be possible. Viewing of contest materials will be allowed once the contest is completed.

D. Contest materials will not be returned. Copies of the written exams will be held at Cornell and will be available for Regional Hippology competitions.

For more information

Contact Jessica Tyson, NYS 4-H Horse Educational Event Coordinator, at jms943 [at] cornell.edu.