Horse Judging & Hippology: A Closer Look

Have you ever wondered what our youth on the St. Johns County 4-H Horse Judging and Hippology teams do?

St. Johns County 4-H is proud to have youth actively participating on both the horse judging and hippology teams. Each year, these youth have the opportunity to represent St. Johns County at a variety of contests including the Florida State Fair Horse Judging Contest and the State 4-H Horse Judging and Hippology Contest. Recently, our intermediate and senior teams brought home second place at the State 4-H Hippology contest. Youth have the option of competing as an individual or as a team. A team can consist of three to four members. As a result of participating in these projects, youth can develop valuable life skills that will benefit them throughout their life.

Horse Judging
Youth judging a stock type halter class.

Horse judging remains a favorite activity among equine-enthusiastic youth due to its involvement with real horses. In horse judging, youth will learn to judge a variety of disciplines within the equine industry. Each discipline boasts numerous classes. A class will focus on specific traits that allow the horse and rider to excel.

Classes can consist of halter, performance, and scored classes. As a judge, it is the youth’s responsibility to critique, score and appropriately place the horse and rider based on their performance. Contests will usually consist of eight classes that each showcase four horses. Youth will observe each class and then turn in a card with their placing.

Youth in the senior division may be asked to give oral reasons on classes chosen by contest officials. Oral reasons are when a youth delivers a 1-2 minute presentation to an official judge defending their placings. Each class and oral reason presentation is scored out of 50 points. Scores are then calculated and tallied to determine overall team and individual placings.



Derived from the Greek word hippo, hippology means the study of the horse. A hippology contest will consist of four phases: ID stations, written exam/slides, judging, and the team problem. These four sections will divulge into all things equine science related. From vet tools to feed tag labels, hippology aims to test youth on a variety of topics they might encounter in the equine industry. If you are someone who excels at logic and problem solving, then hippology might be the project for you!

ID Stations

During stations, youth will be individually placed at a table that displays questions relating to a specific topic such as tack, breeds, nutrition, or anatomy. Youth will have two minutes to complete the questions before being asked to rotate to the next table.

Youth hard at work answering questions on the written exam.
Written Exam/Slides

Youth have one hour to take an exam and answer questions based off of photos on a slide show. Test topics can include grooming, behavior, medical care, and history.


The judging phase of the hippology contest is a shorter version of the horse judging contest. Typically, instead of judging eight classes, hippology contestants will only judge four classes. Classes can consist of halter, performance, and scored classes.

Team Problem

The team problem phase requires youth to collaborate on a given issue relevant to the equine industry. Intermediate teams are typically given one hour to write and submit a response to contest officials. Senior teams can be given both planned problems and impromptu problems. In a planned problem, the team will be given 10 minutes to organize and prepare a presentation that will be given to contest officials. For impromptu problems, the team must solve the given problem in front of contest officials and answer questions along the way.


A Lasting Impact

While there are some key differences between the projects, both will allow youth to gain important knowledge about equine science and management that can be transferrable to future animal science related careers. More importantly, being on the team will encourage youth to develop valuable life skills such as time management, public speaking, critical thinking, and problem solving. These skills can benefit youth throughout their personal, academic and professional lives.

Interested in joining the St. Johns County Horse Judging and Hippology team or would like to get more information? Contact the 4-H Department at the St. Johns County Extension Office at (904) 209-0430. Are horses not your thing? We are happy to speak with you about the variety of other projects we have available to youth!

Click here to learn more about Florida 4-H Horse Judging & Hippology:




Posted: April 16, 2021

Category: 4-H & Youth
Tags: 4-H, Hippology, Horse Judging, Horses

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