Only five points separated the top six finishers in the 2018 Illinois 4-H State Horse Judging Contest held April 28 at Black Hawk College in Galva.
Ford County 4-H member Katie Quinley, 16, of Sibley, earned 386 out of 400 points in the contest to take the title. Just two points behind the top finisher, 13-year-old Hannah Maher of Knox County earned second place.
Members evaluated six classes of horses, placing four horses in each class from best to worst with regard to conformation, breed characteristics, and structural smoothness. The placings were then compared to an official placing of the classes. Points were deducted from the participant’s scores for any error in the order. Those points, referred to as “cuts,” are higher for pairs of horses a judge feels are more obvious and less for pairs deemed to be more similar to each other.
Both teens earned perfect scores by matching the judge’s placings in three classes.
Other top finishers in the senior division included Vanessa Bucher of Knox County, third place with 383 points; Olivia Charles of Carroll County, fourth, 382 points; Shelbie Butler of Ford County, fifth, 382 points; Brenna Berns of Ogle County, sixth, 381 points; Tea Thomas of Whiteside County, seventh, 377 points; Desiree Reid of Knox County, eighth, 376 points; Ruthie Ruhl of Logan County, ninth, 375 points; and Sarah Paige Tarr of DeWitt, tenth, 370 points.
Brenna Berns, recently crowned state Hippology winner, scored four perfect classes of 50 points and two classes of 49 points. A class of stock mares proved challenging for the talented teen lowering her overall rank.
In addition to live placings, advanced youth must verbally defend their placings from two classes in the oral reasoning division. Those scores are added to the class placings to determine championships. Based on a 50-point perfect reasons score, two members scored 49 points and one member scored a 48. Olivia Charles and Brenna Berns each earned a 49 on one reasons class, and Breeana Olson of Henry County scored a 48 on one reason class.
Youth who do not wish to compete in the reasoning division competed separately top awards. The top 10 finishers include Ellie Korthals of Henry County, first; Ava Kilburn of Knox County, second; Thalia Jimenez of Knox County, third; Talisa Thomas of Whiteside County, fourth; Sarah Korthals of Henry County, fifth; Megan DeLillie of Henry County, sixth; Emily Butler of Knox County, seventh; Hope Gillaspie of Edgar County, eighth; Amelia Burgin of Vermillion County, ninth; and Ravinia Zillmer of DuPage County, tenth.
Although youth in this division do not give oral reasons, they are required to answer questions about each of the classes they scored. For example, from the ranch riding class, participants had to recall which horse rode in a snaffle bit.
Three of the participants in the nonreason class scored three perfect rounds. They were Talisa Thomas, Megan DeLillie, and Emily Butler.
“In addition to the obvious benefit of learning about horses, horse judging also provides the opportunity for 4-Hers to learn life skills, such as objective reasoning, critical thinking, decision making, and public speaking, in addition to honing their powers of observation,” said Debra Hagstrom, University of Illinois Extension equine specialist.
Events such as horse judging are “the keys to success,” said one participant’s parent. “When you offer an event within their passion, most 4-Hers show a side that many parents don’t often see.”
The state 4-H contest was facilitated by Black Hawk college equine science students. The top youth in the reasons division will advance to a second round of judging this summer that will determine which members will comprise the state 4-H horse judging team advancing to national competition. The national team is supported by the Illinois 4-H Foundation.