Learn about the various breeds and disciplines of horses. Learn about horsemanship, horse care and horse related activities. There is something for everyone in the horse world whether it is recreational trail riding, three-day eventing or ranch work competitions. Whether through observing on the sidelines, leasing or owning a horse, you will learn the value of hard work, responsibility and dedication through horse pursuits.

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Exploring 4-H

Research the various breeds of horses and what they are used for. Pick your favorite breed and research all the activities that you can do with that breed. For example: ponies can carry carts, quarter horses can be race horses or cow horses or pleasure horses.

4-H Project Levels and Goals
  • Learn different types of horse breeds 
  • Acquire the skills to safely work with horses and prevent injury to animals and humans while riding as well as ground work 
  • Learn how to groom and tack a horse 
  • Learn basic anatomy of horse
  • Learn basic gaits of the horse like walk, trot, and canter
  • Attend a horse show to observe
  • Develop intermediate horsemanship skills 
  • Understand different disciplines: Hunt Seat, Saddle Seat, Western, and Ranch 
  • Learn basics of horse nutrition 
  • Understand common horse health problems: colic and founder 
  • Learn how to clean tack
  • Learn the basics of horse judging
  • Attend a horse show to compete
  • Learn about advanced anatomy and reproduction
  • Visit a horse breeding farm
  • Demonstrate and teach advanced horsemanship skills
  • Discover breed associations
  • Volunteer at a horse show
  • Administer horse first aid
  • Take the horse to the vet, dentist, and farrier
  • Participate in a horse judging competition
  • Learn about issues in the horse industry
Put Your Project Into Action

Show Your Skills

  • Show at open and 4-H shows
  • Show at breed association show
  • Trail ride at a park
  • Host a horse clinic with local extension office

Service and Leadership

  • Volunteer at an educational clinic
  • Help younger exhibitors at open shows and other competitions
  • Help at a local barn: clean stalls, groom horses, stack hay
  • Support therapeutic riding organizations
  • Provide barn tours
  • Volunteer at a tack auction
  • Teach showmanship and horsemanship to younger members
  • Organize a tack swap
  • Work at local 4-H Horse Shows
  • Become a State 4-H Livestock Ambassador Team member


  • Braid and band horse manes at shows
  • Become a horse trainer
  • Learn to sew horse show clothes
  • Buy and sell tack
  • Teach riding lessons

Technology Connection

  • Form a social media group to share patterns for horsemanship, showmanship, trail and reining
  • Speed equipment – electronic timers
  • Explore horse show management software

Connecting with a Mentor

  • Riding instructors and trainers in the local area
  • Boarding stables
  • Connect with people who lease horses
  • Attend a horse show and ask questions of exhibitors
  • Connect with horse show management


Project Manuals & Exhibit Requirements

  • LEVEL 1: Giddy Up & Go          
  • LEVEL 2: Head, Heart & Hooves  
  • LEVEL 3: Stable Relationships       
  • LEVEL 4: Riding the Range 
  • LEVEL 5: Jumping to New Heights    
  • Horses & Horsemanship 
  • Horse Science

Purchase manuals on the Shop Illinois 4-H Store

View exhibit requirements and scoresheets on the Illinois State Fair page.

  • Vet Tech
  • Farrier
  • Horse Training
  • Horse Dentistry
  • Equine Vet
  • Horse Breeding / Sales
  • Equine Massage & Chiropractics
  • Equine Photography
Start a Conversation
  • How do you find a reliable horse?
  • Who is the athlete? The horse? The rider? Both?
  • Why is it important to think of you and your horse as a team?
  • Which is your favorite riding discipline? Why?
  • What is something new that you want to try?
  • Do you enjoy showing your horse as a hobby or as a competitive event?

Shelly Prehoda, McLean County 4-H Horse Show Director

Oklahoma 4-H project sheet

University of Illinois Extension staff that contributed to this resource include Kaitlyn Prehoda

4-H Spark Sheets are a collaborative effort of 4-H staff, volunteers, alumni and teens from across Illinois. A big thanks to the many contributors and reviewers!