Horsemanship Advancement Level Requirements & Resources

Level I 

Level I is designed for 4-H members who have little or no experience around horses. This level emphasizes correct and safe handling and riding principles. Instructors will help develop the members' confidence concerning their ability to ride and guide a horse. The rider's balance, correct seat, and use of hands' will be stressed.

To pass Level I youth will need to complete a demonstration, written examination, and skills test. Details and requirements for each of these sections are available below. 

Youth must pass each section once. If a member fails to pass a section of the level, that section must be repeated (i.e. retake the Level I Written Exam or retake the Level I Skills Test). Each section may be repeated as many times as necessary for successful completion.

Demonstration

Level I Demonstrations should be 10-20 minutes in length and focus on points listed or mentioned in the Level I Skills Test and Level I Study Guide.

Suggested demonstration topics include:

  • Basic horse handling
  • Horse safety, on the ground, and/or while riding
  • Bridling and saddling
  • Riding courtesy
  • Parts of the saddle and/or bridle
  • Basic horsemanship
  • Care and storage of saddle and bridle
  • Basic horse feeding
  • Daily grooming routine

*A different demonstration must be done for each horsemanship level.

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed a demonstration they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record sheet.

Written Examination

A written examination must be completed with a minimum grade of 80%. This examination is available through local Extension offices and club leader. Please use the following to study and prepare for the written exam.

Beginning Horseman: 4-H Advancement Level 1 Study Course

The Beginning Horseman study course is intended for youth 8-18 years old with an interest in learning more about horses. The course will prepare them for completing the Nebraska 4-H Advancement Level 1. The course covers:

  • Basic horse handling
  • Horse safety, on the ground, and/or while riding
  • Bridling and saddling
  • Riding courtesy
  • Parts of the saddle and/or bridle
  • Basic horsemanship
  • Care and storage of saddle and bridle
  • Basic horse feeding
  • Daily grooming routine

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed the written examination they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record sheet.

Skills Test

A Skills Test demonstrating the 4-H member's proficiency in basic horsemanship, horse handling, and care must be completed. The 4-H member must complete each and every portion of the Skills Test with at least an 80% to pass Level I. Youth will need to:

  • Demonstrate and/or explain the correct procedure to approach and catch a horse
  • Demonstrate the correct and safe procedure to halter a horse
  • Demonstrate the proper and safe way to lead a horse with a halter
  • Demonstrate safety precautions when working around a tied horse
  • Demonstrate and discuss a typical "daily" grooming routine to prepare a horse to be ridden
  • Demonstrate the proper and safe methods and adjustment for saddling and bridling a horse
  • Demonstrate correct and safe methods to mount and dismount
  • Demonstrate the principles and correct use of seat and balance
  • Demonstrate the proper use of hands and reins
  • Demonstrate basic control and correctness of position of upper body and legs when riding at several gaits
  • Explain the proper and safe methods to pass other horses while riding in a group on the rail

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed the skills test they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record sheet.

Level I Resources

Additional study materials and resources are available on the 4-H Horse Project page.

Level II 

Level I continues to stress the basic handling and riding fundamentals gained in Level I. Additionally, this level emphasizes the 4-H member's ability to use these fundamentals in obtaining more response from their horse. 

To pass Level II youth will need to complete a demonstration, written report, feed chartwritten examination, and skills test. Details and requirements for each of these sections are available below. 

Youth must pass each section once. If a member fails to pass a section of the level, that section must be repeated (i.e. retake the Level II Written Exam or retake the Level II Skills Test). Each section may be repeated as many times as necessary for successful completion.

Demonstration

Level II Demonstrations should be 10-20 minutes in length and focus on points listed or mentioned in the Level II Skills Test and Level II Study Guide.

Suggested demonstration topics include:

  • Equipment cleaning and inspection of the common wear locations
  • Parts of the horse, colors, markings, unsoundness, and blemishes
  • Various bits and their use
  • Fitting and grooming for halter and/or showmanship at halter
  • Presentation of a horse for showmanship at halter
  • Hoof care and cleaning
  • Knot tying
  • Appropriate dress and equipment for different styles of riding
  • Exercise to improve horsemanship skills and balance

*A different demonstration must be done for each horsemanship level.

Record Book

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed a demonstration they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record book.

Written Report

Written reports should be at least one page in length and focus on the major horse breeds and the basic purpose for which each breed was developed.

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed the written report they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record book.

Feed Chart

Youth should develop a chart showing the different roughages and grains used in their area. The chart should include the amount of roughage and grain your horse should receive while it is idle, at light work, and at medium work. All figures should be in pounds.

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed the feed chart they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record book.

Written Examination

A written examination must be completed with a minimum grade of 80%. This examination is available through local Extension offices and club leader. Please use the following to study and prepare for the written exam.

Intermediate Horseman: 4-H Advancement Level 2 Study Course

The Intermediate Horseman study course is intended for youth 8-18 years old with an interest in learning more about horses. The course will prepare them for completing the Nebraska 4-H Advancement Level 2. The course covers:

  • Equipment cleaning and inspection of the common wear locations
  • Parts of the horse, colors, markings, unsoundness, and blemishes
  • Various bits and their use
  • Fitting and grooming for halter and/or showmanship at halter
  • Presentation of a horse for showmanship at halter
  • Knot tying
  • Appropriate dress and equipment for different styles of riding
  • Exercise to improve horsemanship skills and balance

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed the written examination they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record book.

Skills Test

A Skills Test demonstrating the 4-H member's proficiency of horsemanship, horse handling, equipment adjustment, judging, and care must be completed. The 4-H member must complete each and every portion of the Skills Test with at least an 80% to pass Level II. Youth will need to:

  • Present a well groomed and prepared horse
  • Demonstrate the proper techniques to pick up and clean a horse's foot
  • Exhibit correct showmanship skills
  • Display greater mastery of riding skills than given in Level I
  • Discuss and demonstrate the proper use of the basic ads required for riding at various gaits in a straight line and circle
  • Complete a collected, balanced stop from various gaits
  • Explain and demonstrate cues required to back a horse in a straight line
  • Demonstrate horsemanship skills while performing various tasks
  • Discuss and identify the basic differences and uses between a snaffle bit and a curb bit
  • Demonstrate correct tying of various knots

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed the skills test they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record book.

Level II Resources

Additional study materials and resources are available on the 4-H Horse Project page.

Level III 

The 4-H member qualifying for Level III should know and be using the basics covered in previous levels. 4-H members should demonstrate horse-handling abilities that clearly show competence gained in the performance of advanced work. Horse response and willingness to the rider's commands will have bearing on judging. At his level, youth should understand the techniques of gaits, feeding, aging a horse, and disease factors. 

To pass Level III youth will need to complete a demonstration, written report, feed chart, health care paperwritten examination, and skills test. Details and requirements for each of these sections are available below. 

Youth must pass each section once. If a member fails to pass a section of the level, that section must be repeated (i.e. retake the Level III Written Exam or retake the Level III Skills Test). Each section may be repeated as many times as necessary for successful completion.

Demonstration

Level III Demonstrations should be 10-20 minutes in length and focus on points listed or mentioned in the Level III Skills Test and Level III Study Guide.

Suggested demonstration topics include:

  • Fitting, grooming, and conditioning a horse for show
  • Showing a horse at halter
  • Aids for movement of a horse
  • Mounting, dismounting, and seat position
  • Use of hands
  • Hoof care for horses
  • Horseman's knots
  • Bits and how they work
  • Horse safety
  • Determining the age of a horse by teeth
  • Changing leads
  • Cues and training for various maneuvers such as forehand turn, pivot/turn on haunches, side passage back in a circle
  • Horse health care including vaccinations, parasite control, disease, etc.
  • Foot-fall patterns for various gaits
  • Basic feeding management
  • Horse rations/what to feed, how much and when to feed

*A different demonstration must be done for each horsemanship level.

Record Book

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed a demonstration they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record book.

Written Report

Unit III Written Reports should be at least two pages in length. The report should focus on how the horse responds to training in preparation for the Level III Skills Test. If any difficulties were encountered in any one or more of the maneuvers, youth should tell what they were and what was done to correct them. Written reports are due on or before the day of the riding portion of the Unit III Skills Test. 

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed the written report they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record book.

Feed Chart

Youth will develop a table to demonstrate balancing a ration for their horse. Youth should list feeds available, amounts, requirements, nutrients lacking or oversupplied, and costs. 

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed the feed chart they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record sheet.

Health Care Paper

Youth will need to write a paper at least two pages in length about common parasites and diseases and how to control both. 4-H members should set up a disease and parasite prevention program with their veterinarian and summarize the program in the paper. Youth should include dates, vaccines, de-wormers, methods of administration, etc. 

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed the health care paper they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record sheet.

Written Examination

A written examination must be completed with a minimum grade of 80%. This examination is available through local Extension offices and club leader. 

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed the written examination they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record book.

Skills Test

A Skills Test demonstrating the 4-H member's proficiency of horsemanship, horse handling, horse gaits, and care must be completed. The 4-H member must complete each and every portion of the Skills Test to pass Level III. Horses used in the Level III Skills Test should be at least three years old. Youth will need to:

  • Demonstrate confidence and knowledge when working around horses
  • Display greater mastery of riding skills than given in Level II
  • Demonstrate riding ability at various gaits starting from a standstill
  • Explain cues for and demonstrate a simple change of leads in figure 8
  • Complete a simple change of leaders on a straightaway
  • Explain cues for and demonstrate a simple pivot/turn on the haunches, turning 180 degrees each direction
  • Explain cues for and demonstrate a forehand turn, turning 180 degrees each direction
  • Explain cues for and demonstrate a side passage, at least four steps in each direction
  • Explain cues for and demonstrate backing the horse in a circle
  • Explain cues for and demonstrate a flying change of leads in figure 8
  • Display correct and safe mounting and dismounting procedures

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed the skills test they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record book.

Level III Resources

Additional study materials and resources are available on the 4-H Horse Project page.

Level IV 

4-H members qualifying at this level must know and practice all the elements involved in working and enjoying horses. Evaluation of each member's qualifications will be based on his or her ability to demonstrate their knowledge and skill. The evaluator must be able to see the rider and horse work as a team without fear or force. Riders will be evaluated on competence shown in all phases of working with their horse, including leading, grooming, saddling, halter showing, and actual riding. 

To pass Level IV youth will need to complete a demonstration, written report, and skills test. Details and requirements for each of these sections are available below. 

Youth must pass each section once. If a member fails to pass a section of the level, that section must be repeated (i.e. retake the Level IV Written Exam or retake the Level IV Skills Test). Each section may be repeated as many times as necessary for successful completion.

Demonstration

Level IV Demonstrations should be 10-20 minutes in length and focus on points listed or mentioned in the Level IV Skills Test and Level IV Study Guide.

Suggested demonstration topics include:

  • Grooming/conditioning a horse for show
  • Showing a horse on a halter
  • Aids for maneuvers of a horse
  • Use of hands
  • Hoof care for horses
  • Horseman's knots
  • Bits and how they work
  • Safety around horses
  • Determining the age of a horse by teeth
  • Flying change of lead
  • Training for advancedmaneuverss; turns, lateral work, extension, collection, etc.
  • Emergency first aid for horses
  • Basic feeding management
  • Leg wraps and/or bandaging a horse's leg
  • How to tell if a horse is healthy or sick

*A different demonstration must be done for each horsemanship level.

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed a demonstration they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record sheet.

Written Examination

Written reports for Level IV should be at least two pages in lenght. The focus should be how the horse responded to training in preparation for the Level IV Skills Test. If any difficulties were encountered in any one or more of the maneuvers, youths ould tell what they were and what was done to correct them. Reports are due on or before the day of the skills test. 

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed the written examination they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record sheet.

Skills Test

A Skills Test demonstrating the 4-H member's proficiency of basic horsemanship, horse handling, and riding various maneuvers must be completed. The 4-H member must complete each and every portion of the Skills Test to pass Level IV. Youth will need to:

  • Demonstrate confidence and knowledge when working around their horse
  • Present a well-groomed and prepared horse
  • Exhibit correct showmanship skills
  • Display greater mastery of riding skills exhibited in previous levels
  • Demonstrate randomly selected maneuvers while maintaining balance and skill
  • Use suitable and properly fitting equipment for the style of riding
  • Display a first-aid kit for horses, be able to explain the proper use of the contents, and be famaliar with basic health care and how to determine if a horse is healthy or sick
  • Discuss the feeding program of the horse in full, considering nutrient balance, work balance, costs to feed daily and yearly and changes made for periods such as showing, changes in season, breeding, etc.

Record Sheet

Once the 4-H member has successfully completed the skills test they along with their club leader will need to complete the corresponding section of the record sheet.

Level IV Resources

Additional study materials and resources are available on the 4-H Horse Project page.

For questions about this program or the information on this page, please contact:

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COORDINATOR: Lena Luck
EMAIL: lena.luck@unl.edu
PHONE: 402-472-9098