Despite 4-H being America’s largest youth development group, I often get asked: “What is 4-H?”; a simple yet complex question. I have been in 4-H for eight years, and, unfortunately, I still do not know how to properly answer this question. My standard response is to compare the organization to a combination of boy/girl scouts, community service, and leadership.While I believe this definition is true, I also do not believe that it fully captures the essence of 4-H. I like to think like any sport, activity, group, or performance, 4-H is what you put into it. Nevertheless, without getting to profound, I hope to explain to someone who’s never heard of 4-H what it is and hopefully develop your interest in it. (Disclaimer: I mostly participate in the “horse” aspect of 4-H, so my answer will be heavily referenced to my experiences with equines; however, 4-H has many other factions including robotics, agriculture, live-stock, cooking, etc.)
When beginning 4-H you have the opportunity to join a club that has the same interest as you in your area. My club, Albemarle Hoof-N-Woof, focuses on all aspects of horses and meets once a month. We compete in knowledge and performance competitions both regionally and nationally, as well as support equine organizations with community service, and use these opportunities to both branch out and become closer with the members of our club. Your club is like your sports team, your cast and crew, your friend group, your family. With my family I have gone across the country to compete in Horse Judging, Hippology, Horse Bowl, Public Speaking, leadership, and Horse Shows. I became a 4-H all-star, ambassador, and president of my club.** Again, 4-H is what you put into it, but it is also an endless opportunity giver.
Nonetheless, if you really want to dive into 4-H, start talking to your county extension agent. For many of the events in 4-H, qualifying contests and requirements are needed in order to compete, and your extension agent can help you with deadlines. I linked below the 4-H website and registration links for further information.
Here is a link to the 4-H website: 4-H Website
Here is a link to register for 4-H: Registration Link
**Here are some quick definition to that list of unfamiliar activities:
- Horse Judging: An activity where you judge a series of classes of horses on either conformation (the way they are built) or performance (the way they move), and then give a spoken set of reasons (an explanation of why you placed a certain class the way you did).
- Hippology: A multi-part test on knowledge and understanding of equine science and husbandry.
- Horse Bowl: Similar to jeopardy, it consists of two teams who buzz in to answer questions on equine science and husbandry.
- Public Speaking: A speech or presentation on a topic relating to equines.
- All-Star: A 4H honor, chosen based on activity in community service, equine knowledge contests, horse shows, leadership, etc.
- Ambassador: A position to represent Virginia on a state level.