Summer 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 2 // Ideas at Work // 2IAW3

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Advanced Understanding Needed


Arden N. Huff
Extension Animal Scientist, Horses
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University-Blacksburg

Horse projects have always been a popular 4-H program. About 10 years ago, Virginia introduced a horseless horse project called Horses Are Fun. The project was highly successful and copied throughout the nation. Horseless horse projects proved especially useful for large club groups, urban groups, and school club groups. Many youth are interested in horses, but often can't afford or don't have access to one. The projects are also useful for youth owning horses. An additional horseless horse project called Introduction to the Horse was begun in 1979.

In 1985, several 4-H leaders and agents in the metropolitan areas requested that an advanced series be developed as the established units turned out to be used primarily with youth ages 8 to 12. Youth progressing through the basic two units were losing interest and wanted more learning opportunities. Development of two advanced units included cooperative work and review by state specialists, agents, leaders, senior 4-H members, and the state 4-H horse project advisory committee.

Two new projects were published in 1987. The projects, Horses and Horsemanship and Horse Science, are opened to all youth, with or without a horse, and are supervised by highly qualified volunteer leaders. The two new projects are research- and science-based and require work, study, experience, knowledge tests, dismounted hands-on experience, and an optional mounted ability section.

Each section is based on tests and measures approved or signed-off by the leader or section instructor. Subject matter includes anatomy, unsoundnesses, nutrition, reproductive physiology, genetics, and applied management. Economics and computer operations are featured in the horse science unit. The curriculum is both demanding and challenging. Members completing Unit IV (including all three previous units) are eligible for a state certificate titled horse scientist. The curriculum is designed in units and members may progress at their own time frame, effort, and tested abilities. Recent animal science college graduates have been recruited to serve as instructors for the program, which is essentially a total educational, teaching-learning curriculum.

This effort has important implications for the curriculum development process and for research-based, indepth science projects.