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The AYHC Research Committee is gathering research articles on the impact of youth and horse activities. Articles will be summarized here with a link to the full research content for further exploration. If you have a research project to share, please email

Anderson, K.P. & Karr-Lilienthal, L. (2011). Influence of 4-H Horse Project Involvement on Development of Life SkillsJournal of Extension (On-line), 49 (5), Article 5IAW2.

This study surveyed 4-H horse project members who competed in non-riding horse contests of Horse Bowl, Demonstrations, Public Speaking and Art at the Nebraska 4-H Horse Stampede.  Of the youth participating, 44/90 (nearly 50%) completed an online survey, responding to a variety of questions on a five-point Likert scale and which included demographic information such as age, gender and years in 4-H.  Questions were categorized to determine the influence participation in the 4-H Horse project had on development of life skills, increased general horse knowledge, and future educational plans.  Eighty-six percent of respondents moderately to strongly agreed that their life skills were enhanced.  The life skills that appeared to influence the most included handling pressure, respecting officials, sportsmanship, goal-setting, self-motivation, and leadership, respectively. Eighty percent indicated that they moderately to strongly agreed in realizing some relationship and benefit to their college plans as a result of participating in the contests.  Youth participating in non-riding horse contest utilized the horse to enhance their life skills and increase their science-based knowledge to make them more productive young people.

Evans, P.A., & et al. (2009) University Students May be Better Prepared for Life after Working with Horses.  North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Journal, 53(3), 37-43. Available for download at

This research study looked at how an equine behavior and training course effected students’ perceptions of their own life skills.  Students at six different universities were given a survey prior to taking an equine behavior and training course which collected demographic data as well as asked the students to rate their own life skills.  The same survey was administered after the course to see if the students perceived any noticeable difference in their abilities.  Skills assessed included assertiveness, patience, body energy, non-verbal communication, social confidence, authority, and self-awareness.  The results were then calculated to see if there was a statistical difference in the rating as well as any correlation to gender, age, university, previous horse experience, or particular life skill.  The study found that in general there were positive shifts in the results after taking the course.  Males perceived a significantly higher gain in verbal communication skills.  People who had more experience with horses or were older seemed to have less gains in life skills ratings.  The study concluded that with this course life skills may have been strengthened and enhanced, especially for students initially lacking in high level of said skills.

Kaiser, L., C., H., Siegford, J., & Smith, K. (2006). Stress-related behaviors among horses used in a therapeutic riding program. Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, 228 (1), 39-45.

Therapeutic riding programs are designed to give cognitive, social, emotional, physical benefit to people.  This study was completed to determine whether horses used in therapeutic riding programs experienced more stress than horses recreationally ridden.  Five groups of riders were evaluated and compared in this study:  physically challenged riders, psychologically challenged riders, at-risk children, special education children, and recreational riders.  Stress in horses used in this study was measured by expression of stress-related behaviors, including ear pinning, head raising, head turning, head shaking, head lowering and defecation.  There was no significant difference in stress behaviors expressed among any groups, except there were more stress-related behaviors expressed by horses ridden by children in the at-risk group.  This may be attributable to this group of children displaying more anti-social, impulsive, or violent acts.  It is noted that horses in training, ridden by advanced riders, expressed more stress-related behaviors than those ridden in the therapeutic riding program.  This may be due to increased expectations placed on the horses, thereby frustrating the animals in training.  Given the additional frustration horses ridden by at-risk children, consideration may need to be given to these horses to be used for shorter stints, and for fewer lessons per week in a therapeutic riding program.

Maiga, H.A. & Westrom, L.E. (2006). Integration of Service-Learning in Animal Science Curriculum.  North American Colleges & Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) Journal, 50(3), 57-64.
Service learning combines the theory taught in classrooms and real-world situations to give students a connection to community and an understanding of the usefulness of their education.  In this study, service learning was offered through two courses, Animal Systems Management and Dairy Linear Evaluation.  In the first course, students analyzed enterprises for dairy, beef, goat, swine and horse producers, making recommendations for improvements in the operations.  In the second course, students worked with a Holstein consultant to assist in sire selection and improvement of management practices to improve farm profitability and sustainability.  Students who completed these experiential, service learning courses gained knowledge, learned to work in a team setting, improved their communication skills and became aware of community problems.  More than 85% of the students who completed the course indicated they had a positive experience both working with the farmers and with the projects they completed.  This approach to education shows promise to help students to make a clear connection between coursework and problem solving in the community.

Nadeau, J., McCabe
Alger, E., & Hoagland, T. (2007). Longitudinal Study of the General Knowledge of 4-H Horse Members. Journal of Extension, (On-line) 45(5), Article 5RIB6.

This was a 3 year study in which the questions in a general knowledge exam given at the Eastern States Exposition 4-H Horse Show were randomized and categorized in order to determine the strengths and weaknesses of 4-H youth.  Youth were from the six New England states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) and approximately 100 took the test each year.  Performance peaked in youth with 6 years of attendance, followed by youth with three years of attendance.  The highest mean scores were in the categories of health and disease, breeds, colors and markings, and anatomy and physiology.  The lowest mean scores were in nutrition, reproduction, and history and evolution, indicating that these are areas with the most room for improvement by participants.  The authors state that this system may have potential for inclusion in the national hippology contests due to its simplicity and potential benefit to coaches, Extension educators, Extension specialists, and 4-H youth.  This seems to be an effective method of tracking growth of an individual 4-H member as well as the success of targeted program planning in states.

Pendry, P., Roeter, S., Smith, A., Jacobson, S. and Erdman, P.  (2013). Trajectories of Positive and Negative Behavior During Participation in Equine Facilitated Learning Program for Horse-Novice Youth.  Journal of Extension (On-line), 51(1), Article 1RIB5. 

Pendry et al. explored the efficacy of equine programming to support positive behavioral development of horse-novice youth (5th-8th grade students) who participated in an 11-week equine facilitated learning program aimed at enhancing social and behavioral competencies.  Weekly lessons of individual, team and group-focused activities were based on principles of equitation, natural horsemanship and a wide range of horse-human interactions.  Positive and negative behaviors of participants were rated using the Animal Assisted Therapy-Psychosocial Session Form.  Each child’s behavior was rated by a program facilitator who worked with each child on a weekly bases as well as by a trained, independent observer.  Results indicated that participants had higher levels of positive than negative behavior and that there were significant increases in mean levels of participants’ positive behaviors and significant decreases in negative behaviors from the beginning to the end of the program.  This authors imply that 4-H horse leaders can expand participation in equine programming by horse-novice youth while broadening the scope of equine-related knowledge and skills of horse-experienced youth already involved in the equine project.

Saunders-Ferguson, K., Barnett, R.V., Culen, G. and TenBroeck, S. (2008). Self-esteem assessment of Adolescents involved in horsemanship activities. Journal of Extension, 46(2), 10.

This study was designed to determine if participation in horsemanship activities was associated with change in self-esteem, personal horsemanship attributes (including responsibility, confidence, motivation, anxiety and mood), and physical competence and physical self-acceptance of adolescents.  The study surveyed 122 adolescents from 12-18 years old in the Florida 4-H Horsemanship School, a 6 day residential horsemanship program, in summer 2005 through the use of pre and post questionnaires.  All participants cleaned stalls, fed horses, haltered and lead horses, groomed and saddled horses and rode horses.  Each student worked with his or her horse for 5 to 7 hours per day. Riders were placed in groups based on ability and style of riding with experienced riding instructors.  The questionnaires used a 5 point Likert scale.  There was a small but significant change in self-esteem as a result of participation.  There were no statistically significant changes in any of the personal horsemanship attributes between pre and post testing, so participation in the program did not increase participants’ personal horsemanship attributes.  There was no significant change in physical competence or adolescent physical self-acceptance and horsemanship activities between pre and post test.  Study authors also found that if a youth’s personal horsemanship attributes were high, it could be predicted that the youth’s self-esteem level would also be high. There is a need for further research in this area.


The AYHC Quarterly Newsletter is always looking for great pictures of kids connecting though horses. If you have a photograph you’d like to share please send it to 1104 Gemini Circle, Portales, NM 88130, or email to along with the AYHC release form.

 Games and Educational Resources

Take Me Riding- an all breeds "edutainment experience" for children ages 5 to 9
- The online solution to all your animal-related record-keeping needs
My Horse University Equine Farm Safety Training - Learn how to be SAFE at the barn with this free online safety course 
eXtension HorseQuest – Discover the answer to your horse questions
University of Kentucky's Agripedia  – Learn more about agriculture, including horses
Equine Science 4 Kids - Play Rutgers Equine Science Center's new game Exercising Horsepower

Some of these resources may require an additional fee for portions of their site or educational product
Horse Lover's Math - Understanding math through horses

Horse Judging Resources
              Arabian Horse Association - Horse judging teaching tools

Submit your own!

If you have a good resource that you feel should be shared with other members of AYHC please submit it to Executive Director Danette McGuire at 

Affiliated Links

The following educational institutions, associations and corporations partnered with AYHC to better serve the equine industry and its youth.




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