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Horsemanship Merit Badge Helps and Documents

horsemanship merit badge emblem

By doing the requirements for the Horsemanship merit badge, Scouts learn to safely enjoy riding a horse. They find out about the care and anatomy of horses. They show that they can groom a horse and care for the saddle and bridle. Scouts demonstrate their knowledge by riding a horse and using a variety of skills.

Answers and Helps for the Horsemanship Merit Badge

Help with Answers for Horsemanship Merit Badge Requirements

Find specific helps for some of the Horsemanship merit badge requirements listed below. Some of these resources will just give the answers. Others will provide engaging ways for older Scouts to introduce these concepts to new Scouts who are working on the Horsemanship merit badge.

Horsemanship Merit Badge Requirement 1: Safety

Do the following:
a. Describe the safety precautions you should take when handling and caring for a horse.
b. Describe the fire safety precautions you should take in a barn and around horses.

Safety Precautions for Handling a Horse

  • Wear proper riding boots with a low heel and a hard sole to prevent your feet from slipping through stirrups.
  • Horses can spook easily, so approach them calmly and speak to them in a soothing voice. Move slowly and avoid sudden movements.
  • Stand close to the horse’s shoulder or hip, and avoid standing directly behind them.
  • When leading a horse, hold the lead rope with a firm grip, and keep your hand close to the horse’s head. Never wrap the lead rope around your hand or arm.
  • Be aware of where the horse’s feet are at all times, as they can accidentally step on you.
  • Avoid making loud noises or sudden movements around horses, as this can startle them.
  • Always wear a safety helmet when riding. Helmets can help prevent serious head injuries in case of a fall.
  • Learn to recognize the horse’s body language and behavior, so you can anticipate any potential problems.
  • Horses can kick backwards, so it’s important to avoid standing behind them.

Safety Precautions for Caring for a Horse

  • Wear sturdy boots or shoes with a hard sole and a small heel. Avoid loose-fitting clothing that can get caught on equipment or fences.
  • Horses are large and can be unpredictable, so stay focused and alert when working around them. Avoid distractions like talking on your phone or listening to music.
  • When handling equipment such as halters, lead ropes, and grooming tools, be careful not to swing them around or hit the horse with them accidentally.
  • When lifting heavy objects like feed bags or bales of hay, use proper lifting techniques to avoid injury.
  • A clean and tidy stable not only looks nicer, but it also reduces the risk of accidents caused by tripping over tools or debris.
  • Keep a first aid kit with basic supplies like bandages, antiseptic solution, and scissors in case of minor injuries.
  • When handling a horse, it’s always good to work with a partner. This way, one person can hold the horse while the other performs the task.
  • Be careful when opening or closing gates and fences, as they can swing shut quickly and cause injury.

Fire Safety Precautions in Barns

  • Make sure your barn is equipped with working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, and check them regularly to ensure they are in good working condition.
  • Keep the barn clean and tidy. This reduces the risk of fire caused by hay or bedding dust, cobwebs, or other debris.
  • Hay and bedding should be stored separately from other equipment, and in a well-ventilated area away from electrical equipment and heat sources.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets, and use only heavy-duty cords and equipment that are specifically designed for use in a barn.
  • Use lighting fixtures that are designed for use in a barn, and keep them clear of cobwebs and other debris.
  • Develop a plan to evacuate your animals in case of fire, and practice it regularly.
  • Don’t use open flames in the barn, and never leave equipment or machinery running unattended. Smoking should be prohibited in a barn.
  • Make sure there is a water source, such as a hose or a nearby pond, that can be used to fight fires.
  • Use fire-resistant materials when constructing or renovating your barn, such as metal, concrete, or fire-resistant drywall.
  • Have your barn inspected by a fire safety professional regularly to identify potential fire hazards and ensure that safety measures are up-to-date and effective.

Horsemanship Merit Badge Requirement 2: Parts of a Horse

Name the 15 main parts of a horse.

15 Main Parts of a Horse

  1. Head: The head of a horse includes the muzzle, nostrils, mouth, ears, and eyes.
  2. Neck: The neck of a horse connects the head to the body and is made up of several vertebrae.
  3. Mane: The mane is the hair that grows from the neck of the horse and falls to one side or the other.
  4. Forehead: The forehead of a horse is the area between the eyes and the poll.
  5. Poll: The poll is the top of the horse’s head between the ears.
  6. Withers: The withers are the highest point of the horse’s back, located between the shoulder blades.
  7. Back: The back of a horse runs from the withers to the croup.
  8. Shoulder: The shoulder of a horse is the joint that connects the front leg to the body.
  9. Chest: The chest of a horse is the area between the forelegs and is covered by the chest muscles.
  10. Barrel: The barrel of a horse is the main body between the chest and the hindquarters.
  11. Flank: The flank of a horse is the area just behind the barrel.
  12. Hindquarters: The hindquarters of a horse include the croup, the hips, the tail, and the hind legs.
  13. Tail: The tail of a horse is made up of long hairs that grow from the base of the tailbone.
  14. Hoof: The hoof of a horse is the hard, protective covering on the bottom of the foot.
  15. Leg: The leg of a horse includes the bones, joints, and muscles that support the weight of the horse and allow it to move.

Horsemanship Merit Badge Requirement 3: Breeds of Horses

Name four breeds of horses. Explain the special features for which each breed is known.

Some Breeds of Horses

  • Arabians known for their distinctive head shape and high-set tail. They are also known for their endurance and are commonly used for long-distance riding.
  • Thoroughbreds are known for their speed and are commonly used for racing. They are tall, slender horses with long legs and muscular bodies.
  • Quarter Horses are known for their speed and agility, particularly in short sprints. They are also versatile and are commonly used for ranch work and western riding.
  • Appaloosas are known for their distinctive spotted coats and are popular for trail riding, western riding, and pleasure riding.
  • Clydesdales are known for their large size and strength. They are commonly used for draft work and are also popular in parades and other public events.
  • Paint horses are known for their colorful coats, which can feature various patterns and markings. They are commonly used for western riding and are popular for trail riding and pleasure riding.
  • Palominos are known for their golden coat color, which can range from light cream to deep gold. They are often used for pleasure riding and western riding.
  • Morgans are known for their versatility and are commonly used for driving, trail riding, and dressage. They are compact horses with strong, muscular bodies.
  • Percherons are known for their strength and are commonly used for draft work. They are large, muscular horses with powerful legs and a calm disposition.
  • Andalusians are known for their grace and elegance, and are commonly used for dressage and other forms of classical riding. They have a long, flowing mane and tail and a distinctive high-stepping gait.

Horsemanship Merit Badge Requirement 4: Health

Describe the symptoms of colic. Name and describe four other horse health problems.

Symptoms of Colic

Colic is a common digestive disorder in horses that can be caused by a variety of factors, including changes in diet, stress, and intestinal blockages. Here are some common symptoms of colic in horses:

  • Pawing or kicking at the ground
  • Repeatedly lying down and getting up
  • Rolling or thrashing
  • Lack of appetite or interest in food
  • Excessive sweating
  • Elevated heart rate and respiration
  • Distressed or anxious behavior, such as biting or kicking at the stomach or flank
  • Lack of manure production or decreased frequency of bowel movements
  • Restlessness, pacing or circling
  • Difficulty standing or walking

It’s important to note that not all of these symptoms may be present in every case of colic, and some horses may show only mild or intermittent signs of discomfort. If you suspect that your horse may be experiencing colic, it’s important to contact a veterinarian as soon as possible to assess the situation and provide appropriate treatment. Early intervention is key to preventing more serious complications and ensuring a successful recovery.

Other Health Problems

  • Lameness is a common problem in horses and can be caused by a variety of issues, including joint problems, hoof issues, or soft tissue injuries.
  • Horses can be prone to respiratory issues such as allergies, infections, and exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH).
  • Equine metabolic syndrome is a metabolic disorder that can affect horses, especially those that are overweight or obese. It can lead to insulin resistance, laminitis, and other serious health issues.
  • Cushing’s disease is a hormonal disorder that can affect horses, especially older horses. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including weight loss, lethargy, and abnormal hair growth.
  • Horses can suffer from a variety of skin problems, including allergies, infections, and parasites.
  • Horses have teeth that continue to grow throughout their lives, which can lead to dental problems such as overgrown teeth or dental infections.
  • Horses can suffer from a variety of eye problems, including infections, injuries, and cataracts.

Horsemanship Merit Badge Requirement 5: Conformation

Explain what conformation is and why it is important. Explain the difference between lameness and unsoundness.


Conformation refers to the physical structure and proportions of a horse’s body, including its skeletal and muscular systems. It encompasses the overall appearance of the horse, including its size, shape, and balance, as well as the placement and angles of its various body parts, such as the legs, neck, and back.

Conformation is important in horses because it can affect the animal’s movement, soundness, and ability to perform certain tasks. For example, a horse with good conformation may have a strong, balanced frame that allows for efficient movement and good performance in activities such as racing, jumping, or dressage. In contrast, a horse with poor conformation may be more prone to injury or may not be able to perform certain tasks as effectively.

There are many factors that can affect a horse’s conformation, including genetics, nutrition, and environmental factors. Evaluating a horse’s conformation is an important aspect of horse breeding and selection, as well as in determining the horse’s potential for certain activities or disciplines. Trained professionals, such as veterinarians or equine specialists, can evaluate a horse’s conformation and provide advice on care, training, and management to optimize the animal’s health and performance.

Lameness vs. Unsoundness

Lameness and unsoundness are two terms used to describe different types of problems in horses related to their ability to move effectively. While they are related, they are distinct conditions with different implications for the horse’s health and soundness.

Lameness is a condition in which a horse experiences pain or discomfort when moving. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as joint problems, soft tissue injuries, or hoof issues. Lameness can be temporary or chronic and can range in severity from mild to severe. A horse that is lame may exhibit an uneven gait, reluctance to move, or obvious signs of pain, such as flinching or resistance.

Unsoundness, on the other hand, refers to a permanent or long-term condition that affects a horse’s ability to move soundly. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as conformational issues, genetic abnormalities, or previous injuries that have resulted in permanent damage to the horse’s musculoskeletal system. A horse that is unsound may exhibit a variety of symptoms, such as stiffness, weakness, or a lack of coordination.

While both lameness and unsoundness can affect a horse’s performance and overall health, unsoundness is considered to be a more serious and permanent condition. A horse that is lame may be able to recover with rest, medication, or other treatments, while a horse that is unsound may have limited abilities or may require more extensive management or medical intervention. It’s important to work with a veterinarian or equine specialist to properly diagnose and treat both lameness and unsoundness in horses to ensure the best possible outcome for the animal’s health and well-being.

Horsemanship Merit Badge Requirement 6: Hoof Care

Explain the importance of hoof care and why a horse might need to wear shoes.

Hoof Care

  • The hooves protect the horse’s sensitive internal structures, such as bones and joints, from damage and injury. Proper hoof care helps maintain the strength and integrity of the hooves, reducing the risk of injury or infection.
  • Horses that have healthy and well-maintained hooves are more comfortable and less prone to pain or discomfort when walking, running, or performing other activities.
  • The quality of the horse’s hooves can have a significant impact on its athletic performance. Horses with strong, healthy hooves are more likely to move efficiently, perform better, and avoid injuries.
  • Regular hoof care can help prevent or detect early signs of hoof disease, such as thrush or laminitis, which can be painful and debilitating if left untreated.
  • The hooves are an important indicator of a horse’s overall health. Issues with the hooves can indicate underlying health problems, such as nutritional deficiencies or metabolic disorders, that can affect the horse’s overall well-being.

To maintain healthy hooves, regular hoof care, including trimming, cleaning, and maintenance of the shoeing, is necessary. Working with a professional farrier or equine veterinarian is essential to ensuring proper hoof care for horses. A well-maintained and healthy hoof is a crucial aspect of a horse’s overall health and well-being, and can contribute to the animal’s quality of life, performance, and longevity.


Horses may wear shoes for several reasons:

  • Horses that are used for activities such as riding, jumping, or racing may need shoes to protect their hooves from wear and tear caused by hard surfaces or repetitive movements.
  • Shoes can provide additional traction and grip, particularly on slippery or uneven surfaces. This is particularly important for horses that participate in activities such as eventing, racing, or polo.
  • Shoes can be used to correct conformational issues, such as a horse with a toe-in or toe-out stance, or to help address hoof imbalances.
  • Horses that have suffered an injury or have a medical condition that affects their hooves, such as laminitis, may require specialized shoes to support their recovery and manage their condition.
  • Some horses, particularly those with thin or sensitive soles, may be more comfortable with shoes that provide additional cushioning and support.

Horsemanship Merit Badge Requirement 7: Grooming

Demonstrate how to groom a horse, including picking hooves and caring for a horse after a ride.


Grooming is an essential aspect of horse care, and is important for several reasons:

  • Regular grooming helps maintain the horse’s skin, coat, and overall health. By removing dirt, sweat, and debris from the coat, grooming can prevent skin infections, irritation, and other health issues.
  • Grooming provides an opportunity for the horse and the handler to bond and develop trust. It can also help the horse become more comfortable with handling, which can be important for veterinary exams, training, and other activities.
  • Grooming can help horses feel more comfortable and relaxed. Brushing and massaging the muscles can help improve circulation and reduce stiffness, which can improve the horse’s overall comfort and well-being.
  • Grooming can improve the horse’s appearance, making it look healthier, more attractive, and well-cared for. This can be important for competitions or shows, as well as for maintaining the horse’s value.
  • Regular grooming provides an opportunity to check the horse for any signs of injury, illness, or other health issues. This can allow for early detection and treatment, which can improve the horse’s prognosis and prevent more serious health issues from developing.

Horsemanship Merit Badge Requirement 8: Feeding

Explain how to determine what and how much to feed a horse and why the amount and kind of feed are changed according to the activity level and the breed of horse.

Horses require access to forage (hay or pasture) for their digestive health. The amount of forage a horse needs depends on its weight, activity level, and age. As a general rule, horses should have access to at least 1-2% of their body weight in forage per day. This means that a 1,000-pound horse would need to consume 10-20 pounds of hay per day.

Concentrates, such as grain or pelleted feed, can be added to a horse’s diet to provide additional calories and nutrients. The amount of concentrate a horse needs depends on its weight, age, and activity level. As a general rule, horses should not consume more than 0.5-1% of their body weight in concentrates per meal, and no more than 4-5 pounds per meal.

Depending on the horse’s individual needs, supplements such as vitamins, minerals, or probiotics may be added to the diet.

Horses require access to fresh, clean water at all times. On average, a horse should consume at least 5-10 gallons of water per day.

Different horse breeds have different nutritional requirements based on their size, metabolism, and activity level. For example, a Thoroughbred or Arabian may have a higher metabolism and require more calories to maintain their weight than a draft horse such as a Belgian or Clydesdale.

Horsemanship Merit Badge Requirement 9: Saddles and Bridles

Do the following:
a. Name 10 parts of the saddle and bridle that you will use, and explain how to care for this equipment.
b. Show how to properly saddle and bridle a horse.
c. Demonstrate how to safely mount and dismount a horse.

Parts of Saddles and Bridles

The parts of a bridle include:

  1. Headstall: The headstall is the main part of the bridle that fits over the horse’s head.
  2. Bit: The bit is a metal mouthpiece that sits inside the horse’s mouth and is used to control the horse.
  3. Reins: The reins are attached to the bit and are used to control the horse’s direction and speed.
  4. Browband: The browband is a strap that goes across the horse’s forehead to keep the headstall in place.
  5. Cheekpieces: The cheekpieces are straps that attach the bit to the headstall.
  6. Throatlatch: The throatlatch is a strap that goes around the horse’s throat to keep the bridle in place.
  7. Noseband: The noseband is a strap that goes over the horse’s nose and is used to help control the horse’s head carriage.

The parts of a saddle include:

  1. Tree: The tree is the rigid frame of the saddle that gives it its shape and distributes the rider’s weight evenly over the horse’s back.
  2. Seat: The seat is the part of the saddle where the rider sits.
  3. Panels: The panels are the pads that sit on either side of the horse’s spine and help distribute the rider’s weight evenly over the horse’s back.
  4. Stirrup bars: The stirrup bars are the metal loops on the saddle that the stirrup leathers attach to.
  5. Flaps: The flaps are the leather coverings on the sides of the saddle that protect the rider’s legs and help keep the saddle in place.
  6. Girth: The girth is the strap that goes around the horse’s belly to keep the saddle in place.

Horsemanship Merit Badge Requirement 10: Approach and Lead

Explain and demonstrate how to approach and lead a horse safely from a stall, corral, or field and how to tie the horse securely.

Approach and Lead

  • Approach the horse slowly and quietly. Speak softly to let the horse know you are there.
  • Approach the horse from the side, not directly from the front or back. This will allow the horse to see you and avoid feeling threatened.
  • Extend your hand slowly and let the horse sniff it to get acquainted with your scent.
  • Once the horse is comfortable with your presence, you can put a halter on the horse’s head. Approach the horse from the side, slip the halter over the horse’s nose and then up behind the ears. Fasten the halter snugly but not too tight.
  • Stand on the horse’s left side and take the lead rope in your right hand, holding it about 12 to 18 inches from the halter.
  • Walk slightly ahead of the horse, leading it forward by applying gentle pressure on the lead rope. Avoid pulling or yanking on the rope, as this can cause the horse to become frightened or uncooperative.
  • Maintain a steady pace and keep your movements slow and deliberate. Avoid sudden movements or loud noises that can startle the horse.
  • Always remain aware of your surroundings and keep a safe distance from other horses and people.

Horsemanship Merit Badge Requirement 11: Riding

On level ground, continuously do the following movements after safely mounting the horse. Do them correctly, at ease, and in harmony with the horse.
a. Walk the horse in a straight line for 60 feet.
b. Walk the horse in a half-circle of not more than 16 feet in radius.
c. Trot or jog the horse in a straight line for 60 feet.
d. Trot or jog the horse in a half-circle of not more than 30 feet in radius.
e. Halt straight.
f. Back up straight four paces.
g. Halt and dismount.

Controlling the Direction of a Horse

  • Use your reins to control the horse’s head and neck. To turn left, pull the left rein toward your left hip, while maintaining slight tension on the right rein to keep the horse from overbending. To turn right, do the opposite.
  • Use your legs and seat to encourage the horse to move in the desired direction. To turn left, shift your weight slightly to the left and apply pressure with your left leg. To turn right, do the opposite.
  • Use your voice to communicate with the horse. You can use a verbal cue, such as “left” or “right,” to reinforce your rein and leg aids.
  • Practice circles and figure-eights to improve your control of the horse’s direction. This will help the horse become more responsive to your cues and improve your balance and coordination in the saddle.
  • Start with small turns and gradually increase the difficulty and speed of your maneuvers as you become more comfortable and confident.

Related Resources for Horsemanship Merit Badge

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