4-H team places in national contest

Abbey Ivey, from left, Mary Marlino, Camile Phillips and Sarah Harper show off their ribbons from the 2019 Eastern National 4-H Horse Round-up.

Despite a tension-filled competition against 18 teams, the Loudon County 4-H Hippology Team took home sixth place Nov. 11 at the 2019 Eastern National 4-H Horse Round-up in Louisville, Kentucky.

The four-member team was made up of Loudon High School seniors Abbey Ivey and Sarah Harper, Cross Creek Christian School sophomore Camile Phillips and Lenoir City High School sophomore Mary Marlino.

“We’ve been together for nine years as teammates, and we’ve been working toward nationals ever since then,” Harper said. “We’re competitive and we want to win. It’s just kind of the next step because in elementary- and middle-school divisions, there’s no national competition, so once you get to high school, it’s really game on. Everything before that was preparation for high school and going to the highest level possible, so if you win, you kind of have no choice but to go because it’s what you’re meant to do.”

The three-day competition requires participants to pass a 100-question written exam, judge four classes of horses, identify slides relating to the horse industry, partake in a team-based question-and-answer session, solve a team problem and engage in an extemporaneous activity.

Though each activity could cover any topic in hippology, the team felt confident in their knowledge on various subjects.

“I thought we would place,” Ivey said. “I didn’t know what, but I felt confident that we would get some ribbons.”

The Eastern National 4-H Round-up was the team’s first time at a national competition.

“I think the most difficult part is probably the wide subject matter,” Harper said. “When you walk in, in total, when you add all the different divisions together, there’s probably about 250 questions. That sounds like a lot, but when you look at the size of our reference material, that could be anything. Going into it and not knowing because there’s not a certain number of questions that are going to be over a certain topic. We have no clue what we’re going into, so we just kind of have to make our base of knowledge as wide as possible and just kind of learn to draw on that, like open the filing cabinet and hope that there’s a piece because there’s some things in there still after nine years that we’ve never heard of.”

The Round-up wasn’t the first time Loudon County 4-H has succeeded on the national level.

“We had 18 teams come out from all over the nation, so when you get that opportunity, you’re with the best of the best,” Mark King, team coach, said. “I know of at least three teams with team members who had photographic memories, and it’s kind of scary. We’ve been to nationals several times in livestock judging. Loudon County as a whole, whether it’s in the citizenship project, communications, we’ve had enough finals at the state level over the years, I could list a bunch of them because I’ve worked with a lot of them over the years. It really is amazing.”

The 2019 hippology team is the county’s first to place in the top 10 nationally.

King believes the knowledge gained through years of preparation will help teammates in the future.

“When they leave the program, they’re prepared to go on to college,” he said. “They have to produce records for college of their community service work. Our portfolio project, they already have it. It’s just a hand-off. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong. It should be fun for everybody participating. It’s also an opportunity for them. It’s scientific-based knowledge in something they love to do, and they apply that, which I am fortunate that this group is good at learning to apply it. I can say that about nearly everyone that comes through this program. They don’t just know the topics and what the book says. They know how to use the knowledge that they’ve gained, and for me, that’s probably even more important than anything else.