A Horsemanship Merit Badge Study Guide

Boy Looking at Map

A Horsemanship Merit Badge Study Guide

To earn your Horsemanship Merit Badge, you must complete the requirements specified by the Boy Scouts of America. There are 11 requirements and while we can’t promise you’ll be able to do them in one visit – we’ll do our best to complete the riding requirements.

We’ve created a study guide to help you with the written part of the test. There are four main categories; if you study up on the Safety, Horse Information, and Horse Maintenance – we can focus on the horseback riding part of the test here at Mountain Creek!




1. Describe the safety precautions you should take when handling and caring for a horse.Horse Safety Sign

The first step in safety is always to wear the appropriate gear! Proper footwear (boots), helmets, gloves (for handling and riding to avoid rope burn), and pants must be worn at all times. Safety doesn’t start in the ring; it begins at the barn door.

Safety means remaining vigilant.

  1. If you open a gate, close that gate as soon as you’re through.
  2. Announce your presence around horses and don’t walk behind them. Remember horses can’t see directly in front or directly behind themselves.
  3. Horses are always a flight risk, meaning they will run if scared. They are strong animals so always lead horse with a lead rope but DO NOT wrap the lead rope around hand or lead by the halter. If a horse is going to run, you will not be able to stop it. Don’t risk torn ligaments or a dislocated shoulder by wrapping the lead around your hand.
  4. Use quick release clips and knots. If a horse is trying to run and is attached to something, they can seriously injure themselves if you cannot detach them fast enough.
  5. Remember: loosen before unsaddling. Unsaddling a horse right away can lead to girth bumps.
  6. In the heat, remember NOT to bathe them and do not give them water right after riding them hard.
  7. Make sure make sure tack/equipment fits properly. The fit is not just for the horse’s safety but also for the rider’s, as poor-fitting equipment invites accidents and dangerous situations.


2. Describe the fire safety precautions you should take in a barn and around horses.

No smoking in the barn!

No Smoking Sign in Barn

Beyond that, just like any good fire escape plan, you need to know your exits, keep them free from clutter, and practice (This means a fire drill with the horses). Also remember, if you can cover the horse’s eyes it will be less scared as you lead it past danger.


Horse Information:

15 Parts of the Horse Diagram

1. Name the 15 main parts of a horse. 


  1. Muzzle
  2. Pole
  3. Crest
  4. Withers
  5. Croup
  6. Dock
  7. Girth
  8. Barrel
  9. Flank
  10. Fetlock
  11. Hock
  12. Pastern
  13. Coronet Band
  14. Gaskin
  15. Stifle


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


  1. Quarter Horse – Mostly known from appearances in western movies, they are stocky, mild tempered, all-purpose horse, American Breed
  2. Thoroughbred – Most common racehorse, taller and leaner, high-energy, often anxious, they like to work
  3. Paint – Western stock (Native American horse), all-around, similar to a quarter horse, easy health and temper
  4. Belgian – draft horse, used for pulling mainly, taller than most horses, heavier than most horses, feathers on feet, gentle-giant-chickens, considered strongest horses in the world


Horse Maintenance


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


  • Colic (Deadly Tummy Ache) –  Horses cannot throw up, so anything that goes in must come out the opposite end. Colic is a blockage (of some sort) in the intestinal tract. Signs of colic are not pooping, no gas, no gut sounds, showing signs of discomfort (pawing, stomping, laying down and rolling excessively, biting at stomach, lethargy). It can be deadly if not caught early.


  • Thrush –  is a bacterial infection of the sole and frog of the hoof, commonly found in wet conditions, smells bad, makes the frog of the sole soft and/or crack
  • Rainrot – is a fungal infection caused by being in elements and an unbalanced PH level. It can occur anywhere on the body but is often on the back. It will appear as scabby/dry/cracked skin and hair can be matted if it has gone a while untreated.
  • Choke – This occurs when horses cannot swallow because of poor dental care/tooth degradation from living a long time. Just like in humans, choking will cause suffocation (remember though, horses cannot throw up, so choking is even more dangerous for them.
  • Moon Blindness – officially called “equine recurrent uveitis,” it is an inflammation of uveal tract of the eye. It causes blindness, and most horses with it lose their eye. It is excruciating for the horse.


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


Conformation is the way a horse’s bones and musculature are built. If a horse’s conformation is bad, it can affect their gait and ability to perform. In extreme examples, poor conformation can mean a horse cannot be used for certain types of riding.

Lameness is temporary can be caused by any number of things, from wounds to sickness. Unsoundness is permanent, for instance, if a horse is too old and weak to work or is too wild and crazy to be used for riding.


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

Man Forges Hot Horsehoe

Horses wear shoes when extra foot protection is needed. Some horses’ feet are tougher than others, and they may not need them, but if they are in difficult terrain, they may still need shoes. They may also wear shoes to correct conformation or have special shoes for road horses (borium/drill tech) or race horses (which wear light aluminum shoes).


4. 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 can be fed:

  1. Grass
  2. Hay (cut dried grass for winter)
  3. Grain (oats, barley, etc.)


Horses that are on grass don’t need grain unless they are old and/or very active, Hay is for grass replacement if you are not able to put your horse on grass because of weather or simply location restraints. Horses must be fed on a routine schedule, and you should choose the amount and feed type based on activity level, breed, and age.

The amount is changed to keep the temperament of the horse in check. Low activity horses and low energy breeds should be fed lower sugar/carbohydrate meals to ensure they do not become “hot”; this term is used when they have an overabundance of energy and become aggressive/rambunctious.


Horse Riding


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

We can show you this at Mountain Creek Riding Stable.

2. Do the following:


i) Name 10 parts of the saddle and bridle that you will use, and explain how to care for this equipment.


  1. Bit
  2. Curb Chain
  3. Throat Latch
  4. Nose Band
  5. Reins
  6. Halter
  7. Horn
  8. Pummel
  9. Stirrup
  10. Cantle


ii) Show how to saddle and bridle a horse properly.

We can show you this at Mountain Creek Riding Stable.

iii) Demonstrate how to mount and dismount a horse safely.

We can show you this at Mountain Creek Riding Stable.


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


Make sure to approach from the side and front so they can see you. Walk between the head and left shoulder (always on the left!), make sure to be the “leader” at all time (you are walking the horse, not the other way around). Use a halter and lead rope, do not lead by reins if bridled. Once you have the bridle on and the lead rope attached, remain vigilant for potential spook hazards.

Once you reach your destination make sure to tie them to the post on the fence not the rail of the fence. They must also be tied to a permanent structure NOT something they could drag with them if they spook. As well, make sure to use quick release clip OR knot, never tie them by the reins!


4. On level ground, continuously do the following movements after safely mounting the horse. Do them correctly, at ease, and in harmony with the horse.

i)  Walk the horse in a straight line for 60 feet.

ii)  Walk the horse in a half-circle of not more than 16 feet in radius.

iii)  Trot or jog the horse in a straight line for 60 feet.

iv)  Trot or jog the horse in a half-circle of not more than 30 feet in radius.

v)  Halt straight.

vi)  Back up straight four paces.

vii)  Halt and dismount.


So study up! If you are ready for the testing part of the Horsemanship Merit Badge –  we can facilitate the test at our Barn! If you’re a troop leader and you are interested in setting something up with us, feel free to reach out to us!


Pocono Trail Rides

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