4-H Project and Activity Policies

Risk Management for 4-H Projects and 4-H Activities

Risk Management Overview

Risk management is a critical element of all 4-H Projects and 4-H Activities. It provides assurances that planning for participant safety has been addressed. Besides safety, risk management plans document that:

  • proper allocation of resources have been made to the program
  • emergency procedures are in place
  • assets of the organization are protected by minimizing the negative outcome of unexpected events.

Risk management is also a valued educational program and process for all youth members and volunteers and allows organizations to focus on achieving their mission.

For more information, please review the Risk Management Tip Sheet and Checklist.

4-H Project & 4-H Activity Policies

All Wisconsin 4-H programs and activities must be supervised by a staff member or an adult, 18 years of age or older, who has completed the Youth Protection Program and is currently an enrolled 4-H volunteer. The primary purpose of this process is to ensure the safety and well-being of all participants (i.e., youth, their parents and families, volunteers and staff.)

Animal Science Projects and Activities
ATVs and UTVs
Bicycle Project or Bicycle Activity
Dog Project
Horse Project, Activities and Events
Model Rocketry
Paddle Sports
Paintball and Laser Tag
Roller Blading or Roller Skating
Shooting Sports Projects and Activities

Animal Science Projects and Activities


  • Youth are not required to own an animal in order to use it as a 4-H project animal. (See managerial agreement resource).
  • Youth who are in grade 3 or above are eligible to participate in 4-H animal projects.
  • Cloverbud project members, youth in grades 5K-2, may participate in small animal clinics, demonstrations, workshops or other non-competitive educational activities with one-on-one adult supervision.
    • Common small animals include dogs, cats, poultry, rabbits, and pets.
    • Supervising adults must maintain primary control of the animal while Cloverbud project members are present.
  • Cloverbud project members may observe large animal clinics, demonstrations, workshops or other non-competitive educational activities.

*Large animals include horses, beef, dairy cattle, sheep, swine, goats, llamas, and alpacas.

Animal Identification

  • All youth are required to follow the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Animal Health Regulations for Movement of Animals in Wisconsin. For any 4-H animal this is required. Visit the website to learn more.
  • Animals transported to and exhibited at 4-H sponsored events must have proper Premise ID registration for livestock animals as required by Wisconsin law. Visit the website to learn more.

Animal Handling and Care

  • 4-H members and volunteers are responsible for the health and well-being of their project animal(s) including proper care, treatment, handling and grooming for the duration of the project. (This includes animals owned, co-owned, and non-owned by the 4-H member). Additional requirements may be applied by local chartered entities or partner organizations.
  • 4-H members must wear clothing appropriate for the activity which will protect the participants from possible injury and the elements surrounding the event.

ATVs and UTVs

The use of All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and/or Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs) by youth is prohibited at all 4-H meetings, activities and programs. The only exception to this policy is youth will be able to operate an ATV or UTV at a 4-H program that meets ALL of the following conditions:

  • All youth participants are 12 years of age or older.
  • All youth participants and volunteers have completed the National 4-H ATV Safety program OR completed the Wisconsin DNR ATV Safety program and submitted their certificate of completion prior to participation .
  • The primary outcome of the 4-H program is ATV or UTV operator safety and must be designed to compliment the 4-H or DNR online program by providing a hands-on learning environment for youth to demonstrate their skills. These 4-H programs do not include recreational rides, racing, or other extended riding opportunities.
  • The ATV or UTV program agenda, course layout and risk management plan has been approved by the Wisconsin 4-H Program Manager and follows an approved 4-H or DNR curriculum.
  • The ATV or UTV is mechanically sound and is designed for youth riders.
  • All participants will wear clothing appropriate for the activity including an SEI approved helmet.

Bicycle Project or Bicycle Activity

Adults and youth who are a riding a bicycle as part of a 4-H Bicycle Project or Bicycle Riding Activity must wear protective clothing, head and foot gear. Minimum requirements include:

  • Youth must be in 3rd grade or higher to participate.
  • Protective head gear (helmet) that properly fits the participant.
  • Shoes which provide protection from the hazards of said program.
  • Clothing appropriate for the activity which will protect the participants from the elements surrounding the event.

Dog Project

Dog Project Participation

  • Any breed or mixture of breeds and/or size dog are allowed except wolf-hybrid canines.
  • 4-H members may share a dog in the project, but some shows may have limitations on sharing during the contest.
  • Participant handlers and dogs must complete training requirements specified and authorized by county 4-H staff or local 4-H volunteer leaders.
  • The participant handler must maintain control over their dog during 4-H sponsored dog activities or events.
  • For health and safety, all participant handlers must make their best effort to clean up and properly dispose of waste from their dogs.
  • The dog must be in good health at the time of competition and up to date on vaccinations.
    • The following vaccinations are required to be current during any 4-H sponsored dog event or activity.
      • Rabies vaccination as required by state law (DATCP).
      • DLHPP vaccination – Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, ParaInfluenza, and Parvovirus.
    • Bordetella (Kennel Cough) – This is recommended and may be required by county dog projects.
    • A copy of vaccination records must be maintained by the host organization for at least 3 years past the current year. Exceptions may be accepted in writing from a veterinarian for Leptospirosis, antibody tests (titers), or dogs unfit for vaccination.

Dogs will not be allowed to participate in activities, training, or shows if:

  • They are determined by 4-H staff or local dog volunteer leaders to be dangerous or unmanageable in or out of a 4-H group setting.
  • They have a record of biting which caused injury to a person.
  • They have received formal or informal bite or bite sport training.
  • They are in heat (in season/estrus).
    • Intact female dogs who come into season (heat) during training can not attend training until she is out of season which is typically a period of three weeks.
    • Exceptions or substitutions may be made with approval from county 4-H staff, local 4-H volunteer leaders, or written approval from a veterinarian.
  • Female dogs that have recently given birth may return to training after they have finished nursing puppies or with written approval from a veterinarian and 4-H volunteer leader.
  • Handlers may continue to attend the activity without the dog and continue training at home.

Dog Project Standard Equipment

  • Participant handlers must wear rubber-soled, close-toed, closed-heeled shoes that can be fastened.
  • Participant handlers must use a standard 6 foot leash and made of leather, nylon or cotton webbing – no retractable or chain leashes.
  • Dogs must be kept on leash before and after group activities.
  • Dogs must wear a plain, well-fitting slip collar or martingale of chain, fabric, or leather OR a well-fitting, plain buckle collar. This includes quick release collars.
    • During initial training, dogs may wear head collars, head haltis, pinch or prong collars, and harnesses when appropriate with approval from 4-H volunteer leaders. These collars should be phased out from use as training progresses.
    • During shows or competitions, dogs may wear choke, martingale, and flat buckle collars when appropriate with approval from 4-H volunteer leaders.
  • Electronic training collars are prohibited.


While participating in a 4-H fishing project or 4-H fishing activity, youth are required to wear Personal Flotation Device (PFD) when on a boat, wading in water that is more than ankle deep or when fishing at sites with swift current, steep banks, other hazardous conditions.

Horse Project, Activities and Events


These policies and safety requirements apply to all 4-H Horse-related projects, activities and events, including, but not limited to Horseless Horse, clinics, shows, fairs, parades, open-houses, and petting-zoos. Specific events, fairs, facilities, and local 4-H programs may have additional guidelines.

Please note: Any classes that require 4-H membership to enter, or serve as a qualifying event for a regional or state 4-H competition must follow these safety policies.

General Safety Rules

  • Youth must be in 3rd grade or higher to participate.
  • The handler, rider or driver must have control over their horse during 4-H sponsored activities or events.
  • No intact male horses (stallions) are allowed.
  • No Bareback or riding double.
  • No horse may be left unattended when out of the stall or trailer.
  • Leave at least one horse/pony length between animals.
  • When holding a horse in hand, make turns to the right when more than ninety degrees.

Required Participant Safety Attire

  • SEI approved helmets, with harness fastened, must be worn at all times when mounted or driving.
  • Close-toed shoes or boots are required when near a horse.
  • Clothing appropriate for the activity which will protect the participants from the elements surrounding the event.
  • Boots with a cut out heel must be worn when mounted.

Required Safety Tack and Appointments

Horse tack and appointments appropriate to the activity are required:

  • A saddle is required when mounted. Saddle which fits horse and rider with stirrups, girth or cinch properly attached.
  • Appropriate headgear with reins attached are required when riding or driving a horse. Halters and tie-downs alone are not approved headgear for riding or driving a horse. See WI 4-H Horse Association rules for additional headgear guidelines.
  • Twisted wire snaffle bits are prohibited.
  • Adjustments to tack for a valid medical reason are permitted with written permission from a veterinarian or physician, provided lead volunteers or staff are notified, and approved, prior to participation.

Animal Welfare and Safety

  • Horses or Ponies must be serviceably sound and must not show evidence of broken wind (respiratory issues – COPD) or impairment of vision in both eyes.
  • Coggins/Premise ID records for the open event must be maintained by the host organization for five years in compliance with Wisconsin law.
    • Equine animals from within Wisconsin need documentation of a negative EIA test done within the previous 12 months, which clearly identifies the animal by complete description, digital photographs, or an approved microchip (if a reader is available).
    • Wisconsin Premise ID should be written on the top of the coggins record for each horse.
    • Health certificates for out of state horses should be maintained with show records. Please visit DATCP website for more details: https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Programs_Services/HorseOtherEquineMvmt.aspx

Concussion and Head Injury Policies for 4-H Horse Projects and Activities

  • Wisconsin 4-H will annually distribute the 4-H Horse Project concussion and head injury information via the online enrollment system to:
    • every 4-H volunteer who is enrolled in the 4-H Horse Project and
    • every 4-H member/parent that participates in the 4-H Horse Project and
    • every youth/parent that participates in the 4-H Horse Program
  • No youth may participate in the 4-H Horse Project unless the youth and parent agrees to and signs the 4-H Horse Project Concussion Agreement. Forms will be signed annually at the start of each program year or upon entry of a youth into the 4-H Horse Project via the online enrollment system or paper registration.
  • All 4-H Horse project volunteers will annually agree to and sign the 4-H Horse Project Concussion Policy Acknowledgement Form via the online enrollment system or paper registration before they are approved to hold 4-H Horse Project riding or driving programs/activities.
  • The supervising 4-H volunteer will immediately remove a participant from the 4-H Horse Project riding or driving project/activity if the 4-H volunteer determines that the 4-H member/participant exhibits signs, symptoms, or behavior consistent with a concussion or head injury –OR– the 4-H member/participant was separated from their horse and hit their head or their head was struck.
  • A youth who has been removed from the 4-H Horse Program riding or driving program/activity related to a suspected and/or confirmed concussion or head injury –OR– the 4-H member/participant was separated from their horse and hit their head or their head was struck may not participate in that specific 4-H Horse riding or driving project/activity until he or she is evaluated by a health care provider and receives a written clearance to participate in the project/activity from the health care provider.
  • Records shall be kept in the local Extension Office of all participants removed from a 4-H Horse project/activity for suspected and/or confirmed concussions and corresponding written clearances provided by health care providers to return to the 4-H Horse project/activity.

Model Rocketry

  • Wisconsin 4-H staff or 4-H volunteers must provide direct supervision of youth for any 4-H rocket launching activity.
  • Wisconsin 4-H staff, 4-H volunteers and 4-H members who are actively engaged in the rocket launching process must wear safety glasses.
  • Wisconsin 4-H staff, volunteers and members must follow the National Association of Rocketry Model Rocket Safety Code and the rocket manufacturer’s safety guidelines when launching model rockets that are under 2 lbs. in total weight and have no more than 4 oz. of propellant.
  • Model rockets that exceed these limits, rockets with high-power motors (class H and higher), or complex rockets that have additional regulatory, safety and liability implications will need to be authorized by Wisconsin 4-H Program Manager and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Office of Risk Management prior to launch.
  • 4-H Volunteers leading model rocketry launching activities will annually certify through 4-H Online that they have reviewed and will follow all National Association of Rocketry Model Rocket Safety Code and guidance.

Paddle Sports

  • All youth and adults participating in paddle sports must follow Wisconsin State Law relating to personal watercraft.
  • All youth and adults must wear a properly-fit personal flotation device (PFD) while on the water.
  • All boaters must wear footwear while boating. Any footwear that remains on the foot is allowed (sandals, water shoes, etc.)
  • Inexperienced boaters may not take a boat onto the water until they have received training from an appropriately experienced instructor. All
  • participants will receive instruction on boarding and debarking, trimming, and movement in the watercraft along with proper fit and use of PFDs and self-rescue procedures should the watercraft capsize or flood.
  • An adult certified in first aid and CPR is required when youth are boating.
  • A first aid kit must be onsite and readily accessible while boating.
  • All equipment must be in good repair. This includes, but is not limited to: first aid kits, PFD’s, paddles, and watercraft.
  • This policy covers canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, sailboats, rowboats, pedal boats, and rafts.

Paintball and Laser Tag

Pointing any type of firearm including paintball guns, laser guns or laser sighting devices at any person or any humanoid or tombstone target is not allowed at any type of 4-H project of 4-H activity.


Wisconsin 4-H is committed to providing safe and healthy environments for youth and adults participating in 4-H programs and activities. Preparing floats and participating in parades can be a fun way to promote 4-H, AND there are risks associated with these activities. The 4-H Parades Policy outlines expectations for managing risk associated with vehicles used in parades, as well as youth and adults riding on vehicles or walking in the parade.

Roller Blading or Roller Skating

4-H volunteers must discuss the roller skating and rollerblading activities with participants (4-H members, non-members, 4-H volunteers and other adults) to assess the risk, determine and record a suitable safety training plan and ensure controls are in place to reduce or eliminate the potential for injuries, risks and hazards. Youth and adult volunteers must then carry out a safety training plan for all. This plan should include:

  • Helmets are required when roller skating and rollerblading outdoors; helmets and other safety gear are encouraged but not required at roller rinks.
  • Clothing appropriate for roller skating and rollerblading must be worn. No loose clothing which might get caught in the wheels or trip the skater(s). Hats, scarves, bandannas, or head wear may be worn when skating and must be tight fitting. ALL clothing and head wear must be proper fitting.
  • Roller skating and rollerblading etiquette, at either roller rinks or outdoors, includes: No pushing, tripping, playing tag, etc. while roller skating and rollerblading.
  • Additional topics could include: accident insurance, risk management checklist, etc.

Shooting Sports Projects and Activities

General Shooting Sports Policies

  • Shooting sports member age will be calculated using January 1 of the current 4-H year. This calculation date will hold true for Wisconsin 4-H club, project or participating in a county hosted state invitational event.
  • 4-H Shooting Sports programs are available to youth from 3rd grade and at least 8 years old through the year following high school. Shooting Sports projects include archery, air pistol, .22 pistol, air rifle, .22 rifle, muzzleloader, and shotgun. 4-H youth must be 12 years of age by the start of the program, event, or activity to operate any powder-burning firearm. This includes .22 handgun or rifle, muzzleloader handgun or rifle, or shotgun. A county may adopt an older age limit, but in no case shall a county reduce the age limit set forth by state policy.
  • Youth may participate in an organized 4-H Shooting Sports activity where firearms and archery equipment are present, only if a Level 1 Instructor is present and providing direct supervision. The Level 1 Instructor must have a current certification in the discipline in the event or activity where youth are participating (e.g. air rifle practice – at least one of the certified leaders must be certified in the rifle discipline).
  • Youth Leaders do not need to be 4-H Shooting Sports certified, but must be in the presence and under the supervision of a 4-H Shooting Sports Level 1 Instructor who has certification in the shooting discipline in which the youth is participating. A Youth Leader cannot oversee an active shooting line.
  • All firearms for 4-H Shooting Sports will be carried openly in designated areas.
  • Activities aligned with simulated combat sports including but not limited to, paintball guns, air-soft, laser guns, foam dart guns, archery tag are not permitted in the 4-H program.
  • Only factory ammunition is used for all 4-H shooting sports programs.
  • Risk Management Plan: All counties are required to have a risk management plan in place for all shooting sports activities.
  • Equipment Safety: All county shooting sports equipment should be annually inspected for safety purposes. Private firearms/equipment used in 4-H activities and events should also be inspected prior to participation. The current shooting sports discipline instructor or his/her designee is responsible for equipment safety.

Leader Certification, Recertification, Training and Reporting

  • All Shooting Sports Instructors must currently be enrolled as a 4-H volunteer in a county.
  • 4-H Shooting Sports Level 1 Instructors must be at least 21 years old and must have successfully completed at least one 12-hour state-level 4-H leader training 4-H Shooting Sports certification workshop. 4-H Shooting Sports Level 1 Instructors must be certified in the discipline in which they are providing supervision.
  • Adults must be at a minimum Level 1 certified to provide hands-on or safety instruction. An adult volunteer may obtain certification in an additional discipline (archery, coordinator, air pistol, .22 pistol, muzzleloader, air rifle (.177), .22 rifle, and shotgun) by completing a state certification workshop provided by Level 2 Instructors. A rifle certification includes air and .22 rifle and a pistol certification includes air pistol and .22 pistol.
  • Volunteers who are not actively instructing in the 4-H Shooting Sports program for three (3) consecutive years will no longer be considered an active instructor. To become active again, volunteers will be required to restart the certification process.
  • Certified Leaders must be recertified within the state guidelines.
  • Volunteers returning for an additional discipline need only attend the range training in their discipline of choice providing they have continued to teach in their certified discipline. If more than three (3) years have elapsed since last teaching, recertification is required. Only one discipline certification may be achieved at any one Wisconsin Shooting Sports Certification workshop.
  • A participant must attend the full certification sessions to complete training requirements. The State Training discipline instructor in each workshop reserves the right to not pass a person if he/she feels the candidate will not be a competent leader.
  • Volunteer 4-H Shooting Sports Leaders certified in other states must be approved by the State 4-H Shooting Sports Coordinator for working with youth in Wisconsin.
  • To maintain certification, instructors must complete and submit annual reporting to document their teaching to the State 4-H Shooting Sports Coordinator.

Regional and State Competitions

Statewide Invitational 4-H competitions will be reviewed and approved by the State Shooting Sports Committee.

Inventory Control

  • An inventory list of bows, air pistols, .22 pistols, air rifles, .22 rifles, muzzleloaders, and shotguns will be maintained by an individual in charge of a specific discipline for the local group/county program/state program.
  • The State 4-H Shooting Sports Coordinator will maintain a registry of all 4-H owned firearms.
  • A sign-out process will be used to record who/when/what/when returned. Other shooting sports equipment will be inventoried according to Extension policy.
  • Only approved, current instructors may sign out program equipment from inventory.
  • Extension staff responsible for the 4-H Shooting Sports program in the county/state should also have access to all program equipment, the inventory list, and sign-out records.
  • Equipment inventory should be audited at least annually (or more often if requested) by local and/or state Extension personnel responsible for 4-H Shooting Sports program.
  • The Extension staff person responsible for the 4-H Shooting Sports program has the ultimate authority to remove 4-H Shooting Sports program equipment from any 4-H Shooting Sports club or instructor based on lack of safety practices, inadequate storage and transportation safeguards, concerns about inventory control, inadequate emphasis on positive youth development, or other reasons based on professional judgment.

Storage of Archery Equipment and Air Guns

Bows, arrows, air pistols, air rifles, BB’s and pellets will be stored in a locked area.

Storage of Firearms & Muzzleloading Equipment

  •  All firearms will be stored unloaded in a firearms room or firearms safe that is designed, constructed, or manufactured for that purpose with an open bolt or open bore indicator when not in use.
  • All gun safes will be secured in a locked storage area, following local statutory requirements, if applicable. If no local laws apply, suitable locations include local law enforcement department firearm storage, storage closet or room with limited access, etc.

Storage of Ammunition

  • All ammunition, shotgun shells, rifle and pistol cartridges, black powder, percussion caps, BB’s and pellets will be stored separate from the guns which use them.
  • Ammunition should be stored in a closet or room where there are at least two separate locks.

Transportation of Equipment

  • All applicable local, state and federal laws are to be followed when transporting firearms and ammunition. Only certified instructors or Extension staff are permitted to drive vehicles transporting 4-H owned Shooting Sports firearms and ammunition.
  • When transporting firearms, air guns, ammunition and muzzleloading guns, the transporter should have the guns in locked hard cases with gun locks on each gun (either a trigger style gunlock or a cable style gun lock).
  • Equipment will be transported in such a way that the equipment cannot be seen from outside the vehicle. Some examples of concealment include transporting in the vehicle’s trunk, in a locked trailer, beneath a pick-up truck bed topper, etc. The vehicle will not be left unattended when equipment is being transported.


Lifeguards are required when youth are participating in swimming-related 4-H activities.

  • Lifeguards must be certified.
  • A lifeguard must be at least 16-years-old and have the appropriate current certification (Lifeguard Training, First Aid, and CPR/AED).
  • Beach lifeguards need to have water safety instructor certification from the American Red Cross or equivalent instruction.
  • One lifeguard is needed for every 25 people in the water.
  • One adult (not necessarily lifeguard certified) for every 10 youth is needed for overall supervision.
  • Best practice is to swim where lifeguards are provided by the facility or site.
University of Wisconsin-Madison      |        Explore Extension: Agriculture Community Development Families & Finances Health Natural Resources Youth