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Golden Horseshoe Test


The Golden Horseshoe contest started in 1929 when Phil M. Conley, president of West Virginia Education Foundation, proposed the idea to the state superintendent of schools. It recognizes students for their knowledge of West Virginia.

In early spring eighth grade students take a test prepared and scored by the state Department of Education on state government, history, geography, and economics. The winners are those receiving the highest score in each county (the number of winners per county being determined by enrollment), as well as one from the Schools for the Deaf and Blind at Romney. Each year 221 students participate in the one-day awards ceremony in Charleston. In 2020, due to social distancing requirements from the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony was postponed and the winners knighted virtually through social media announcements.

The state superintendent of schools presides over a knighting ceremony as the climax of Golden Horseshoe Day. Each student kneels and, with a tap on the shoulder by a sword, is dubbed a knight or lady of the Golden Horseshoe. Each receives a golden horseshoe pin, a certificate from the West Virginia Historical Education Foundation, a certificate from the state, a picture of the group with the governor, and a picture of his or her individual knighting.

Historically, the Golden Horseshoe originated in the colony of Virginia in 1716 when Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood organized a party of about 50 men to explore the region west of the Allegheny Mountains. Each member was presented a small golden horseshoe. The awarding of a golden horseshoe to the students currently honored is in recognition of their crossing the mountains of learning and knowledge, and is received as a high distinction.

Written by Eileen Cain Stanley