Showmanship teaches kids valuable life skills
By ANGIE HAFLICH
Being involved in 4-H and Future Farmers of America helps youngsters gain a wide variety of skills that can be used in their adult lives.
That is the overwhelming sentiment expressed by both participants and judges at one of the Finney County Fair events.
On Saturday, the 4-H/FFA Supreme Showman contest gave kids from age 7 to 18 an opportunity to handle livestock they were accustomed to, and those they were not.
Their showmanship was scrutinized by judges, including Trevor Winchester, who handled swine showmanship during the contest.
"(This format) is a different deal because there are only two showmen in there that actually made it into this by showing pigs," Winchester said. "The other eight are from showing other animals, so it's always interesting to see how they adapt to it."
Youngsters competing were split into three age divisions — junior, intermediate and senior. The junior division consisted of 7- to 9-year-olds, the intermediate division included 10- to 13-year-olds, and the senior division was comprised of kids 14 and older. Swine, goats, cattle, horses and sheep were shown.
Nine-year-old Morgan Hammond typically shows her goats, Sugar or Spice, but on Saturday, she took a crack at showing swine. And out of her first outing, she learned one lesson: "Pigs are hard to control," she said.
Once let through the gates to the show arena, the pigs often ran away from their respective handlers squealing. Either that or they would get lazy and lay down in the dirt.
Despite that, Morgan felt that working with swine would help her handle her goats.
"It'll probably help me with the goats because (I'll learn to talk to the judge more)," she said.
Ten-year-old Cooper Meng said her brother showed swine last year.
"So I figured out how to do them last year, but this is my first time showing," Cooper said.
In judging swine showmanship, Winchester said, the main thing he looks for is the handlers' ability to keep the hogs in front of them.
"You want them to keep a cool demeanor with the animal," he said.
Ten-year-old Katie Mongeau shows swine, goats and horses, and said horses are her favorite, because they require less energy,
"You just walk and trot and set it up," Mongeau said.
Darcy Reeve judged horse showmanship on Saturday.
"I'm looking for the person's position, and how they communicate with their horse, and how they navigate the pattern without really having to do a lot with the horse," Reeve said.
After the show, Reeve shared her impressions with the participants in horse showmanship.
"One of the most difficult things to do is show up and learn a pattern, and then present it with a large animal that you're not really used to, so I was really impressed with that," Reeve said. "My criticism would be you guys cannot touch the horse, and you don't want to look at it when you're in movement. ... Also, for your inspection, you want to make sure you watch that judge. If you can't see the judge, you're probably in the wrong spot."
Advice to the young participants included the importance of keeping the animals between themselves and the judge.
"The sheep, you need to let the judge see the front of the sheep, so you need to step out to the side so the judge can see the alignment of the front feet, and then if the judge crosses that line, go ahead and move to that other side so the judge can see that side," said Bill Haney, who judged sheep showmanship.
John Koons, who judged beef showmanship, said it's all about seeing how well an animal is presented.
"I still think showmanship and getting animals set up right, keeping them square, staying calm, is still the first priority in my mind," Koons said.
After the judges' comments, the grand and reserve champions for each division were announced.
In the senior division, the grand champion was Jacob Norquest and the reserve champion was Taylor Oliver; in the intermediate division, the grand champion was Jacob Henson and the reserve champion was Thomas Turpin; in the junior division, the grand champion was Cooper Henson and the reserve champion was Katie Mongeau.
Each winner received a ribbon and belt buckle.
Winchester, who grew up being involved with 4-H, said his experiences have helped in real life.
"The great thing about it is that it's just like real life," he said. "You get thrown into a situation that maybe you're not comfortable with or haven't done before, and you have to do it, and you make the best of it."