At Big Wyoming Horse Expo, youth take the reins and get in judge’s seat
Judging horses and livestock is a common practice amongst agriculture youth.
Determining the best horse, calf, sheep or goat can help youth decide what animals to show as 4-H or FFA projects. If they grow up to become ranchers, or even just buy a few horses, they will have a good understanding of how to pick the best animals.
During the seventh annual Big Wyoming Horse Expo, youth from all over Wyoming descended on the state fairgrounds in Douglas to judge some of the best horses the state has to offer. Stacey Etchemendy, who helped organize the annual event and said 47 juniors, 11 seniors and three collegiate judgers, competed in this year’s contest.
The youth judged eight classes, four performance and four halter, including: hunt seat equitation, reining, western equitation, western pleasure, Arab geldings, Quarter horse geldings, Appaloosa geldings and Appaloosa mares.
The seniors and collegiate competitors gave two sets of reasons, and juniors answered questions from the reining class, and gave reasons for how they placed the Appaloosa mares.
“This was the first year we were able to hold a complete contest, in the sense that we ran it like a state-type of contest,” Etchemendy said. “The classes were first, then reasons and questions, followed by a critique and awards. It was also open to collegiate teams for the first time this year.”
In the junior division, the high team overall was from Goshen County. Members were Cora Frederick, Kendall Haas, Kash Isbell, and Calli Klein. The high individual in the junior division was Sienna Osborne from Albany County.
In the senior division, the high point team was Albany County. Members were Jessica Predmore, Micheal Kruszynski, and Silja Alexander. The high individual was Faye Lankister from Converse County.
In the collegiate division, Northwest College was declared the winner, with Madison Edwards taking high individual honors.
Etchemendy said she was pleased so many people competed in the contest.
“Horse judging, or any judging-type of competition, is so very valuable for many reasons,” she said. “It teaches youth to know their priorities, based on the type of class they will be evaluating. Then they are required to turn around, and in an allotted amount of time generally 10-12 minutes, mark their placing and turn it in. This is so valuable because of the decision making skills it teaches.”
Reasons are one of the hardest parts of the contest, and prevents some youth from participating in these events. During reasons, youth stand a few feet from a judge and visualize the class they are talking about while defending their placing to the judge. It is a lot of information to keep straight in a person’s head. Kaenee Isbell, 12, of Torrington, has judged horse before, but describes giving reasons as never an easy part of the contest.
“I own horses, and I like learning how to pick out the best horses,” she said. “In this contest, the judging and reasons are hard. We had a class of shires here. I had never seen shires before, so it was something new for me.”
Jami Garson competed in this year’s contest for the second time. The 9-year-old is from Torrington, and is hopes to improve her horse judging skills.
“The part I liked best about the contest was studying the horses’ conformation,” she said. “But, reasons are really hard.” ❖