Miniature Herefords help young people overcome fear of animals | TheFencePost.com

Miniature Herefords help young people overcome fear of animals

It wasn't long ago that 9-year-old Lindley Jex wouldn't even step into the barns at her grandparents' farm in Elbert, Colo. She wanted nothing to do with the miniature Hereford cattle her grandparents and her uncle raised — or any other animal She was afraid.

"Three years ago, she wouldn't even go near a cow, or a dog for that matter," said her grandfather, Brian Jex. "We were just happy if she would walk in (the barn) by herself."

But when she led her miniature Hereford calf, Snow, out into the stadium arena Jan. 20 at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, her face didn't show any fear. It showed excitement — maybe a little nervousness — but more than anything, it showed confidence. 

Lindley not only was able to overcome her fear of animals, but she was able to succeed with them. She brought home division champion and division reserve champion ribbons and spent the better part of a day showing miniature Herefords alongside her younger sister, 7-year-old Eliza.

It was a more successful year than last year, Lindley's first year showing at National Western. That's something Diane Jex, Lindley and Eliza's grandmother, chalks up to her growing in her comfort with the animals.

"She just kind of bloomed this year," Diane said. "She'll always have a fear of animals — that doesn't completely go away — but she doesn't seem to be afraid any longer."

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The last two years, the Jex girls, who live in Colombia, Mo., with their parents, visited their grandparents' farm in the summer for what Diane and Brian call "Ranch Camp." They learn how to care for the cattle their grandparents gave to them and about the finer details of showing livestock.

The first year, Lindley and Eliza went home from the farm, called Bent Nail Farm, with a fancy pink and gold belt buckle emblazoned with "Ranch Camp." The second year, they got show jackets with their names on the back. That was all in the hope of keeping their interest by rewarding their hard work, Diane said.

FORMING A BOND

The efforts Brian and Diane put in to kindle a love of livestock finally paid off this Christmas break, Diane said, when Lindley formed a bond with one of the mini Herefords, a heifer named Dory. It was the first time she took to an animal that strongly. All she wanted to do was walk Dory around and help get her ready for the big show in Denver in January, Diane said. National Western is the Jex girls' only opportunity to compete with their cattle, so Lindley said she was excited to come to the show.

Miniature Herefords were an ideal animal for a girl like Lindley, said her uncle, Steve McIntyre, who owns McIntyre Cattle Company in Elbert, Colo.

Many farm and ranch families get started in mini cattle specifically to get children started with showing, he said. That's what brought the McIntyre family into the fold. The family didn't have much acreage, but their son wanted to get involved in 4-H.

From the first miniature Hereford in 2002, the love for the breed and for raising cattle grew. Now, the McIntyre herd is about 80 head and the son who started showing that first calf is 27. McIntyre's farm is just down the road from Brian and Diane's, where Lindley and Eliza's cattle live.

The reason miniature Herefords are such a good combination with miniature people is because they're docile and easy-to-handle, albeit, sometimes, a little bull-headed. 

"They're kind of stubborn, but still, they're good," Lindley said, her pink bow with the glittery cow on it bouncing, nearly as big as her head. When Eliza looked up at her expectantly, pointing to the two minis waiting in the stall next to the girls, Lindley paused, then clarified. "But these two — not so stubborn."

One of those heifers was Dory, the animal that helped break Lindley of her shyness.

— Work is a freelance writer from Lakewood, Colo. She can be reached at nwork15@gmail.com.