Colorado teen tops all At National Youth Horse Judging Contest

Competing for the third time at the U.S. Arabian & Half-Arabian National Championship Show Youth Judging Contest, Boulder, Colo., resident Lydia Groshong earned the title of High Overall Individual of the entire contest. Contestants from 4-H, FFA, Arabian Horse Association and collegiate teams from across the U.S. and Canada competed in the day-long contest split into three divisions totaling 26 teams and over 100 individuals.

The contest was Oct. 25, 2019, during the national championship show held at Tulsa Expo Square, Tulsa, Okla. Groshong not only won the Junior AHA division which included a $500 scholarship from AHA and a national championship jacket, but her scores were high enough to merit the title of High Overall Individual of all three divisions, earning her a high point saddle.

She was also named the overall winner in the reasons category for the third year in a row, followed closely by teammate Jessica Jacobucci. After placing 10 classes of Arabians and Half-Arabians, each contestant was asked to orally defend their placing of select classes with a set of memorized “reasons” which are judged on accuracy, terminology and presentation.

Groshong was a member of the Colorado Arabian Horse Club/Region VIII Arabian Youth Horse Judging Team along with other members Amy D’Epagnier of Brighton, Colo., Madalyn Gabel of Lafayette, Colo. and Jessica Jacobucci of Brighton. The team finished second in halter, first in reasons and third overall. Full contest results are available on the AHA website:

The team is coached by Rachel LeClere of Firestone, Colo., and Kendra McConnell of Longmont, Colo. Both coaches were successful as youth at the U.S. Arabian & Half-Arabian National Championship Youth Judging Contest many times as well as other national level competitions such as Scottsdale Arabian Show, Paint World Show, All American Quarter Horse Congress, Quarter Horse Youth World Show and the 4-H National Roundup. They also coach the Boulder County 4-H Youth Horse Judging Team.

Competitive horse judging offers an exciting and challenging opportunity for youth to further their knowledge of horses. Team members learn to evaluate horse conformation and performance, while developing skills such as critical thinking, public speaking and team building. Contestants are scored based on how close their placings of mock classes of four horses are to the official panel. They are then asked to deliver a 2 minute, memorized oral defense of their placing of certain classes.

The Boulder County 4-H Horse Judging Team will host a kickoff for the spring season on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, at 6 p.m. in the upstairs room of the Clover Building at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. Anyone is welcome to attend and learn more about the team and competitive horse judging. Enrollment in the 4-H horse project is not required. For more information, find the team on Facebook @Boulder County Horse Judging or email

Puglia to head Western Growers as Nassif retires

The board of Western Growers, which represents fresh produce growers in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico, announced Oct. 16 that it has selected Dave Puglia as the organization’s next president and CEO.

Puglia will succeed current President and CEO Tom Nassif, who is retiring on Feb. 1, 2020, after 18 years in the position.

Puglia joined Western Growers in 2005 and serves as executive vice president, overseeing four departments in the organization of 445 employees. He also oversees the organization’s nonprofit charitable foundation and its political action committees. Prior to joining Western Growers, he was vice president of APCO Worldwide, a global public affairs consulting firm, and previously served for seven years in the California Attorney General’s Office, first as press secretary and later as director of public affairs and communications.

“Since joining our organization, Dave has demonstrated an unyielding passion for our members, a deep understanding of the issues facing Western agriculture — water policy, in particular — and an unrivaled capacity for leading our association and industry into the next decade and beyond,” said Western Growers Board Chairman Ron Ratto.

Ratto added, “Puglia will inherit an association that experienced a renaissance under Nassif’s leadership. Over the course of nearly two decades, Nassif elevated the national prominence of Western Growers and established the organization as a recognized leader in food safety, labor and immigration, water, technology and innovation, international trade and many other areas impacting the viability of Western Growers members.” ❖