Pinedale FFA takes state horse judging title
Pinedale – Creating a winning team takes a lot of practice and endless confidence. This year, three seniors and one freshman combined their knowledge and experience to take home the Wyoming FFA Convention’s horse judging title in Cheyenne.
For Pinedale seniors Zane Hayward, Morgan Rouge and Gavin Masters – it was a resounding triumph in their last school year after taking reserve championship last year. Hayward and Masters had several years of past experience and Rouge participated last year.
“We knew if we practiced hard and tried, we could do it,” Hayward said.
For freshman Paiyzli Baker, competing against 200 students on 54 teams was a new learning experience – unfortunately as a champion teammate, she can’t enter the same contest next year but can try her hand at others.
“It’s all a learning experience,” said first-year ag teacher and FFA Advisor Anna Campbell. She is proud of their accomplishments as ag students and active FFA members.
Any student taking an ag class is automatically enrolled in FFA, but it’s up to the individual to step in and decide to make something of the opportunity.
Everyone with interest can find a niche, whether it’s public speaking, raising and judging livestock or serving the community, she noted.
and early inspiration
The larger community of Sublette County is why Campbell jumped at the chance to teach at Pinedale High School after graduating from Oklahoma State University and student-teaching in Wheatland.
“I grew up on a ranch in Bondurant and we have a cow/calf operation, so I have a lot of experience around cattle and horses,” she said.
Campbell considers herself from Bondurant, where father Lennie and brother Walden work on the family’s century-plus-old cattle ranch. She graduated from Jackson Hole, where her mother Becky Struble was an art teacher.
Campbell spent summers and vacations in the Hoback Basin helping put up loose hay, moving cattle, riding in roundups and cooking for hay crews. She was a “founding member” of the North Star Feeders 4-H Club, raising livestock for the Sublette County Fair.
She got to know many parents before she ever went off to Stillwater, Okla., and having those local ties helped her significantly. When Campbell badly injured her back last autumn and spent weeks recovering, for example, Zane’s parents Jen and Gary Hayward helped out significantly with the horse judging team’s practices.
“I want to give them a shoutout for helping with the heavy lifting,” Campbell said.
Through FFA, all four students have developed mental discipline, organization and speaking skills, helping them not only with judging but many parts of their lives.
Makings of state champs
During the state convention, the FFA team judged several halter and performance classes. Prior to the competition the team learned about a horse’s conformation, behavior and how to defend their places with a set of reasons, which is a strong determining factor of naming a champion.
They will represent the state of Wyoming at the National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Ind. in October.
“It’s important to remember the classes in your head, take good notes and being prepared for what you’re going to say,” Rouge said. “We practiced a lot on reasons.”
“You have to actually know what you are looking at,” Baker added.
Hayward explained, “Confidence is key. Everything is based upon an opinion; you have to believe 100 percent when you give your reasons.”
Masters organizes his reasons in his mind.
“You’re seeing both the good and bad qualities of a horse and then remembering them for an hour after seeing them,” he said.
Judging horses provides the students with useful skills, but horses will always be an important aspect of their life through 4-H, work and fun, they said.
“These are career development events designed to set students up for a career in agriculture, which would be specific to each individual, but it gives them other skills like public speaking and leadership,” Campbell said. “Within the ag industry, especially within the cattle industry around here, horses are a really important part of having a successful business.”
Like many on the verge of graduation, the three seniors are making college plans but with leeway for what opportunities come up.
Hayward and Rouge plan to attend the University of Wyoming with ag-related majors, perhaps business or rangeland and watershed management.
Masters will study ag business at Central Wyoming College in Riverton.
The team learned several skills from Campbell which will be carried on throughout their post-secondary careers, whether in 4-H, ranching, cowboying, training or becoming a certified judge one day.
Campbell herself started out in pre-med, switched to elementary education and then realized her ranching background made being an ag teacher the perfect fit.
“The stars were aligned,” she said of landing her dream job in Pinedale near her family. She is looking forward to making an impact in the lives of future students to come.
Joy Ufford is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.