COLUMBIA, Mo. - Eight Cass County and four Ray County 4-H members took top prizes in team and individual competition at the University of Missouri Extension state 4-H Horse Judging Contest in Columbia, March 15.
In team competition, Cass County placed second in both the junior and senior divisions. The junior division is for ages 8 to 13. The senior division is for ages 14 to 18. Both teams also had members place in the top 10 in individual competition.
Senior team members were Cayla Bagby, Garden City, Mo.; Cassie Phelps, Peculiar, Mo.; Christina Richardson, Pleasant Hill, Mo.; and Amanda Seitter, Peculiar. In individual competition, Phelps placed third and Bagby placed fifth.
Junior team members were Kayla Brown, Peculiar; Courtney Hall, Creighton, Mo.; Mikayla Hammond, Latour, Mo.; and Erin Wagner, Raymore, Mo. In individual competition, Hammond placed ninth, and Hall tied for 10th with Evan Scherder, Bowling Green, Mo., in Pike County.
Ray County placed third in senior team competition, and two members placed in the top 10. Team members were Rachel Crowell, Parkville, Mo.; Alicia Harris, Richmond, Mo.; Kyle Marrant, Rayville, Mo.; and Leslie Russell, Richmond. Individually, Russell placed second and Harris placed fourth.
From Bates County, Cody Franklin of Hume, Mo., placed ninth overall in senior individual competition. In junior individual competition, Kylie Maize, Kansas City, Mo., in Jackson County, placed fifth; and Maggie Glidewell, Lathrop, Mo., in Clinton County, placed eighth.
The west-central Missouri youths were among 150 participants from around the state who tested their ability to judge horse traits of several breed classes at the MU Trowbridge Livestock Center.
To compete, participants must know several horse classes and breeds, their ideal traits, and be able to evaluate a group of four horses from each class. Each class has specific ideal qualities, which include features such as body size, muscle tone, head shape, leg line, and how a horse walks and tracks. Competitors must then rank each horse based on the class ideal and give oral reasons explaining their decisions to a panel of judges.
"Quarter horse mares will be judged very differently from Arabians, and they'll have markedly different ideal traits," said Marci Jennings, MU Extension equine specialist. "The students should be able to look at the horses and explain why the first beat the second, the second beat the third, and so on."
Ben Gallup, MU Extension 4-H youth specialist, said judging contests teach youth about more than livestock: they foster critical life skills. The challenge of learning and articulating equine differences also is a valuable hands-on form of youth development, he said.
"There are certain ingredients you use to build a cake - you mix flour, eggs, sugar. It's the same with building good kids," he said. "We hope to build team experience and skill sets like public speaking, a sense of generosity, and a sense of independence. The judging process is just one tool that 4-H has used since the beginning."
A judging clinic at the same time as the contest taught youth less familiar with horses or judging how to evaluate horses and stressed how horse form affects function.
Upcoming 4-H equine events include the 4-H Horse Bowl Contest on April 19 and the state 4-H Hippology Contest on April 20. Both will take place in Columbia at the MU Animal Science Research Center.
Youth who want to join a 4-H horse club should contact their local MU Extension office.