Trenton Howard’s one goal this year was to win the final competition at the Cass County 4-H Fair: The Premier Showmanship contest. He achieved that goal Friday night.
In his seventh year showing goats at the fair, Trenton had one Premier Showmanship competition under his belt already — he’d made it to the competition last year, winning the master-level showmanship award in 2013’s goat show before going head-to-head with six other master showmanship winners from other major animal shows at the fair.
That competition went to Ross Helms, on hand to watch the county’s 13th Premier Showmanship contest Friday. But Trenton built on last year’s experience as he reentered the ring this year alongside six more 4-Hers — Aaron Willison, Larissa Walker, Kassi Hardy, Parker Reed, Mallory Minnick and Abbie McKaig.
“I knew I stood a chance,” he said.
The seven longtime 4-Hers had spent the previous few days preparing for the competition. Although they were technically competing against each other, they considered each other as friends first. They all exchanged notes and tips in between showmanship segments.
“We all coached each other,” Aaron said. “We helped each other up until, like, two hours ago.”
For Mallory, that meant sharing her sheep-showing skills and getting some coaching from Kassi on horse-showing. Parker, showmanship winner in the beef show earlier last week, had to learn to coax a horse into a trot.
“I’m not used to animals going faster than me,” Parker said.
Trenton praised the other showmanship winners’ skills, and said as the Friday night show progressed, his hopes of winning fell.
“There was no way,” he said. “The animals didn’t cooperate like I wanted them to, and they were heck of showmen.”
Competition organizers go to great lengths to give the showmanship competitors the fairest treatment possible. The competitors don’t bring their own animals into the competition — animals are borrowed from other 4-Hers for the night. Each competitor is randomly assigned to an animal before a new showmanship segment begins. And many judges asked the participants to swap animals with each other, to test how animals behaved in different hands.