For months the 4-H’ers get to know their animals by studying them, grooming them, caring for them and training them to show them during competition.
But showing an animal they’re not familiar with in front of judges after working with that new species for just a few days? That’s an even greater a challenge.
That’s what 4-H’ers did on Thursday in the second annual Royal Showman competition and on Friday at the Premiere Showman competition.
To qualify for the competitions, each participant had to be the Master Showman for their animal category (or reserve champion as a runner up contestant).
In the Royal Showmanship, the participants didn’t know they’d be part of it until Monday or Tuesday afternoon.
During the competitions, they wore identical t-shirts so judges don’t know their backgrounds and needed to show they can handle the animals safely and have a knowledge of the animal and their anatomies.
“You have to go to others and learn,” said Lynn Korniak, Purdue Extension Educator for 4-H Youth.
It creates bonds and friendships but it’s also “just to give kids an opportunity to get more experience,” she said.
She thinks 4-H got more llama people in this year because of the original Royal competition.
“Last year was the Royal for the first time, and all the kids were so nervous, they were holding hands,” said Lynn Korniak, Purdue Extension Educator for 4-H Youth.
This year, the competition added myotonic (fainting) goats and pygmy goats along with the llama, rabbit and poultry categories.
Instead of having two 4-H’ers from each category, five-year 4-H member Kaden Benner represented the llama category, seven-year 4-H member Ashlee Lindley represented myotonic goat, 10-year 4-H member Brooklyn Miller represented pygmy goat, nine-year 4-H member Angela Schmel represented poultry and nine-year 4-H member Ben Vandeburg represented rabbit.
Vandeburg said that having walked sheep helped him when walking the llamas and goats because they’re similar, but being new to an animal made a difference.
“They have a feeling for their own handler,” he said.
Then there’s going through the proper procedures for each new animal.
“Keeping track of everything is the hardest part,” he said.
Benner said that although he works with llamas, it’s different working with a new one.
He learned to keep his animals calm while showing them in front of the judges, especially the fainting goat.
Schmel, who won the Royal this year, said her secret was “I really enjoy animals, and the reason I did this was just to have fun.”
She had participated in the first one, as did Vandeburg and Benner.
Lindley said she’d like to participate again next year after trying it the first time.
What’s she’s learned for that is how hard it is to pick up rabbits without them clawing.
Although she was the Master Showman for the myotonic goat category, hers was the only one to faint in competition — once when the judge Bailey Kiff pulled its tail and the other time when it was led out of the arena reluctantly at the end.
Kiff said that he pulled the tail purposely to see how the participants reacted.
“She handled it well. It did not count against her,” he said.
Other things he looked for included the 4-H’ers keeping the animal between them and the judges at all times and how they handled their llamas because they’re bigger animals.
The other judge, Alexis Froedge, said she considered how the kids handled the duck for the poultry section, including getting it in and out of the cage, and their knowledge of things like nutrition for the animal and the proper names for their offspring.
Reach James D. Wolf Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5117