Livestock 101 event draws 140 youths from 10 counties

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Messenger photos by Dedra Cordle
Grove City resident Ellie Edwards (left) and Harvey the horse keep the atmosphere loose as Belle Morris (center) and Skyler Mayabb (right) prepare to show Harvey during the first annual Livestock 101 event held at the Madison County Fair. The mission of the July 16 event was to introduce children aged 4 to 17 to animal showmanship.

(Posted July 20, 2021)

By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer

Belle Morris knew she had to sleep.

In just a few hours’ time, the 8-year-old from London would be going to the Madison County Fair not as a regular attendee but as a participant in an inaugural event called Livestock 101.

She knew she would be getting a crash course in showing an animal, but it wasn’t the prospect of learning a new skill in front of strangers that kept her awake. It was knowing she would be working with equines.

Morris said she remembers her reaction the first time she came across a horse.

“I was looking through a book, and that’s when I saw a picture of it,” she explained. “I fell in love with them right away.”

Their grace and strength mesmerized her.

“They were so majestic to me,” Morris said. “I think they are the most magical, beautiful creatures.”

Though she has a passion for horses, Morris rarely has the opportunity to come into close contact with them.

“That’s why I was really, really looking forward to this,” she said of Livestock 101. “I wanted to be able to see them up close.”

Morris didn’t know it at the time, but her participation in the event would end up allowing her many more close encounters of the equine kind in the future.

Ava Moore, 8, gets into the arena to show a goat during the Livestock 101 event.

After gathering with the more than 140 children ages 4 to 17 at the Eby Arena for a brief introduction to the program, Morris broke off into a smaller session with 20 individuals and a handful of 4-H mentors who specialize in showing equines. For close to an hour, Ellie Edwards, a 19-year-old resident of Grove City, taught Morris and Skyler Mayabb the intricacies of showing the animal and basic patterns to impress judge Colleen Martin.

“It’s all about being calm and confident,” said Edwards, a 2020 graduate of Central Crossing High School and a former member of the LFS Riders 4-H Club.

After Edwards ran her mentees through the patterns multiple times, it was time for Morris and Mayabb to demonstrate their newly acquired showmanship skills. Edwards said she was a little worried about how it would go.

“Though they did listen to me, they spent a lot of time petting Harvey,” she said, laughing.

Much to her delight, Morris was one of six participants chosen for the main showman of showmen event. Buzzing again with nerves and excitement, Morris smiled for the judge and capably ran Harvey through the basic pattern.

Then came the moment Morris hadn’t necessarily been waiting for, primarily because she never thought it would happen. When the judge named her as the budding showman of showmen, the normally talkative girl was rendered speechless.

As the first-place finisher in the equine event, Morris received a certificate for a free lease on a horse at Martin’s Lost Fortune Stables. Not only will she be able to show that horse at next year’s fair, she also will be able to spend months working with horses.

“It’s a dream come true,” Morris said.

That sentiment was shared by many of the participants in the Livestock 101 event, which saw children from 10 counties show equine, cattle, swine, goats, rabbits, poultry and alpacas. Most of the budding showmen received leases similar to the one awarded in the equine competition.

While Katie Call, 7, and her 4-H mentor Calista Wallace (both on the right) were trying to show Anthem around the sheep arena, fellow alpaca Peanut decided to greet its herd member as Emma Geyman, 7, and 4-H mentor Josie Campbell (both on the left) tried to lead it in the opposite direction.

Fair board member Quinton Keeran said when fair organizers decided to offer this free program to non-FFA or non-4-H members, they were not sure what the level of interest would be.

“We were hoping for 100 kids to sign up, but we would have been happy with 50,” he stated.

As word spread about this event and its mission, the community rallied around it.

“The community really got behind this event,” Keeran said. “And when I say ‘the community,’ I don’t just mean the kids who signed up to participate.

“The parents were interested, former 4-H and FFA members were interested, our local state representatives were interested, businesses were interested. Everyone was interested in seeing this event become a success.”

Judging from the reaction from the children, feedback from parents, and inquiries about local FFA and 4-H clubs, Keeran said Livestock 101 looks to be an event that will be replicated throughout the state.

Reagan Reed, 7, leads Ernie over an obstacle during the final showmanship event for alpacas. The London resident said she had a lot of fun with the Livestock 101 program.

“I think this event will have a snowball effect,” he said. “It was infectious, and I think it will generate a lot of thought for future fair planning.”

Keeran said he felt fortunate to witness it firsthand. He said he was especially touched by the number of current and former FFA and 4-H members who signed on to be mentors for the first-time event.

“The leadership that was on display is what these clubs are all about,” he said. “This country needs leaders who are willing to step up, share their expertise, be kind and help people when they need it. And we all saw that here with this event, and that is a true testament to what our mission is all about.”

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