Medical Lake High School’s FFA Horse Judging team is off to the national competition in Indianapolis to test their skills on Oct. 17.
Students Ashley Holznagel, Laura Robinson, Samantha Williams, Kayleen Oliver and Riley Shines, and one member who graduated last year but is eligible since he is a state officer with the FFA, Brett Moriarty, won the state competition in Othello, Wash., Sept. 18 during the Adams County Fair.
The students have been studying horses since this summer – they met starting in August to learn everything from the anatomy of a horse to how a horse looks when it is in motion.
They carry around what they call their “horse bibles” for referencing anything from nutrition to equipment to how to market a horse for sale.
The competition tests both their knowledge of horses and their ability to debate why they placed each horse the way they did.
Holznagel said they are presented with what they call a “class” of horses – four horses chosen so the students can rank them in order of appearance, balance and the way they move. To be able to rank the horses, the team shows up at school at 6:30 a.m. to watch classes of horses online and rank them before they see how the judges ranked them.
Holznagel, a senior and president of the school FFA, placed second in her judging abilities individually at the state competition. Moriarty placed fifth, and Williams placed sixth.
“This is our third time to qualify to go to nationals in four years,” said Randy Williams, the FFA and agricultural education teacher at Medical Lake.
The FFA took its livestock judging team last year and the horse team went the year before. The students are looking forward to showing off their knowledge in Indiana.
“We’re just going to represent Washington well,” said Samantha Williams. “We’ll try our hardest.”
The judging team is just part of what the students study during the school year. Once they go to nationals, the students will pick an agricultural topic to present at places like the Spokane County fair or the veterinary school at Washington State University. Last year the students presented pros and cons to horse slaughter at the National Appaloosa Horse Club board of directors meeting in Moscow, Idaho.
“You have to actually go out and perform at public forums,” Randy Williams said. The questions that are asked of the students helped them to prepare for the next public forum. Horse slaughter was an emotional topic, he said. The students are now thinking about a topic for this year, and Williams said they are leaning toward California’s proposition 2, which would ban animal confinement.
The knowledge gained by the students in their FFA class will help them in the future. Holznagel said she hopes someday to work in the equine industry. Samantha Williams, a junior, hopes to find scholarship opportunities at the national competition. She said she didn’t think she was going to go into agriculture as a career, but she definitely wants to own a farm someday.
Shines, a junior, said she still isn’t sure what she wants to do, but is keeping her options open. Robinson wants to major in biology and Oliver said she wants to do something that involves animals.
But for now, they are studying up on their knowledge of horses for the national competition – an event the students and their teacher are proud to attend.
“It’s fun,” said Randy Williams. “It gives true meaning and purpose to the program.”