Learning new equine skills through competition

| Preview: UF horse-judging contest slated in April |

A 17-year old Lake Wales girl is gearing up to participate in the 4-H/Future Farmers of America (FFA) Horse Judging Contest at the University of Florida (UF) next month. Emily Eckstein, a Polk County homeschooler, is part of an intermediate horse-judging team that is too young to participate in the contest with her. [emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]

For Emily, it is her last chance before college. “I like being able to see all the horses. It’s teaching me a lot about the different breeds, helping me look for different characteristics,” she says.

The April 6 contest will include up to one senior 4-H team per county, plus the top 15 FFA chapters that qualified at the State Fair, says Dr. Saundra TenBroeck, state extension horse specialist and UF associate professor of Animal Science.

There are eight classes in the competition, four halter classes where horses are judged (without riders) for balance, muscles, and structural correctness, and four classes judging performance with riders.

A UF horse-judging school in December kicks off the program. Entrants have until March 29 to register. Dr. TenBroeck says the contest is open to those who own horses and those who don’t. It teaches decision-making skills and evaluative judgment. “We can teach kids a lot about selection and evaluating horses. They know what an athlete should be able to do,” she explains. “We’re teaching subject matter — also something they can take on through life.”

Winners receive trophies and ribbons; first place receives travel money to the national competition.

Under leadership from their coach, Desiree Tarango, the Polk County team of four competed at the Florida State Fair this year and placed 14th out of 25. “It was fun,” Emily says. “I think it will be a lot of fun doing this one also.”

“It’s fun learning about horses with friends. I enjoy competing and representing my county,” says her teammate, Marisol Tarango, Desiree’s daughter. Marisol and her sister Marissa, along with Emily and her sister Abby made up the team, which prepared for seven weeks for the State Fair competition.

“It’s fun to see all the different horses and to be on a team working together,” Marissa says. “I like judging … it’s just fun!” Abby says she was honored to be part of the Polk County team and enjoyed assisting judges at local horse shows.

“It has been my pleasure in guiding them through this learning experience!” adds their coach, Desiree Tarango. “Next year we will have a senior team.”


story by CHERYL ROGERS [/emember_protected]

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