Small-town Girl Makes it to FFA Nationals

Ashlea McIntire, Staff Reporter

The horse judging team sat listening as the results of the horse judging competition were read off. They listened as every name in the Bronze Level was read, in the Silver Level, then in the Gold Level, but they never heard their names. 

A little confused sophomore Gabby Shultz began to think, “What is going on here?” 

Then they started announcing the top ten teams in the nation. Ten and nine went by and their name still wasn’t heard. As they named the eighth team, her team slowly realized that their name was being said and that they had gotten eighth in the nation. 

“I felt pretty good,” Shultz said. “I always feel like I can do better and I critique myself, but we got eighth and I feel like that is pretty good, especially since we’d never done anything like that before.”

Even before Shultz joined the FFA team her freshman year, she was a part of the 4-H Horse Judging team. She joined for the simple reason that she has always had horses and it is something that she is passionate about. 

In Horse Judging, the teams judge the horses on several different criteria such as their ability to perform in riding classes. When she joined the FFA team, it was very different than what she was used to in 4-H, so her sponsor Mr. Knight would sit with her during his class everyday and help her get used to the type of questions she would be presented with at contest and how to answer them until she felt comfortable and ready for competition. 

In order to get to Nationals, their team first had to win state in April. After the team got eighth as a team and Shultz got sixth overall, the team set their sights on Indianapolis and Nationals. 

“For about two hours on Mondays and Thursdays our team would get together and practice,” Shultz said. “Then I would do my own personal studying for at least 30 minutes to an hour even if we had practice, in addition to the time I spent practicing in class with Mr. Knight. So all in all, I think I probably studied around 2,000 hours for the contest.”

Traveling to Indianapolis was an experience Shultz said she will never forget. In addition to the competition, it was a bonding experience unlike any other. 

“Exploring Indianapolis was really fun and we went to the racetrack where the Indy 500 was held. It was so cool, and it was really big and we had a blast just hanging out together,” Shultz said.

Since her team won at state, they can no longer compete in horse judging, so Shultz plans on competing in wool this year. At contest, the wool team is tested on their knowledge and their ability to catergorize, rank and grade wool.

“After we won, I didn’t know that I couldn’t compete again in Horse so I may or may not have cried but I’m looking forward to new experiences in wool this year,” Shultz said.