10/03/10 — Lamb wranglers keep smile on their face, tight grip on lamb

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Lamb wranglers keep smile on their face, tight grip on lamb

By Staff Reports
Published in News on October 3, 2010 1:50 AM
Last update on: October 4, 2010 10:07 AM

There was more than a little excitement in the novice showmanship class in the lamb competition at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair Saturday.

Wrangling a lamb isn't easy under the best of circumstances, but it is even harder when the wrangler is smaller than the wranglee.

So when one of the competitors lost his grip on his charge and the lamb started a circuit around the ring, it took help from older, more experienced handlers to capture the escapee.

But that's how it is in the world of the lambs and 4-H competitors -- you can't let the judge see you sweat.

And that's how Hailee Whitehurst, 7, of Tarboro managed to capture the blue ribbon in the novice division for 5- to 8-year-olds, by staying out the fray and keeping a tight grip on her lamb.

But the little girl, with red hair, freckles and one missing tooth, credited her experience in the show ring for her calm demeanor.

After all, the daughter of Kim and Ross Whitehurst of Tarboro has been showing animals since she was 3.

But although she was happy to be in the ring Saturday, Hailee was not showing her favorite animal. That honor belongs to the market hogs.

She said her grandmother got her interested in showing livestock.

"It's just fun," Hailee said, when pressed for an answer about why she works so hard to prepare for the show ring.

But even though she is experienced, she admits she still gets butterflies before a show.

"My legs start shaking a little," she said.

For Caley Mayo, 10, competing in the 9-13-year-olds junior showmanship class, keeping a smile on her face and her eyes focused on the judge were most important. And she kept her gaze and that smile in place, even when her lamb decided to head one direction when she wanted it to go in another.

Although the daughter of Travis and Kristy Mayo of Whitakers would not place among the top showmen Saturday, she did take home a second-place finish in her lamb's weight class.

Why does she enjoy showing livestock, anyway? After all, most of it is work, not play.

Competition was the quick answer.

"I kind of like it," she said.

Did she keep that smile on the her face in the ring because she simply enjoyed showing off her animal or because she knew the judges took how she handled herself as well as how she handled the lamb? Both, she said.

"I smiled because I just like being in the ring," Caley said. "And because I know the judge is looking."

Caley plans to show her lamb at the state fair later this month and even has plans to take it to shows out of state later in the season.

Wayne County's lamb delegation was led by the Rosewood High School team.

The program, which started just a few years ago, is growing in popularity among the school's teenagers.

Coach Allison Jennings, who is in her sixth year as coach, said she has more than a dozen showmen -- and hopes that the school's new livestock barn on campus will attract even more students to the program.

"That barn has been a blessing," she said.

Only four of the members of the team entered Saturday had ever shown an animal before, their coach said after the show as the student handlers washed their lambs down.

The experience they gained in handling themselves in the ring was as important as the experience they gained in handling the lambs and goats, she said.

"They did real well," she said.

Grand champion honors for the day went to Ashley Pittman, 16, a student at North Johnston High School.

She has been showing lambs since she was 6 years old.

The hardest part of getting a lamb ready for a show?

"Working them at the barn every night," she said.

And that means every night -- except Tuesdays, when Ashley takes a day off.

She has to work hard to be competitive, she said. From here, Ashley will head to Pitt County's fair, then to the State Fair and then to nationals in Louisville, Ky.

And in the end, when she is finished competing, Ashley has another dream -- to become a veterinarian.

Her mom and dad, Gary and Dawn Pittman, say the work and the competition have been good for their daughter -- and encourage others to try their hand in the show ring.

"If you have a love for animals, get started in 4-H," Mrs. Pittman said.

Taking home reserve champion honors was Sydney Cox.