SVHS Reserve National Horse Judging Champions

l-r) The Smithson Valley High School Horse Judging team was named Reserve National Champions in Indianapolis recently. Team members are: (L-r) Madison Oquin, Lindsey Raba, Katie Young, Clayton Elbel, Catherine Fadok, and SVHS Ag teacher and Horse Judging Team Coach Heather Sanders. Elbel was named the first-place individual in the entire nation for earning the most points in the contest.

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Smithson Valley High School’s Horse Judging team earned the chance to compete at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana recently after winning the state contest in Lubbock last spring.

When the competition concluded, SVHS’ team was named the Reserve National Champions. SVHS beat everyone in the nation except for one team.

Smithson Valley High School sophomore Clayton Elbel was named the first-place individual in the entire nation for earning the most points in the contest.

“I was extremely lucky to have a quality group of students that could compete at that level,” said Heather Sanders, SVHS Ag teacher and Horse Judging Team Coach. “There was a bunch of screaming and crying the team was beyond excited. All of our hard work paid off. A team from Texas hadn’t done that well in the National Horse Judging Contest in a very long time.”

At Nationals, SVHS’ five-member team, consisting of Catherine Fadok, Lindsey Raba, Madison Oquin, Katie Young, and Elbel went into a grueling two-day contest to determine the National Champion FFA Horse Judging Team.

On the first day, the team had to judge eight classes of halter (to see if the horse is balanced, structurally correct and judge the overall quality of the animal) and performance classes (equine athletic ability, and quality of movement), then had to give three sets of oral arguments in front of judges defending their placing on the classes. Finally, the team had to test their individual knowledge on an identification test that consisted of horse breeds, tack and colors.

On day two, SVHS had to give a team presentation to a panel of judges.

“After the competition was complete, the team was anxious to find out the results at the banquet that night,” Sanders said. “After dinner was over the officials of the contest slowly started to call out the top ten individuals, that’s when we found out how well Clayton did. Then they started calling out teams, working their way toward National Champions. Each time we didn’t hear our name it was a relief. When they finally called Texas, our team ended up as Reserve National Champions and we were beyond thrilled.”