Orion FFA places second in state contest

Amelia Martens
Orion FFA members who placed second in the state horse judging contest are, from left, Sawyer Shattuck, Cassie Catlett and Sara VanIseghem.

Three members, eight practices, and a Saturday spent at Black Hawk East College all paid off for the Orion FFA Horse Judging Reasons Team.

On Saturday, Sept. 20, team members Cassie Catlett, Sara VanIseghem and Sawyer Shattuck placed second at the Illinois FFA State Horse Judging Career Development Event held at Black Hawk East, Kewanee.

To prepare for the contest, the trio attended six practices hosted by Orion FFA Advisor Jay Solomonson. At these practices, members were briefed on what to look for in a horse. Through the use of DVDs and practice scorecards, the members developed their judging skills. 

John Wolf, a retired equine science professor from Black Hawk College, also assisted with two of the practices. 

One of those practices was held at Bohl’s Horse Farm outside of Sherrard, where members were able to judge live horses.

When competition day finally arrived, the team was well prepared and confident. At the contest, the team judged eight classes of horses, from best desirable to least desirable, based on their physical characteristics, frame and muscling.  

After judging was complete, every member of each of the 14 reasons teams was called into a room to talk to a judge.  

In the room, each team member explained why they had ranked a class of horses as they did.

Out of 14 teams from schools all over Illinois, Orion placed second. 

Cassie Catlett tied for third place individually out of fifty-four individuals.

Catlett said that she really enjoyed the contest and recommends it to all students who have an interest in horses.

VanIseghem said, “I learned how horses are supposed to fit together properly.”  

She added that participating in the contest gave her a better idea on what to look for in horses when picking one for her own use.

Shattuck’s advice for all potential horse judging participants is, “Attend all practices.”

He said that the best way to learn is by practicing. Shattuck commented that participating in horse judging and other livestock judging contests would help him when he is farming later on in life.  

All three members and their FFA advisor are very excited about their success as a team.  

“This is the highest that Orion has ever placed in the contest,” Solomonson stated.  “I’m extremely proud of our horse judging team this year.  They put in a lot of time.”