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Mississippi 4-H horse team wins national contest
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Experience, not age, was the key for five Newton County 4-H members as their knowledge of horses and participation in previous competitions took them to first place in a recent national competition in Denver.
The team had some of the youngest participants in the senior division of the Western National 4-H Roundup Horse Bowl. But at age 15, these young teens were not new to horse bowl competitions.
Team coach JoAnne Nicholson of Lawrence said they competed against some 4-H members who are already in college. The Newton County team's experience in junior competitions helped. Competing as juniors, the Newton team won the state title twice. Team members include Anna Alexander, Anna Leach, Lindsey Bishop, Trace Taylor and Paige Nicholson, who placed second nationally in the individual competition.
Mississippi's senior team from Desoto County also won the national horse bowl competition in 2006.
“A 4-H horse specialist several years ago pushed our kids hard and fast. That helped us get our act together and be ready to compete at the senior level,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson started her career as a 4-H team coach when her children took part in horse judging. She started coaching the horse bowl teams before her granddaughter on this year's team was old enough to take part. A dairy farmer herself, Nicholson also has worked with the county's dairy judging team.
“The children come to my home about the time I get in from milking,” Nicholson said. “They are an amazing group of young people. They love each other and have a good time together. They are very responsible and serious about their studies. In Denver, this team never lost a round, and they had to play undefeated Texas twice.”
Dean Jousan, 4-H livestock specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said competitors need quick responses to buzz in with the correct answers to succeed. Questions tested their knowledge of many equine-related topics such as breed associations, anatomy/physiology, reproduction and equipment.
“The horse bowl includes two rounds. In the first round, it's a one-on-one competition. The second round is a team effort,” Jousan said. “More difficult questions are added for bonus points.”
Nicholson said the depth of knowledge made this team unbeatable.
“So often, you have one or two who carry the team. In this case, each member pulls his or her own weight,” she said. “Being able to answer the bonus questions can make the difference in winning and losing, so when they put all their heads together, they had the answer.”
With the youth and chemistry between the Newton County team members, Nicholson said she expects more successful competitions in the years to come.
For more information on 4-H livestock and horse programs, contact the local Extension office.