By Kim Walter
WOODSTOCK - The Sharon Lilly 4H/FFA Show Arena was packed for Wednesday morning's Goat Showmanship event at the Shenandoah County Fair.
Around 60 local youth came out to compete at the senior, junior and novice level for champion and reserve showman titles. Nerves were high leading up to the first round of showers, as participants made last-minute cleaning and prep efforts.
Even the experienced senior level showers admitted to being nervous.
It was the novice, or first time, showers who seemed to keep their composure.
Ten-year-olds Shyann Jordan of Edinburg and Emilee Guzman of Woodstock snuck in a little extra hang-out time with their goats as they waited for their turn in the ring.
"Goats are so much fun," Shyann said. "They're a lot like dogs, I think. I don't mind spending time with them at all."
Emilee said she usually spends one or two hours a day with her goats in order to bond with them, and make sure their daily needs are met.
"I think I could spend even more time than that with them," she said.
Shyann agreed, calling the animals "loveable."
Part of the showmanship event is remaining calm even when an animal gets out of control. Shyann and Emilee said they've both seen it happen to others, and felt bad for them.
However, they both said they felt their goats had relieved themselves of energy.
"Mine pulled me around the whole barn," Emilee said.
Both girls only weigh a few more pounds than their respective goats, making it even more important for them to stay in control. But, even if they had to wrestle an animal to the ground, it probably wouldn't phase them.
"That's just part of showing animals," Emilee said. "You have to get a little dirty sometimes ... it's not a big deal."
The girls are happy to work with animals, as both of them have pretty regular access to farms. However, they aren't sold on the idea of showing cattle, at least not until they get a little older.
Participating in programs like 4-H also keeps them around animals and agriculture. Both girls plan to join Future Farmers of America as soon as they enter middle school.
The event's judge, John Ebersole of Duncannon, Pa., gave the novices tips as they walked and positioned their goats around the arena.
"Characteristics of the best showmen are always great eye contact and ring awareness," he said. "But really, if you've been working hard, all that will come through."
Ebersole remembered being a novice years ago. He admitted that he still gets nervous before a show, even after all the work he's done with a variety of animals.
"You can spend every minute of every hour of every day with your animal, but if they decide to be stubborn when you're walking around the ring, then none of that really matters," he said. "You just have to keep working."
As novices, Ebersole advised the kids to use their first show as a learning experience. Most importantly, though, they should have fun.
Shyann went on to be selected as the Novice Reserve Champion for the goat showmanship event. As her name was called, her smile beamed out to the stands full of family and friends.
Winners received ribbons and some cash, as well as bragging rights for the next year. Those things didn't matter much to Shyann, though.
"I've been around animals since I can remember," she said. "I do it for the fun."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org