For horse lovers, Kentucky is heaven.
And the Davis High School Future Farmers of America Horse Judging Team will be visiting the Bluegrass State this fall to compete in the FFA national championship, thanks to a win last month at the FFA state finals at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
To raise money for this dream trip, the team will hold a pony ride fundraiser from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Pine Trails Ranch, 35270 County Road 31 (four miles west of Highway 113).
Pony rides are $5 each, and riders must be at least 3 years old. There also will be treats to feed the horses, and horse painting. The public is invited, and donations toward the trip are most welcome.
To say that FFA students Zoe Strachan-Payne, a DHS senior; Macey Galloway, a sophomore; Lauren Sutkus, a senior; and Ashley Brown, a junior; are thrilled to be going to the national-championship event would be an understatement. And they were delighted to explain what their team does at a horse judging event.
“Along with the other teams from the different high school FFAs, we judge the same classes (in the competition) that the official judge judges,” said Strachan-Payne. “You give a score of up to 50 points, and you see how close your team is to the professional judge.
“Our coach is Miranda Forse, who is studying at UC Davis to become an ag teacher, and she puts together PowerPoints with four horses for us to compare and judge.”
Brown added, “For horse judging, you’ll usually have six classes: Four will be halter classes, two will be performance classes. There’s reining, Western pleasure, Eastern pleasure, English pleasure and hunter under saddle.”
Sutkus said, “We basically give reasons explaining why we placed one horse above another.”
So in addition to being around horses — which is a big incentive for these FFA students — “we develop knowledge of public speaking, and talking about why we choose things and rank things,” Sutkus said. “It’s good for developing professional skills. I want to be an ag teacher, and being on this team is going to help me develop skills (to do that).”
Galloway said her participation in classes related to ag biology and floral work got her interested in FFA.
“I remember seeing on the board at school that if you wanted to be part of the horse judging team, you should come for a meeting at lunch,” she recalled. “And I’ve been coming to Pine Trails Ranch since I was 3. I’m really interested in horses.”
And what about going to Kentucky?
“None of us has ever been there!” Sutkus exclaimed.
“Race horses!” said Strachan-Payne.
“California Chrome!” volunteered Brown.
“Churchill Downs!” added Galloway.
Davis High School ag teacher Ellie Michel — who was recognized as the Rotary Teacher of the Year at Davis High’s award ceremony this week — added her thanks to volunteer coach Miranda Forse, and noted that three of the students who are on this team also were on the team last year.
“We were glad to have them come back and work toward the goal of earning a trip to Kentucky,” Michel said.
Contributions toward the team’s Kentucky trip can be sent to the Davis FFA Boosters Club, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, through Davis High School, 315 W. 14th St., Davis CA 95616, attn. Ellie Michel.
Michel also can be contacted by email at [email protected]
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055.