Along with rides, games, and competitions of strength, the Prince County Exhibition gave a chance for 4H participants to show off their hard work in raising and caring for animals.
4H is a youth organization for people between the ages of nine and 21. The program builds leadership skills and life skills, with strong roots in agriculture as well.
Animals being judged included horses, dogs, sheep, poultry, and rabbits.
With rabbits, there were a few different categories for entries, including junior doe and junior buck pets, junior doe fancy, junior buck fancy, senior doe fancy and senior buck fancy.
Getting the animals ready to show happens almost right up to before they’re shown.
“Usually the night before, you groom them, and that includes brushing out all their mats, cutting their nails, and making sure they’re in good condition,” explained Torrie Coughlin, who was showing several rabbits, along with a rooster. “With my rabbits, the coats isn’t a very big thing with them, but they want to be in good shape, they don’t want to be overweight or have missing toenails, because that’s a disqualification. To be toward the breed standards, they should be in good condition toward that.”
The breed standards Ms Coughlin is referring to are the written standards of perfection, set by the American Rabbit Breeders Association. Each rabbit has a written standard of perfection, broken down into points.
Depending on the breed, a rabbit could have 15 points for the head, which would include shape, eye shape, colour, ear set, and ear length. For fur, it would be not just the quality of the fur, but the texture, density, and colour as well.
There’s also a showmanship class.
“In showmanship class you’re looking at the member’s ability to handle the animal, to show the animal to its best advantage, and the knowledge that person has on the animal that’s showing,” explained Hal Perry, MLA for Tignisg-Palmer Road, and this year’s judge for lamb, poultry, canines, and rabbits. “It could be the age, how to properly get it into position. You can judge on how much work they’ve done at home prior to getting here on their ability to handle and transition from different poses.”
While making his judgements on the rabbits, Mr Perry asked a variety of questions about the rabbits, including about their colouring, feed, and other details. He also asked participants to show the straightness of their rabbit’s tail and ears, along with showing how the animals’ nails looked, before having participants prove their knowledge of rabbit anatomy by pointing out various areas of their rabbit’s body, including rump, flank, shoulders, crown, and more.
Ms Coughlin’s rabbits received the first place ribbon for many of the categories she took part in. The 16 year old has been taking part in 4H for seven years now. One of her favourite parts of being in 4H is the opportunity to meet new people through the various travel opportunities the organization has.
Jackie Harlow, one of the coordinators at the event, thinks youth getting the opportunity to do things with people their own age is great.
“In clubs, they are very much responsible for running their own clubs, so it puts a bit of responsibility on young people,” she said. “There’s a lot of things that they get to try, and they get to be around a very supportive group of young people and adults, so they get a nice safe space to try things and fail, and succeed.”
All three feel it’s important to be involved with 4H, not only for the social or responsibility aspects, but also to help with self-confidence.
“In high school, we do a lot of public speaking, and a lot of kids get really nervous,” said Ms Coughlin. “I’m not a very nervous person to begin with, but I find 4H and just getting out more and talking to people has helped me be a better speaker.”
Mr Perry said university professors can almost go through their class and pick the 4H kids out because of their ability to follow through the projects and their ability to communicate. He noted how much a person can change over the course of their time with 4H.
“You’ll have a kid that comes in the first year, and they’re up on the stage, there’s no eye contact, you can’t hear them mumbling, they’re hiding behind their paper,” he said. “Second year, you can hear them. Third year, they’re up, their shoulders are back, they’re relaxed, they’re making eye contact, they’re projecting well, their enunciation is there. That’s what you’re looking for. You’re giving them that confidence, and not only confidence in their communications project, but the confidence that they build by showing their project.”