MOUNT VERNON — The pride and prestige of the short and furry, and large and massive, strode through the dog show competition Tuesday evening as 4-H youths participated in the showmanship event.
Although the Knox County fair is 3 1/2 weeks away for most people, for 4-H contestants, the fair has already begun.
Three age classes participate in the dog showmanship contest: Junior, 8 to 11 years; intermediate, 12 to 14 years; and senior, 15 to 18 years. Each class participates in the interview and showmanship portion of the competition. During the interview, contestants respond to age-appropriate questions taken from the Ohio 4-H Dog Resource Handbook, and demonstrate their knowledge of their dog as well as the dog’s care and welfare.
In the showmanship portion of the judging, participants are judged on three areas: Handler appearance and attitude, grooming, and handling of the dog.
As participants enter the ring, the judge asks them to “stack” along the wall.
“The judge will then call each one over one at a time, ask them some questions and talk to them one at a time about their dog, and then ask them to do patterns,” said Christine Hohman, co-organizer.
There are four types of walking patterns involved in the judging: A straight line, an “L”, a triangle, and a “T.” Participants must be able to do them all, although the judge may only ask them to do one.
“Each [participant] will do whatever pattern the judge will tell them to do and then they will go around the ring, and then it will be time for the next one,” said Hohman. “And when the judge is done with each one, she will have them do what is called ‘gaiting’, and they will go around the ring a couple of times.”
In this portion of the competition, Hohman said, the judge is judging showmanship, not the animal.
“They want to see if the person knows their animal and can show their animal to make it look the best it can be,” she said.
A master showman is chosen from among the first-place winners in each age group.
Sisters Anevin and Anesha Tharp took the top two honors in showmanship Tuesday. Anevin earned master showman and Anesha finished with reserve master showman.
“The top score in each of these are eligible to enter the master showmanship class and they will come back and do performance showmanship in front of the judge,” said Larry Hall, OSU Extension 4-H educator. “The judge will pick the grand and reserve out of the master showmanship. The grand champion will then participate, during the fair, in Showman of Showmen, where they show all the different animals that are offered.”
“All of them have been excellent,” said Jill Lindsey, who has judged the 4-H competition for the past five years. There are several things she particularly looks for while judging, including dress and appearance of contestant and dog; whether each person can control the dog and knows the patterns; and that each participant can work with the dog.
Seth Papham said he thought the competition went very good and found it to be easy. Papham showed his 4-year-old bull mastiff, Mack.
Papham is 13 years old and has been participating in the competition for five years, and said it was very easy to train Mack.
“Actually, I didn’t have to train him really hard, he is a fast learner,” he said.
“I got [Mack] when he was 7 weeks old,” said 13-year-old contestant Anesha Tharp. “He is very smart and easy to train.”
Tharp said it took no time at all to teach her 2-year-old Australian Shepherd, Ozzie, how to sit and lay down.
For Tharp, this is her sixth year competing in the dog showmanship. In years past, she has taken her Beagle Yorkie mix and a Jack Russell, and out of all the dogs, she said she found Ozzie the easiest to train.
“I love being in 4-H and I like to show,” said Tharp.
Altogether she has 15 4-H projects, including dairy, beef breeding, rabbits, turkeys, market goats, market lambs and breeding sheep.