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The FFA Experience by Isabelle Rico

Grooming

When showing, the hairstyle is one of the major aspects. The hair has to be perfectly cut to get the best response from the judge and move on to the next round. This could even determine whether or not you win altogether.

"Sometimes, I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to cutting her hair. I mess it up sometimes and don't do so well, but its all about the learning process. I try to get better every time," Luke Barns said.

They have specific guidelines to how the animals need to be shaved. It really all comes down to the judges preference.

The Barn

Constant sound not matter what time of day or night it is. Whether it is the fans that are constantly getting blown onto the animals, or the animals constantly mooing or bahhing to get your attention. This is the setting that all ag kids get used to and call their second home.

"It's smells a bit bad when you first enter but after a while, you get used to it," Johanna Leduc said. "Same with all the noise, you start to feel uneasy when it gets a little too quiet."

The Look

No matter the setting, it is still important to make the animals look and smell their best. This takes lots of preparation. Everyday they need to be brushed, sprayed, fabrezed, you name it. When it comes to show time, depending on the animal, they get a special coat of oil or cream on their fur to make them soft and show the best of their ability.

"You learn things as you go. I had no idea it was a thing to put something on it's fur until a few shows in. Now I feel like pro when it comes to getting those few extra points in the long run," Barns said.

Showing

Showing is a long process that has the potential to last all day. During this process, there are two rounds. One where the participants are tested on their facts of that specific cattle, and one where they see how they look physically and can determine how well they have been trained by their master. Between the rounds, the participants run around to finish getting ready or going to another barn to support their other friends.

"Sometimes they start acting up for no reason and you can't really control them. I wish the judges could put that into consideration but I know that's just the way of the game," Adriane Plumlee said.

Caring

"It's a hassle sometimes because the barn is in Rendon but it's worth it when I come in to see my baby," Barns says. "She's not the smartest but she tries her best."

A special bond is formed when you have to see them everyday to take care of them. Everyday they wait at the barn for their owner to take them out to walk around, feed them, groom them, clean their pen, all of the above. But this experience is known to be worth it when it comes to the friendships you end up making.

The Outfit

The belt is half the look. When showing, everyone shows up to the barn in their nicest button ups and shiniest belt buckles. The bigger the belt buckle, the more the opponents are intimidated. People of the ag community could end up spending hundreds of dollars on these while others win it from showing.

"It's a conversation starter. I like to learn about others' and how they came to be. Typically when they're won, they have an interesting story that comes after it," Elizabeth Barta said.

The second most important part of the look is the boots. There is so much variety when it comes to the designs. Dimond encrusted, embroidered, etc. You name it, they have it. These can be worth thousands of dollars depending on the design that ends up being chosen.

The Animals

Growing a special bond is a key point of showing. Training them every single day creates an unbreakable bond, making them realize that they are controlled by its owner. Some are shown primarily to gain money but their perfectness while others are shown a few times just to be sold to someone for even more money.

"I try to not gain too close of a relationship with them so I don't get too sad when I sell them. It's hard to see them go but I know it's for a good cause in the long run," Luke Barns said.

The money that is made from the selling of animals is typically spent on more ag products like food or special brushes for their fur.

Dirty work

It's not ideal but someone has to take out the poo. The members of this barn play a little game when it comes to determining who ends up taking it outside to dump it.

"It's not really a game, it's purely luck. If I show up at the end of the day when everyone is leaving or if I'm the last to leave out of the group, I have no choice but to take it outside," said Barns. "Luckily they sometimes spare me mercy and pick up to put in the barrel, I just need to take it out to dump it."

Seniority plays a big factor, typically the youngest one has to put it out because it's only fair in their eyes. The younger ones deal with it because they plan on doing it when they are older.

Touchups

Right before they go into the pen to show their animals, they do their last touchups. Whether thats brushing through their fur or trimming up bits that they missed the first time. They typically show up at the barn a few hours prior to double check and make sure that everything is still working properly and to make sure that their cattle still looks perfect so they don't end up stressing over it minutes before their first round of showing.

Experience

Showing is just part of the experience. Spending everyday at the barn after school to spending hours in a different city supporting each other and their animals is a special bond they that you only create if you end up in this program. It can be hard sometimes but with each other, it's easier to tough it out. This is the type work that can help you throughout a lifetime.

"I have made so many new friends because of this and have gotten so close to everyone. They are practically family at this point and hope this bond with them lasts forever," Luke Barns said.

Cleaning

Though it is a barn, it still needs to be tidy every once in a while. After every visit, the members fix up the barn they it as before they came. That means sweep the dirt back in the pen, pick up the poop left around, and replace anything that was left out before hand. There is typically a system on how things are done throughout this barn when it comes down to cleaning.

" It can get messy in the barn sometimes because when we're at the barn by ourselves, we sometimes let our animals walk around, with assistance of course," Barns said.