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Horse-Judging Team Wins State


Four Canyon Lake High School students captured first place at a horse-judging competition in Lubbock on April 21, earning the school’s FFA its first state championship.

In October, freshman Madison Crowder, junior Makenzie Knipe, senior Sarina Mims and junior Emily Boylan will head to nationals in Indianapolis where they’ll put their practiced eyes to work observing and ranking horses based on their breed characteristics and confirmation.

To win, they’ll also have to prove their expertise in nine performance classes that evaluate various equestrian styles, including western pleasure, western horsemanship, English and western judging.

“They are four highly intelligent, very motivated  young ladies that are very supportive of each other,” says Ag Science teacher and FFA advisor Amanda Cutsy. “They are so easy to work with. They would do anything I asked them to.”

As if horses weren’t enough, Crowder and Knipe also compete in ag sales and Mims — who is one of the top 15 students in her graduating class —  participates on the vet-tech team and science fair.

“This isn’t a one-stop shop for these ladies,” Cutsy says. “They’re good at everything they do.”

After graduation, Mims will head to Texas A&M to become a vet.

CLHS’ FFA program is a three-part system divided between classroom instruction, supervised agriculture experiences and leadership.

Makenzie Knipe’s mother Sunnye Knipe, owner of Sunnye’s Stables, says the state champions are obsessed with horses. In their spare time, they pour over YouTube videos about horses and take every opportunity they can to observe them.

“The more horses they see, the sharper their eyes will be at picking out the flaws and see the good quality,” she says of their preparation for nationals.

If they choose to, the students can go on to become professional judges. But their training and dedication in the show ring also boosts their confidence and teaches them to write speeches and make presentations about their findings.

But horse judging also improves students’ public speaking skills and teaches them to defend their choices before judges.

“It really translates into life in a lot of ways and it gives them the confidence to follow their dreams and pursue their passion,” Knipe says.

She adds the FFA program also would benefit any students who might like to own a horse some day. Quarter horses are the most-prominent breed in Texas and Oklahoma, “so that’s mostly what you will see at contests.”




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