Nov. 16 2016 02:00 AM

While I was never good at sports, the showring became my playing field.

As I shoved extra paper towels in my pocket and reached for the familiar feel of the show halter, I could not help but think, “This is it. One last lap.” With my family by my side and my favorite homebred cow on the halter, I stood, waiting to enter the ring for my last show as a junior.

As stated in the subtitle, I was never good at sports, but the showring was my playing field. For 12 years I had walked countless miles around a judge and learned valuable life lessons from family, friends, and mentors who had helped me exhibit my animals. Over the years, I had stood at the top, the bottom, and everywhere in between, but I could always count on words of encouragement and advice from my mother and father who anxiously stood ringside.

Anyone who has ever shown at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Ky., has experienced the long walk from the cattle barns to the showring. I had made that walk many times during my career as a junior, but the journey to the ring this time had a much different feeling.

I reflected on how lucky I was to have such amazing friends and family support me and my passion. I pictured my mother helping lace my boots and fix my hair when I was first getting started. I remembered days of frustration, where it felt like it wasn’t worth it, and the moments of success when I felt on top of the world. I talked with God for a bit during our walk and thanked Him for all the opportunities that I had been blessed with during my time as a junior.

My mind was racing a million miles a minute before I hit the ring. But as I entered, everything was calm. I could not help but tear up as I admired Austin, my 4-year-old Holstein, on our last lap during the Supreme Champion parade. I reached up to hug and kiss her neck as they announced our name as the overall winner.

And just like that, my junior career was over.

I was sad to see this part of my life come to an end, but I felt nothing but excitement for what lies ahead. With two younger sisters, I look forward to watching them share the same love for showing cattle as I did during my junior career. Though I may now only show in the open division, I am forever thankful for those 12 years spent as a junior.

Taylor Leach
Taylor Leach grew up on her family’s dairy farm in Linwood, Kansas. Leach graduated with an associate’s degree from Kansas City Kansas Community College and now attends Oklahoma State University, majoring in animal science and agriculture communications. On campus, she is a member of the dairy club and also works on the university's dairy farm. Leach was the 2016 Hoard’s Dairyman summer editorial intern.