Pinedale FFA wins state horse-judging title

PINEDALE – Creating a winning team takes lots of practice and endless confidence, and three seniors and one freshman combined their knowledge and experience to take the Wyoming FFA Convention’s horse-judging title in Cheyenne.

For the Pinedale seniors – Zane Hayward, Morgan Rouge and Gavin Masters – it is a resounding triumph in their last school year after taking reserve championship last year. Hayward and Masters had several years of past experience and Rouge participated last year.

“We knew if we practiced hard and tried, we could do it,” Hayward said.

For freshman Paiyzli Baker, competing against 200 students on 54 teams was an all new learning experience – unfortunately as a champion teammate, she can’t enter the same contest next year but can try her hand at others.

“It’s all a learning experience,” said first-year ag teacher/ FFA adviser Anna Campbell.

She is proud of their accomplishments as ag students and active FFA members. Any student taking an ag class is automatically enrolled in FFA – but it’s up to the individual to step in and decide to make something of the opportunity.

All four teammates and a growing group of Pinedale High school students are very active with parents and friends who help them all succeed. Everyone with interest can find a niche, whether it’s public speaking, raising and judging livestock or serving the community.


The larger community of Sublette County is why Campbell jumped at the chance to come teach at Pinedale High School after graduating from Oklahoma State University and student-teaching in Wheatland.

“I grew up on a ranch in Bondurant and we have a cow-calf operation so I have a lot of experience around cattle and horses,” she said.

Campbell considers herself from Bondurant, where father Lennie and brother Walden work on the family’s century-plus-old cattle ranch. She graduated from Jackson Hole, where her mother Becky Struble was an art teacher.

Campbell spent summers and vacations in the Hoback Basin helping put up loose hay, moving cattle, riding in roundups and cooking for hay crews. She was a “founding member” of the North Star Feeders 4-H Club, raising livestock for the Sublette County Fair.

She got to know many parents before she ever went off to Stillwater, Okla., and having those local ties help her out all the time. When Campbell injured her back badly last autumn and spent weeks recovering, for example, Zane’s parents Jen and Gary Hayward helped out significantly with the horse-judging team’s practices – “I want to give them a shoutout for helping with the heavy lifting,” Campbell said.

Rouge said the early mornings really helped him. “Since November we’ve been coming here to practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays; we have to be here at 6:30 in the morning.”

Through FFA, all four have developed mental discipline, organization and speaking skills that help them not only with judging but many parts of their lives. 

State champs

The four halter classes they judged at the state convention were junior geldings under 3, performance geldings over 4, junior mares under 4 and aged mares over 4. Their four performance classes were reining, hunter under saddle, ranch riding and hut seat equitation.

They learned about what makes one horse’s confirmation and behavior more desirable than another – and then defended their placings later with sets of reasons.

They will represent the state of Wyoming at the National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis in October.

“It’s important to remember the classes in your head, take good notes and being prepared for what you’re going to say,” Rouge said. “We practiced a lot on reasons.”

Reasons can make or break a team’s standing, they agreed.

“You have to actually know what you are looking at,” Baker said.

Hayward explained, “Confidence is the key. Everything is based upon an opinion; you have to believe 100 percent when you give your reasons.”

Masters organizes his reasons in his mind. “You’re seeing both the good and bad qualities of a horse and then remembering them for an hour after seeing them.”

Horses will always be important in their lives through 4-H, work and fun, they said.

And judging at conventions provides them with useful skills.

“These are career development events, designed to set students up for a career in agriculture, which would be specific to each individual but it gives them other skills like public speaking and leadership,” Campbell said. “Within the ag industry, especially within the cattle industry around here, horses are a really important part of having a successful business.”

What’s next

Like many on the verge of graduation, the three seniors are making college plans but with leeway for what opportunities come up.

Campbell herself started out in premed, switched to elementary education and then realized her ranching background made being an ag teacher the perfect fit.

“The stars were aligned,” she said of landing her dream job in Pinedale near family.

Hayward and Rouge plan to attend the University of Wyoming with ag-related majors, perhaps business or rangeland and watershed management.

Masters will study ag business at Central Wyoming College in Riverton.

Horses will always be important parts of their life, whether in 4-H, ranching, cowboying, training or becoming certified judged one day.