Planks of ebony wood, painted a deep shade of crimson, were nailed side by side to form the walls of the barn. Rusting fans lined the ceiling and produced a deafening roar as they spun. Several animals trailed behind members of the FFA association, while others choose to enjoy their lunch from the comfort of their pen.
One of these members, junior Victoria Francis, pressed her hands against the steel bars and peered into the spacious enclosure, the heated metal burning her fingers. She stepped forward and her cowboy boots, worn from years of use, scraped the side of a silver feeding tray. A nearby lamb awoke to the sound and greeted Francis with a soft cry. She fished a leather lease out of her back pocket and properly wrapped it around the animal’s muzzle. Francis smiled one last time at her beloved lamb and then turned away, leading the animal towards this year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo presentation.
“The rodeo is a good opportunity for students to connect with the community and showcase their hard work we have put into our projects over the past few months,” said Francis.
This year the FFA has the honor of displaying their projects at the HLSR Over the course of six months, students regularly exercised, fed and groomed their animals. In order to control the animal’s weight, students provided their projects with a healthy diet of supplements and vitamins. During the rodeo, members will present their animals to a panel of judges and potential buyers. Judges will observe the animal’s walk and then check if the animal’s body is proportional by measuring its fat to muscle ratio. The winners will attend an auction while the animals with lower qualities will be sold at a barn sale for less profit.
“The amount of food or exercise you give your project depends on the type of animal they are. Overall, what really matters is how healthy your animal is,” said Francis.
After the rodeo showing, FFA members will help setup and host the special rodeo. Unlike the majority of the rodeo displays, the special rodeo was solely created for children with special needs. FFA members will partner with a special needs child and explore the rodeo together, partaking in engaging activities. Petting zoos, face painting and bean bag toss is available to special needs students of any age to enjoy. Junior Lauren Mauney, Vice President of FFA, has participated in the event since her freshman year.
“I am personally looking forward to the special rodeo. I have volunteered at it every year and it is a lot of fun,” said Mauney.