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Randolph 4-H Club Provides Training for Teamsters

  • Gail Billings leads her steer Stratton down Bridge Street in White River Junction, Vt., during the Hartford Alumni Parade on Friday, June 22, 2018. Stratton is a red Holstein that Billings estimates to weigh 2,600 to 2,700 pounds. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Krystin Skoda hoses off her team of miniature herefords, Tonka and Truck, before a competition in Bradford, Vt., on Friday, July 20, 2018. Before every competition the steers are cleaned everywhere from the backs of their knees to their ears. Contestants will take advantage of different methods to score points with the judge, such as combing their tails backwards to eliminate knots. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Megan Taylor, 11, of East Randolph, Vt., stands besides Stratton during a demonstration at the Joseph Smith Memorial on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. The Hooves 'N' Horns members attend events every week. “If it's not a demo, it's a fair,” Gail Billings said. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Krystin Skoda, right, keeps her eyes on the judge as she competes at the Bradford Fair, in Bradford, Vt., on Sunday, July 15, 2018. Contestants are required to watch the judge at all times, in case he calls them over to perform a task or to ask a question about their working steer. Skoda's favorite event of the competition is the pulling. It's "very rewarding when you see them go the six feet in the ring," Skoda said. 4h contestants and their steers can be required to pull even further, from 50 to 150 feet in the obstacle course. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Kids surround Stratton as he takes a rest in the grass at the Joseph Smith Memorial during a demonstration in South Royalton, Vt., on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. At 10 and a half years old Stratton is used to being around people. Pulling demos allow the steers of the Hooves 'N' Horns members the opportunity to become comfortable being around large groups of people which in turn helps them during competitions. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Krystin Skoda's steers, Mike and Jonn, become fascinated with an orange lid, attempting to lick it, at the Joseph Smith Memorial, during a demonstration on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. Skoda has been showing steers since she was 14. "She'll try anything," Billings says, because "she knows she can train animals." (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Megan Taylor leads her steers through the toys strewn across her family's front lawn after practicing pulling with them. Taylor attends to her steers three to four times a day to feed, water and clean them. When they were three days old she would get up at 5:00 a.m. to feed them their bottles then get ready for school. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Friday, August 31, 2018

Gail Billings got her first working steer in 1991, as a Christmas gift from her husband, Chris.

The small bull calf was only three days old, but he ended up leading her into a new pastime.

In 2013 at the encouragement of her grandson, Billings joined a working steer group out of Fairlee. The next year she founded the Hooves ’n’ Horns 4-H Club, based in her hometown of Randolph.

Since then, Billings has worked with about 20 children, teaching them to raise their steers, as well as public speaking skills, tolerance, camaraderie and sportsmanship.

She most enjoys watching the increase in the young teamsters’ confidence.

“Once their confidence grows, their skills grow,” Billings said.

She pointed to her student Krystin Skoda as an example: She was shy about driving the steers at first and didn’t want to raise her voice, when she was 14, but after much practice, “instructors were blown away it was the same girl,” Billings said.

In competition, the teamsters and steers are judged on how well the animals stand up to others of the same breed, and are judged on cleanliness, conditioning and the teamsters’ knowledge of their steers and how well they work with them. Teamsters are timed in hitching their team to a cart, and must negotiate an obstacle course. Teams also must pull a weight on a stone boat.

The ultimate goal for competitors is to qualify for the Eastern States Exposition, the Big E, where the teamsters will represent the state of Vermont in competition with 4-hers from the five other New England states.