Confidence, care are keys  to winning big in rabbit shows

Barrett Ledger, 12, of Troy Middle School and the Troy FFA, pets his Californian rabbit doe, Big Momma, before rabbit judging at the Bell County Expo Center on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014.

Michael Miller

BELTON — The confidence and care of a 12-year-old Future Farmers of America student from Troy showed as his intermediate California doe, Big Momma, earned reserve grand champion honors Tuesday afternoon.

Barrett Ledger was first sighted in the sea of rabbit entries at the Bell County Expo Center as one of the only ones holding his entry cuddled securely against his body. Barrett had a calmness that seemed to transfer to Big Momma, and that calmness served him well as Big Momma allowed the judge, Caleb Thomas, of Cloverdale, Ind., to manipulate and carefully examine her.

Barrett didn’t place last year, which was his first year entering the Bell County Youth Fair and Livestock Show. This year was his first time to enter the breeding class.

“I worked with her every day. I picked her because she was calm,” he said.

His mother, Lisa Ledger, said they also chose Big Momma because of her good coloring and markings.

Thomas has raised rabbits for 44 years and has judged since 1983.

“It’s a big honor to be invited to come to Texas to judge because of the quality of the animals and the judges selected to be here,” Thomas said.

The judging of a Californian centers on body conformation, the colored markings and the meaty, wide loin and hips.

But the firm flesh indicates the quality of care, Thomas said.

The judging system allocates 65 points for the body, feet and head; 20 for the fur; 10 for condition; and 5 for color.

“Condition is the glue that makes the whole thing come together,” Thomas said. “The probable show winner will probably come down to condition.”

Barrett’s face and body tensed as he watched the judge examine his doe and then move her to the last pen in the row. He stood there intently watching each move Thomas made, especially as he took Big Momma and one other doe out of their cages four times to examine them from all angles.

“I was a little bit nervous. He took her in and out four times,” Barrett said with an ear-to-ear grin.

The difference between first and second place in Barrett’s division was minute. Big Momma’s first-place win came down to how her body “blended so perfectly and she had a good feel about her,” Thomas said.

Sixteen-year-old Mickinzy Beck from Little River-Academy showed her first rabbit Tuesday and placed second in the intermediate buck competition.

“My rabbit hates people,” Beck said. “I feed, water, brush and massage him every day so he will get used to me, but he just doesn’t like people.”

She said her agriculture teacher, Kelly Jones, encouraged her to enter and recommended either rabbits or hogs as a good place to start.

Aspen Robert with Salado FFA placed first in the intermediate buck competition. Her family has been raising and breeding rabbits for 11 years.

She said she will put her winner back into breeding and also continue to show him in shows at San Angelo, Houston and Killeen.

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