Rascally rabbits make for lively competition | VailDaily.com

Rascally rabbits make for lively competition

Nicole Frey

EAGLE – Molly Smith held her rabbit against her chest, put her left hand on its back and grabbed its ears with her right. Pulling the bunny off her, she tried to lay it down on its back, but Thumper wasn’t as thrilled about the idea. The rabbit wriggled in protest, and Smith quickly hugged it tighter to her to quell its wiggles. She took a deep breath, let it out forcefully and giggled nervously.”OK,” she said, and tried again. This time the rabbit went down, albeit unhappily.Competing in the senior class of the showmanship 4-H rabbit show – for 14 to 18 year olds – Smith’s only competition was Tony Carthy on Friday afternoon at the Eagle County Fair. Both were determined to secure the 2006 Senior Showmanship Rabbit Grand Champion title, but only one teenager could have it.

Smith had finished pointing out the features of her rabbit, overcoming little snags with her willful fur ball when a judge Luke Newlon of Penrose asked her a question she couldn’t answer. “What color is your rabbit?” said Newlon, who has judged rabbit shows for seven years and raised rabbits for 12. “Um … gray? Silver?” Smith ventured. It turned out her fluffy friend was opal colored, a special color classification in Rex rabbits.Carthy, with his white and gray California breed rabbit, easily answered all the questions and went on to win first place in the competition, but Newlon said he was pleased with both teenagers’ performances. “They really know their breeds, and I really like to see competence like that,” Newlon said. “Even if something goes wrong, they just get back in it.”With the blue ribbon firmly in his grasp, Carthy took it easy until the market rabbit competition. But the hard part was over. “The showmanship part is more hands on,” Newlon said. “You’ve got to know about the rabbit, got to turn it over, be able to identify different aspects of the rabbit.”The market and breeding competitions involve no owner/animal interaction. Newlon examined the rabbit in a cage and compared it to the standard for the breed. The rabbit closest to perfection wins.

With half a lifetime of 4-H experience under his large, metal belt buckle, Carthy, 15, is an old pro at showing off his animals. In addition to the rabbits, Carthy shows steer, goats and sheep.”Sheep are the easiest to show,” he said. “You don’t do anything with them. The rabbits are easy to take care of. You just feed and water them.”With several generations of 4-H-ers behind him, it’s no wonder Carthy and his three siblings have amassed dozens of blue ribbons over the years. “They learn so much from 4-H – responsibility, public speaking,” said Carthy’s mother Karen, who is now a 4-H leader, coordinating 36 children and their animals to 4-H glory. Karen Carthy’s sisters, Kim Olson and Kris Whittaker and their children are all involved in different aspects of 4-H, from drill teams to cat shows. But the 4-H family goes beyond blood, the three sisters said.

“The family is everybody in the barn,” Karen Carthy said. “Like yesterday, Tony forgot his belt, and I went looking for a boy about his size. I told him, ‘I need to borrow your belt for about an hour,’ and he took it right off, didn’t ask any questions. That’s the kind of support we have for each other.” Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or nfrey@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado

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