The 2022 Texas A&M Horse Judging Team, housed in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Animal Science, made history this year.
The team won the All American Quarter Horse Congress for the first time in nine years and finished the season with a reserve finish at the American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Collegiate Horse Judging Contest.
The team is led by Sarah Schobert, equine lecturer and horse judging team coach in animal science and graduate assistant coach, Hannah McLochlin of Plymouth, Indiana.
Winning contests is important to team members and coaches, but it is not the only reason students come from across the university to compete on judging teams. Megan Miller ’23, an animal science major on the team from Boerne and Raylee Ezzell ’23, a biology major from Wheelock, shared their experiences from the horse judging team.
What have you gained from being on the team aside from bettering your horse judging skills?
Miller: Honestly, it has been immeasurable. Although I feel as though I could write a book about everything I have learned from this team, I have a hard time believing words alone could encompass the amount of wisdom and growth I have personally seen within myself, nor the gravity of the relationships I have built. After being on the team, I gained lifelong friendships. Our team is truly a family of its own.
On a personal level, horse judging has and continues to teach me numerous lessons. Over this growth curve, I have developed my confidence, leadership abilities, patience and my understanding of the true meaning of perseverance. Although preparing for the contests was challenging enough, we had to learn better time-management skills, as our personal lives and full-time student workload could not simply be put on pause. Lastly, horse judging has helped me grow professionally. Our coach prioritized each of our career paths beyond graduation and facilitated preparation for success. To do this, we have had professional interviews and been provided with feedback. We have also been taught proper etiquette, attire and various ways to stand out to future employers. On top of this, being on the team has exposed each of us to many of the companies and leaders within our fields of interest.
Ezzell: Judging provided many valuable skills outside of the confines of a contest. It improved my critical thinking, taught me to apply previously learned information to make decisions under pressure, improved my memorization ability and taught me how to explain my decision-making process in an organized manner. No matter what profession you go into, these are skills that will make you more successful in any field.
What was your favorite thing about being on the team?
Miller: If I had to sum it up, it would be the friendships I’ve gained. Throughout my life I’ve been on various teams, but none of them have compared to the sense of unity I’ve felt here. It’s difficult, though, to have one favorite thing about this team. A few others would be the conversations in the van, the nights before the contests and weekly practices. I also love that even though the season has ended, we have prioritized making time for each other with dinners, movie nights and cook-outs.
One of the things I value most about being on this team is seeing everyone not only competing individually but wanting their fellow team members to have their best day. Our team was strong because the team truly came before the individuals.
Ezzell: My favorite thing would be the relationships I was able to form. Judging has not only provided me with networking opportunities with industry professionals but has also given me lifelong friends. I have spent countless hours in practice, at workouts and in the van traveling with my teammates and coaches. During this time, we would talk about everything from horses to our life goals, to our struggles and our faith. I came to know and love all seven of my teammates as they shared their life and stories with me. I also knew that my teammates had my back and would be there anytime school or life got difficult. My teammates and coaches have helped me grow into a better person, as each and every one of them has taught me something. My favorite part of judging was seeing my team also become best friends and each other’s biggest supporters. Our time on the judging team might be over, but I know that no matter what I face in the future, I will have nine people there to support me and help me through.
What was it like winning the Congress and being reserve at the World Show?
Miller: Winning Congress with my team will be one of the greatest and most memorable accomplishments of my life. Making history by itself was rewarding enough, but coming from a team, who as a majority, was brand new to judging made it that much more special.
Coming back two weeks later and earning the reserve champion title at the World Show as a team was proof of our continuous hard work and dedication. The most memorable part of this contest was reaching our team goal of having each team member place in the top 10 in a category.
Ezzell: It was really special to see this team be successful. Most of my teammates had very little judging experience when we started in January, but throughout the spring and fall, I saw each of them grow tremendously. This team continually worked hard and always made sure we were supporting and encouraging each other. Having such a supportive group of teammates made the win even better because we were all genuinely proud of each other. I think that every person on our team would agree that our successes proved that when you put the time and effort into a goal, you can see success even when you start out as underdogs.
What was it like being on a judging team while also being a full-time student?
Miller: Being on a judging team while also being a full-time student requires a lot of self-discipline and time-management. However, I would tell anyone over and over again it is worth every bit of it. One of the best life lessons I learned was: control what only you can control. I initially used this quote for judging contests, but it slowly showed its importance in other aspects of my life. If you apply yourself, you can accomplish anything.
Ezzell: Traveling while being a full-time student definitely had its challenges, but I also think it provided me with skills that will be helpful throughout my life. It taught me to be more efficient with my time and to not stress about every little thing. I have a very Type A personality, and I am in a challenging major. Judging taught me to do the best I can with the time I have and to not stress about the rest. When I learned to reduce my stress and be efficient with my time, I actually started to do better in my classes.
What advice would you give to future students interested in joining a collegiate horse judging team?
Miller: Take the leap of faith. Judging can transform you in more ways than you can ever imagine and provide you with friendships that will undeniably last a lifetime. This program is truly life changing. The most amazing thing about this program is that students who have decided to try it can provide their own unique testimony as to how much they’ve learned and how they want to continue being a part of it for the rest of their lives. That is something powerful.
Ezzell: Give it a try even if you are unsure. When I talked to Coach Schobert for the first time about judging, I didn’t think I was good enough to be judging at the collegiate level. But throughout my time on the judging team, I have seen that if you are willing to dedicate the time and put in the work, the coaches will ensure you are not only prepared, but competitive. It is easy to doubt yourself, but don’t let fear hold you back from opportunities. Being on the judging team has been the highlight of my college experience. It has helped me grow as a horsewoman, made me a better person and given me my best friends.
2022 Horse Judging Team
The 2022 team representing Texas A&M is comprised of students both within and outside the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
- Hailey Bell ’23, Department of Animal Science, McKinney.
- Raylee Ezzell ’23, Department of Biology, Wheelock.
- Megan Miller ’23, Department of Animal Science, Boerne.
- Kelsey Morgan ’24, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Molalla, Oregon.
- Kensi Parker ’23, Department of Animal Science, Boerne.
- Grace Ritter ’23, Department of Animal Science, Nome.
- Courtney Wall ’23, Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Bryan.
- John Wofford ’23, Department of Animal Science, Rusk.