Local 4H member sparks animal handling show for special needs persons


By Tom Corrigan



Show participant Beth Grate and the rabbit Midnight she featured during the show.

Show participant Beth Grate and the rabbit Midnight she featured during the show.


Holly Blevins, kneeling, showed off Molly the calf belonging to Haven Hileman, standing.


Emma Lauder of Minford was key to starting an animal handling show for special needs persons. Here, she shows off the awards given during that show Thursday. As shown by her sash, Emma was also a member of the Queen’s Court for this year’s fair.


Emma Lauder, 17, of Minford, has been a 4-H member for 10 years. She regularly raises and shows goats.

“They’re just really funny to watch,” Emma said regarding her enjoyment of goats.

Mom Melissa Gompp adds her daughter has created and involved herself in numerous so-called self-determined 4-H projects, which simply means those projects are on topics of specific interest to Emma. However, Emma said she really got inspired at a 4-H conference three years ago.

Gompp teaches special needs students at the Vern Riffe School in Portsmouth. Emma commented she’s been around special needs people all her life.

“I really just wanted to do something to help people,” Emma said. She took her case to the Scioto County Fair Board and the result was the first “A Day in the Ring:” A Special Needs Livestock Show featuring special needs juveniles and adults showing rabbits, goats and calves with the help of 4-H members.

“It went really smoothly,” Emma said of the inaugural show.

Emma’s efforts also recently won her an award at the Ohio State Fair.

Locally, the tradition continued at the Scioto County Fair midday Thursday.

“It’s very much a lot of fun,” said participant Beth Grate, who was showing off her rabbit, Midnight. Grate, 19, of Portsmouth said she really enjoyed learning how to handle Midnight, whom she named, correctly. Grate had the help of Junior Fair Queen McKinley Flinders of McDermott.

McKinley talked a bit about her love for rabbits.

“They’re kind of my specialty,” McKinley said, further noting even full-grown show rabbits are somewhat fragile and need to be handled with that in mind, something she was happy to share with Grate.

Show participant Jessica Riggs, 36, of Wheelersburg, said she learned about three different types of goats for the fair show. She ended up choosing a small goat because, she admitted, they are easy to handle.

Holly Blevins, 14, is no stranger to animals having ridden horses for five years with a Portsmouth group known as Blazin’ Bridles. At the fair Thursday, Holly was showing a three-month old calf by the name of Molly with the help of 4-H member Haven Hileman, 15, of Portsmouth.

“She’s very good with the animals,” Haven said. “I never had to worry about anything.”

For her part, Holly didn’t have a lot to say. Mom Cristy Blevins said she was very happy her daughter was invited to take part in the special needs fair show.

“We think the animals have been very good for her, said dad Rusty Blevins, who added Holly can now ride by herself.

“That’s not something we thought we’d ever see,” Rusty Blevins said.

As part of the recent fair show, participants were given T-shirts with the slogan “It’s not our similarities that make us unique. It’s our differences.” Gompp said her mother used to tell her that saying almost daily.

For the future, Gompp said the hope is to continue the shows at the fair and increase their visibility. There were 18 participants this year. Emma said the shows are a great way for different types of persons to get involved with animals and even 4-H. She noted she spends months readying her goats for shows but added it’s obvious it’s not practical for some people to devote that kind of time to an animal.

Show participant Beth Grate and the rabbit Midnight she featured during the show.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2018/08/web1_Beth-Grate-A.jpgShow participant Beth Grate and the rabbit Midnight she featured during the show.

Holly Blevins, kneeling, showed off Molly the calf belonging to Haven Hileman, standing.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2018/08/web1_Holly-and-Molly-A.jpgHolly Blevins, kneeling, showed off Molly the calf belonging to Haven Hileman, standing.

Emma Lauder of Minford was key to starting an animal handling show for special needs persons. Here, she shows off the awards given during that show Thursday. As shown by her sash, Emma was also a member of the Queen’s Court for this year’s fair.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2018/08/web1_Emma-A.jpgEmma Lauder of Minford was key to starting an animal handling show for special needs persons. Here, she shows off the awards given during that show Thursday. As shown by her sash, Emma was also a member of the Queen’s Court for this year’s fair.

By Tom Corrigan