INDIANAPOLIS — The Wadena-Deer Creek horse evaluation team is riding high after earning bronze at the National FFA Convention over the weekend.

The keyword here is earn. The team has been practicing their skills since qualifying for the event back in April 2021. On top of working jobs all summer, they also were busy riding their horses and working numerous events in order to pay their way to this event. The team's assistant advisor Heidi Wolff said they had to personally raise the funds needed to take this expensive trip.

"It wasn't just 'we won and we're going,'" Wolff explained. On one occasion the group, including their parents helped set barrels at a barrel race for about 12 straight hours. "I'm so proud of them," she added.

The horse evaluation team had their hands full evaluating horses separate from each other at the national convention. They took on other students from 39 teams and there were a total of 155 individuals present at the event.

"They all went through the same scenario," Wolff explained. But they all had to do it at different times and separate from one another. There was no talking except when giving their reasons to a four judge panel. For about eight hours they judged and took notes on the reasons they evaluated a horse a certain way. Then, without their notes, they had to explain their reasons. Wolff compared it to standing in front of a jury and giving a testimony.

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Individually, senior Destiny Berg and sophomore Faith Koning earned silver awards, while seniors Lily Roemmich and Codey Wolff earned bronze awards. Combined that brought them a bronze award as a team. Junior Jade Benning served as an alternate on the team.

Exactly where the team and individuals placed among the full group is still unclear but the group awaits that information.

WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum had this to say about the accomplishment, "Congratulations to the FFA Horse Judging Team on their excellent showing at the National Competition in Indianapolis. They have made our school and community very proud!"

How this FFA team from Wadena-Deer Creek made it this far is a testament to their hard work and willingness to work together outside of just FFA related gatherings.

"It's the teamwork," Wolff said of the students. The group includes excellent barrel racers, who on many occasions are in competition with one another. But here, it's about growing together even if they get to compete individually. "They can put aside everything else and they can do what matters."

Getting there

The team qualified for the national event after earning first place at the Minnesota State FFA Convention in April.

RELATED: Wadena FFA horse team prepares for nationals after state win

The horse team qualified for state competition by placing second at the FFA Region II Horse CDE held virtually in March. Team members for the Region II contest were Jade Benning, Faith Koning, Destiny Berg, Lily Roemmich and Codey Wolff.

Those interested in joining FFA should reach out to either Heidi Wolff or advisor Richard Muckala for more information about joining at anytime. Both work within the Wadena-Deer Creek School District.