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Bland takes top prizes in sheep categories at fair

SHERIDAN — It was pretty obvious who ran away with all of the prizes Saturday at the Sheridan County Fair Sheep Show.

Gabriel Bland, 11, won champion in Junior, Market Sheep Showmanship, first in the Market Blackface category, and champion in Whiteface Market lamb. He also took second in class 2 of the blackface market.

This is Bland’s second year showing sheep, but he doesn’t raise them himself.

“I sold sheep to somebody and they bred them and raised them, and then I show them,” Bland said.

Bland wasn’t quite sure what specifically the judge looks for, but thinks the sheep have to be flawless.

“I think she looks for perfect. Like perfect stance and perfect body,” Bland said.

Judge Kinsey Freeman said it’s a little more complicated that.

“In a market class, my number one priority is lots of muscle. But I am not one that is going to go after the heaviest muscled sheep. They have to have the right amount of finish on them,” Freeman said. “In the breeding category, my number one priority is just practicality.”

Freeman has been traveling and judging shows since she was a little girl, received her bachelor’s degree in animal science and is returning for her master’s degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this fall.

Though she showed other animals as a little girl, she says her expertise comes in handy for the sheep shows.

“I actually grew up showing pigs and cattle, and I am the most confident in judging hogs. But my family raises club lambs, so I have been doing that since I was 8. So my experience level in lambs is probably the highest,” Freeman said.

For his prize-winning lambs, Bland took home two Rosetta prizes, a rope halter, a plain canvas blanket and his choice of a prize.


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