The National Western Stock Show is the premier livestock show in the United States, and it draws talented competitors from across the nation to contend for glory on the Hill. The variety and intensity found only at national shows is what keeps contestants like 16-year-old Maddie Unruh from Peyton, Colorado coming back.
“My favorite part of National Western is seeing the different goats from all around the country,” Maddie said. “National shows like this are always fun because of that. They are a lot bigger and there is more competition. I love that.”
Maddie started showing market goats at the young age of eight, and she has been working to improve each year. She has been showing at the county level for eight years, and this is her third year exhibiting at National Western. Competing here has only fueled her competitive fire.
“My goal this year is to raise the grand champion goat at my county fair, that is what everyone wants, but I’m going to make it happen,” Maddie said. “By going to National Western, I get to see what the best goat in the country looks like and even compete with it. By seeing the different animals, it gives me a chance to really improve my performance both in showmanship and market classes.”
Maddie is just now breaking into boer goat production. This was a particularly special year, because her market goat Jack is the first one she exhibited that she kidded out of her own herd.
“I probably won’t raise my own goats forever, but I definitely want to raise my own animals while I am still in 4-H,” Maddie said. “It made it more special, and I got a lot closer to Jack since I raised him, and I am proud of that.”
She credits much of her success to the support and relationship she has with her dad, Clint Unruh. He is the official veterinarian for her county, and he has always been involved in Maddie’s showing career.
“Showing is a family affair,” she added. “My dad is always there if I need something, even just a hug. Whatever it is, he’s there. He is always willing to help me with anything, whether it’s bringing the tack from the trailer, or holding my halter outside the show ring.”
Her dad stressed the importance of showing market goats, or any livestock, to teaching young people life skills.
“Showing requires parents to work with kids and give them lots of responsibility at an early age,” Clint Unruh said. “After several years, it is fun to watch your kids move into roles like taking care of fitting the goat. I used to have to help a lot, and now she does all of it. It is a great family activity for everyone.”
At the end of the day, this father daughter duo remember to be light-hearted and enjoy their animals.
“I always try to focus on having fun,” Maddie said. “Goats make that easy, they each have such a funny personality which makes them really great to be around. When it comes down to it, as long as you’re having fun that’s what really matters.”