Seth Gillespie didn’t dream of blue ribbons for his Dorpers before he got to the Stock Show.
But he might in the future.
The 18-year-old Hamilton student’s sheep won five consecutive blue ribbons in the Stock Show junior breeding sheep show Monday morning and then capped the day off with the champion and reserve champion ewe titles for the breed. Those titles came just days after his sheep captured the regional youth Dorper title Saturday.
“It was luck,” the home-schooled teen said Monday morning after his victories. “Some days are better than others, and that’s what happened today.”
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Not bad for an exhibitor who once didn’t care for showing sheep.
“I was in the third grade the first time I showed and the sheep’s head was on my shoulder,” Gillespie said. “I had such a hard time. I hated that first show.”
But his mother, Denise Gillespie, said that didn’t stop him.
“He just kept getting better every year,” she said Monday. “And now this is his last year to compete in junior shows and he has earned those blue ribbons and championships.”
Seth Gillespie’s journey into sheep competition wasn’t a big surprise. The family has had a sheep ranch near Hamilton for years.
“I was riding horses as soon as I was big enough to be strapped on a saddle,” he said. “But one day, Dad just asked me if I wanted to show sheep, and I said sure.”
The teen still rides horses, competes in team roping events and trains hunting dogs. But for the last nine years he’s focused on Dorpers and is president of the American Dorper Sheep Breeders’ Society youth division.
On Monday morning, his show ring experience was evident. Competitors struggled at times with their ewes before Judge Leslie C. Harris of Orange Grove, but Seth Gillespie had complete control of his.
“They are scared of everything so you have to be calm out there,” he said. “Don’t be nervous, because if you are they can sense it. And don’t put your hands all over them because they don’t like that.”
On the other hand, his father, Doug Gillespie, was pacing the sidelines like a college football coach as his son took one blue ribbon after another. The elder Gillespie started at the north end of the arena, moved to the east side and then came back to the northern end.
“I have to keep moving,” he said.
By the end of the six Dorper ewe classes, Seth Gillespie and his sheep had taken four blue ribbons. They won their fifth in a class where a pair of ewe lambs was shown. Minutes after winning his last blue ribbon, he showed his winners, and two of them captured champion and reserve champion titles.
“I never get tired of showing them,” he said. “I hope to keep doing it for a long time.”