Thirteen-year-old Aven Horn kept cool under the bright spotlights Friday, and so did her 1,399-pound steer, Bentley, who was crowned grand champion in the junior steer competition at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.
“He has a great personality, and he’s so loving and kind, even if we’re having a bad day,” Horn, a student at Craig Middle School in Abilene, said as a crowd of reporters asked her questions following her win at Watt Arena.
She held only a gentle grip on Bentley, a plush, light brown European crossbred who seemed to soak up the attention.
The junior steer competition is widely considered the most prestigious event at the Stock Show, which will come to the end of its 23-day run on Saturday.
On Saturday, Horn’s steer will be auctioned in the Sale of Champions, and could fetch $200,000 or more. Horn isn’t even in high school yet, but she says that whatever earnings she receives on Saturday likely will go toward her college fund.
For now, she is leaning toward attending Texas A&M University, and perhaps studying something in an agricultural field.
The reserve champion was awarded to Saige Martin of Hereford, a Vega High School student who also celebrated her 16th birthday Friday.
A total of 1,580 steers competed Friday in 45 categories. They competed in six breed categories, and varying weight classes.
Among the class winners was 10-year-old Peyton DeCordova, who sported a blue bow in her golden hair. She confidently handled her 1,100-pound steer Rowdy, even though the animal is roughly 22 times her size.
DeCordova was representing the 4H Club in Groesbeck, a small community near Waco. She was making her second appearance at the Fort Worth Stock Show.
She said Rowdy was her favorite animal.
“He’s really nice and fluffy,” she said, as she waited for the grand champion competition to begin. “And he likes to drink a lot of water.”
All 1,580 animals were adjudicated under the watchful eye of steer judge Chris Mullinix of Manhattan, Kansas. Mullinix provided entertaining details of the animals he selected to move onto the next level.
Speaking of DeCordova’s steer as well as the second-place animal in that class, Mullinix took the microphone and told a crowd of about 1,000 people at Watt Arena, “both cattle are stout, big-hipped cattle. I really like the structure.”
During another judging, Mullinix said of the top two finishers, “Both have a nice shape up high.” Then, he pointed to the winner of the class and said, “He’s a little finer in the shape of his neck.”
At last year’s Stock Show, Mufasa, a 1,329-pound European crossbred steer shown by Ben Bezner of Texline, sold for $200,000 during the Sale of Champions.
That was a nice payday, but $40,000 less than 2017’s top steer brought.
The 2018 steer was purchased by Ross Perot Jr.’s Hillwood Properties during the annual sale of the best junior livestock at the Stock Show.
This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.