Next week when most O’Connor students start their summer vacations, Wyndser Baker will help Mark and Laura Brown load a trailer with some of Wyndser’s closest friends and travel to Fort Worth, Texas.
Upon arriving in Fort Worth, Wyndser will start the long and grueling process of trying to win her share of over $200,000 in scholarship money. The pressure will certainly be on her and her four-legged friends.
As a member of the Texas Longhorn Breeders’ Association, Wyndser and her companions will be participating in the Autobahn Youth Tour. This program will award over $200,000 in scholarship money to youth from across the country during the annual show slated for June 12-17.
The Autobahn began as a dream of John and Diann Chase during the summer of 2000. They provided $10,000 for scholarship money to be divided up among winners of 10 different shows.
Over the years, show organizers have consolidated the number of shows from 10 to 1 and have increased the scholarship money to over $200,000.
Wyndser began showing longhorns when she and her parents moved to Grey Forest in the summer of 2016. During the school year she enrolled in the Sandra Day O’Connor FFA program where Steve Chumbley, Director of the Agriculture Science Programs, introduced Wyndser to Mark and Laura Brown.
Mark and Laura Brown have a long and dedicated history of assisting FFA and 4H students in starting their own show career. The Browns recognized the valuable lessons exhibitors learn as they work and prepare their animals for show.
The Browns own the longhorn steers but expect the exhibitor to work constantly with their new four-legged friend. This work includes feeding, exercising, and preparation for the show ring.
One notable difference with all longhorns except for intact bulls, these animals can be shown the length of their lifespan which can be as long as 23 years.
Wyndser is no stranger to success in the show ring. In February she and the Browns traveled to the West Texas Longhorn Association show held during the Fort Worth Livestock Show and Sale. This show happened to be the first time for Wyndser to enter the show ring with her beloved Dak.
Although nervous the judge tapped Dak and Wyndser did exceptionally well. After exhibiting DAK, Wyndser grabbed the leads of a brindle steer, Zippity Do Da.
The combination of Wyndser and Zippity were about to become one for the book of success. Zippity was selected by the judge as the winner of his class. Zippity was then exhibited against other class winners where he was once again named champion. In the final round Zippity faced a much older and more developed steer but with Wyndser setting him up and showcasing him to the judges, Zippity was named Grand Champion Longhorn Steer of the show.
Wyndser received a championship belt buckle, a ribbon and banner to serve as a record of her accomplishment.
After February, Wyndser and her companions continued to travel across Texas to participate in different longhorn shows to practice and build skills for the “big show.”
Watching Wyndser inside the barn at the Browns’ ranches you notice an immediate connection between her and her four-legged friends. Wyndser does not just show love and affection to Dak or Zippity. She visits with each longhorn in and near the barn.
Although she may try to hide the smile, as those around watch she leans close and whispers to each. She spends time talking and visiting with her friends.
Wyndser entered the show ring in February as a nervous teenager–one that spent more time quietly observing than interacting with her peers.
This too changed with her win in Fort Worth. The Browns and her parents comment on her newfound confidence. Wyndser has also spent time in the show barn building friendships with her two-legged peers as well.
On the day I visited with Wyndser and the Browns, a light rain fell around us. This never deterred Wyndser from running up to Dak and Zippity. She ignored the rain, helped feed each steer and then brought him under the barn to introduce him to me.
Wyndser’s love of longhorns have grown so much she and her parents have purchased their own longhorn cow and are expecting an addition to their herd. When pressed Wyndser felt guilty about naming Dak as her favorite.
At the Autobahn exhibitors will also compete in the showmanship contest which judges the skills and abilities exhibitors use to exhibit their entry. The show awards over $48,000 in scholarships to the winners.
Participants also have the opportunity to take part in the speech contest, the extemporaneous essay, short course, cookie contest, art contest, and a shop (ag mechanics) contest.
In addition to showing longhorns, Wyndser plays the piano, creates artwork, reads, and plays chess.
She is a member of the Helotes Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Wyndser, her parents, and the Browns load the trailer next week and become Fort Worth bound. Inside the truck and trailer are show veterans hoping they will impress the judges and earn Wynsder top prize money for the week.