When seven-year-old Austin Petow was given the opportunity to show a Lowline heifer by the name of Frosty, his parents Bruce and Lisa agreed that it would be a great learning experience for their son.
But Frosty needed some work. She had never seen a person the size of Austin, and was afraid of him. When Frosty arrived at the Petow’s farm in Vernon, CT in March of 2013, the Petows had to come up with a plan to make sure Austin and Frosty got to know one another safely.
“What I like about the Lowlines is that they have an excellent temperament,” said Bruce. “For the first month, every day after school, I tied her and Austin sat right in front of her while she ate. If she lifted her nose, he could pet her or at least just sit there with her. She learned to not be afraid of him.”
Once the two were used to one another, it was time for serious show preparation. Although Austin still needs help with clipping, he does a lot of washing, blowing and brushing. “I’m starting him slowly, letting him clip,” said Bruce. “Last year, I let him clip his Chi-Maine cow to get ready for the Big East Youth and Jackpot Show at the Big E fairgrounds. He did her head and neck. If it was wrong, it was wrong. That’s how he’ll learn.”
Austin showed Frosty at the Big E the first weekend in May, where she was named grand champion Lowline female. At the Goshen Fair, she was reserve all other breeds in the junior show. In addition to showing Frosty, Austin also showed an Angus heifer, two Lowline heifers and a Chi-Maine cow with a half-Lowline calf at her side. Although all of the animals did well, Frosty did especially well no matter where she was shown.
“We took the two Lowlines to Louisville,” said Bruce, explaining that Lowlines are shown in three divisions: fullblood, purebred and percentage, or moderators. “Frosty won the junior show, and although she placed second the next day under a different judge, people encouraged us to take her to Denver.”
Bruce says that it’s always been a dream of his to show at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, so the decision was made. “We took her out because we thought we would do well with her,” he said. “We figured we had a good chance at champion or reserve in our division.”
In Denver, Austin showed Frosty in the junior Lowline show, and was awarded grand champion junior showman. In the breed class, with Austin at the halter, Frosty was named champion fullblood female.
Bruce showed Frosty in the open show, and she was named national champion fullblood female.
But it isn’t all about the win. For a young showman, there’s a lot of learning that goes along with that short time in the show ring. “We’re really hands-on with our animals,” said Lisa. “We do a lot of walking, and let Austin walk around in the pasture. We also have him set them up so he can get the feel of working with them and how they will respond to him. He helps when we wash, blow dry and work with the coats.”
Austin knows that it’s important to work quietly and carefully around cattle. “If you run fast behind them, they might get scared and kick,” he said. “You always want to go slow and put your hand out so they can sniff you and make sure that you’re not going to hurt them.”
He also knows that in addition to being familiar with the animal at the end of the lead, he must be able to provide information about that animal. When asked what the judge talked to him about, Austin said, “He asked me when Frosty was born, and it was in May.”
Although he’s involved with other activities that seven-year-olds enjoy, Austin realizes that not all of his friends understand what it takes to prepare an animal for the show ring. He says that when a friend asked him how he does it Austin explained, “It’s just so hard that I couldn’t explain the whole thing,” he said. “I told him that first I get them used to the halter, then get their head up, then keep doing that for a couple of days. Then we put them in a show halter and walk them around in a pen. Then if you feel good doing that, you hold the halter and the lead that’s on the halter, and the show stick.”
The Petow family would like to thank Cold Springs Farm in Belchertown, MA, for giving Austin the opportunity to work with and show Frosty.