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Showmanship offers lessons in rabbits, life

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With the help of rabbit judge Zach Weber, Casen Eoff, 7, of the Denim and Dust 4-H Club, turns his rabbit on its back during the rabbit showmanship competition Monday morning at the Chaves County Fair. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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Teaching today’s youth the finer points of showmanship with their rabbits is important to Zach Weber, Hobbs.

As he judged both the rabbit show and rabbit showmanship Monday morning at the Chaves County 4-H and FFA Fair, he asked the contestants about their rabbits and took time to instruct them in posing their animals and how to easily flip and hold them on their backs for examination.

That’s not something Weber said he had when he was raising and showing rabbits in his youth. He began breeding rabbits at age 5 and brought his rabbits to the Eastern New Mexico State Fairgrounds, where the Chaves County Fair conducts its events.

“This is the table I showed at and I won a lot of trophies on this table,” he said after the showmanship contest in the rabbit barn.

“When I was growing up there was no one that really showed interest in teaching,” he said.

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“My parents invested in me, and I found a mentor. He taught me a lot. I’ve just carried that tradition in teaching kids and mentoring them all along the way,” he said.

He’s part of the Southwest Regional Rabbit Breeders Association, whose Rabbit Exploratory Program aims to educate youth about showmanship and raising rabbits including nutrition, breeding and illness prevention.

“This show didn’t happen last year because of a rabbit virus so It’s important we know disease and illness prevention,” he said, referring to rabbit hemorrhagic disease.

Learning to care for rabbits and show them teaches responsibility, he said, but can also give children an adventurous life, Weber said.

“Rabbits have taken me, in my life, to astronomical adventures,” he said.

“I’ve met some incredible people. When I walk into a showroom, I can name 100 people that I know, and every one of them, we all have respect for one another,” he said.

Rabbits make a good project for kids, Weber said, because anyone can raise them.

“You can raise them in your backyard. You can raise them in the city. A lot of people who do raise rabbits live in the city limits, and you’ll see that some of the most competitive breeders in the county, and even 4-H kids, their rabbits live in the city,” he said.

Miley Williams, 9, of Roswell’s Shepherd’s Flock 4-H club, won best in show in rabbits Monday, her first year in showing rabbits. Her mom, Breanna Williams, said Miley would have shown last year if the show hadn’t been canceled due to the rabbit virus, but Miley had been putting in about two to three hours of work a day with her rabbits.

The winners of the showmanship awards will be announced in Thursday evening’s awards program.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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