Some of you may be reading this solely because of the title. After all, showing in Junior Showmanship after aging out is unusual, but it is an obtainable experience. For Taylor Ault of Knoxville, Tenn., the chance to do just that became possible on three separate occasions.
Taylor aged out of juniors back in August 2012, but before she did so she made sure to gain her qualifying wins for three different shows: the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, Westminster Kennel Club and her regional Junior Showmanship competition held just over a week ago. You can read all about the regional here.
Now in college and putting some scholarships gained through her Junior Showmanship career to good use, Taylor shared just how it felt to show in juniors after aging out, so let’s hear exactly what she has to say about the experience…
Kayla Bertagnolli: Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. First let’s start off with a brief background of your time in the dog and Junior Showmanship worlds.
Taylor Ault: I have loved the Golden Retriever breed for as long as I can remember. I finally got my first puppy, ‘Makayla,’ when I was 12 years old. We started out in some puppy obedience classes where I learned about rally and agility competitions. This began my participation in performance events, and we achieved all the way through her RAE and multiple agility titles. We also began (and still do to this day) taking her to an assisted living home where she is a therapy dog and visits the residents once a week.
A couple years later in 2009, when I was 14, we had a break where there were no agility or rally classes being held, and I decided to just try conformation. I learned the basics on my Golden, but then a local German Shorthair breeder, Missy Neal of Slipstream GSPs, took interest in me and let me see how I liked showing her young finished male, ‘Cosmo.’ We had a lot of fun working together, and we shared an incredible bond.
A few months later she let me co-own him and I began showing him in juniors. We got all three novice wins in a row very quickly, and I was suddenly in the Open Senior class. I showed him all the way through 2011 when I finished the year No. 1 German Shorthaired Pointer Junior, No. 3 in the Sporting Group and No. 8 overall in the country. Then a second place at AKC/Eukanuba National Championship was such a dream come true.
In my last year of juniors in 2012, I was given the opportunity to work with some incredible Goldens. Marilyn Spahr took an interest in my love for Goldens, helped me achieve my dream of training and showing a Golden puppy, and allowed me to co-own a very special boy, ‘Nemo.’ Through Marilyn, I met Nemo’s breeder Leeah Chew of My Buddy Goldens, who had bred ‘Blue,’ a top-ranked Golden. I had fallen in love watching him the first time I saw him in the ring. Soon after, I began working and traveling with Leeah, and she gave me the awesome opportunity to co-own and show ‘Whitney’ and ‘Blue.’
KB: After aging out, you qualified for AKC/Eukanuba where you made it to the finals and placed. How awesome did that feel after not being in the Junior Showmanship ring for several months?
TA: I was a little worried, since I hadn’t shown in Juniors in so long, but I came into the 2012 show wanting to have fun showing in juniors for the last time at AKC/Eukanuba. I was so shocked just to make the finals, but placing again was a dream come true, especially having the honor of handling Blue. Since I had placed in juniors at Eukanuba 2011 as well, doing it all over again in 2012 was just unbelievable – definitely one of my favorite moments of my juniors career.
KB: You also were able to compete at WKC 2013. What did you take from that experience?
TA: Before I began showing dogs, I remember being amazed watching Westminster on TV, and to be able to go for the third year in a row at WKC 2013 was amazing. It was such an honor to be able to compete at such a prestigious show.
KB: I understand that at the Kentuckiana Cluster Regional Top Junior Handler Competition it was your very last time competing as a junior handler, but you aged out in August. Can you tell us about the experience in whole?
TA: I loved showing in juniors. It really teaches you a lot of life lessons, such as hard work and how to have fun with your dog through both the wins and the losses. I apprenticed under handlers and breeders during juniors, and I especially loved to learn about the other breeds and the way they are groomed and shown. I also made many friends that I know I will have for a lifetime. I will miss the fun of showing in juniors, but I look forward to what lies ahead.
I showed for the very last time in juniors at regionals in Louisville. It felt weird to be back showing with other juniors at a regular show since I hadn’t been in a regular juniors ring since before I aged out in August. I showed Nemo, who was the first Golden I had ever shown in juniors. I had trained him for the show ring since he was a puppy, so it was special to be able to finish off juniors with him. We didn’t win anything, but we had so much fun showing again in the juniors ring. I had an amazing few years in juniors.
KB: How are you involved in the sport today?
TA: Since I started college, I haven’t been able to show quite as much, but I still work with training and showing young dogs here in my area, and I’m working to finish Nemo’s championship. I plan to get back into showing more in the summer when I am off from school.
KB: Where are you currently attending collage and what are you studying?
TA: I am finishing my freshman year at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville this semester, studying animal science. I am using the two scholarships I won from AKC/Eukanuba, and also a scholarship from the AKC that I received last year.
KB: Do you do anything fun in your so-called free time?
TA: Working with the dogs is my first passion, but when I am not busy with school or shows I love attending my university’s sports events, Go, Vols!
KB: Some of your friends still may be competing in Junior Showmanship. How do you support them?
TA: I mostly encourage them to enjoy the time they have in juniors. Whether you win or lose, you can always learn something new at every show and have fun with your dog. Embrace the opportunity to learn more about the sport, your dog, and most of all learn about yourself and what you can achieve.
KB: Did you have any mentors while competing in Juniors?
TA:Yes. I have been so blessed with such amazing mentors in this sport. I would not have gotten this far without their letting me work with and show some incredible dogs.
KB: Any last words?
TA: Just a HUGE thank you to all the breeders, handlers and mentors who mean so much to me in the sport of dogs: Karen Echternacht, Missy Neal, Wendi Brown, Lara Spears, Leeah Chew, Marilyn Spahr, Jim and Alisa Andras, and many more. I would not be where I am without any of them. Each has taught me so much, and I have enjoyed every part of it. Also a special HUGE thank you to my parents for all their support helping me do what I love. I couldn’t have done it without them. And lastly, a big thank you to all the judges who have rewarded and recognized us in the rings.
KB: How incredible! Thank you once again for answering my questions, and thank you for proving that Dogs Freakin’ Rule!