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Though newcomers, Young Living's Percheron draft horse teams have established tradition of excellence

The big Percheron draft horse teams at Young Living Essential Oil’s Lavender Farm were sparked by an equally big dream.

Upon seeing the gentle giants perform at Colorado’s Big Thunder Draft Horse Show and National Western Stock Show, the farm’s founder, D. Gary Young, wanted a hitch of his own.

“His heart was in the farming, which established Young Living Essential Oils, and the animals were next,” said Liz Davies, senior director of global farm events with Young Living. “He loved animals.”

Young wanted Young Living to not only have its own draft horse team, but also to have that team be the best in the world.

The farm’s draft horse teams and show have only been around for about the past four years, but they’ve learned the ropes at a lightning pace. “Usually they say it takes 10 years to establish an event like this, but we’ve done it in three years,” Davies said.

Amazingly, Young’s dream came true.

The farm’s competition team won first place in several categories as well as the overall premier exhibitor at the World Percheron Congress last year, which is known as the “Olympics of the breed,” according to Tim Sparrow, competition team driver and manager.

In September of this year, the competition team was also crowned the world champions at the North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series.

Unfortunately, Young never saw his dream come to fruition.

“The World Percheron Congress was very special because Gary Young passed away last May, and that was one of his dreams — for his hitch to win that competition,” Sparrow said. “The Classic Series Finals was also another one of his goals.”

Despite Young’s passing and his goals being achieved, the farm’s draft horse teams and program show no signs of slowing.

“We’ve gone literally from having maybe 100 to 200 people in the stands during the day to almost filling the stands,” Davies said. Young Living Lavender Farm’s arena can hold approximately 5,000 people according to Davies, and she said they’re looking to expand the venue.

But what goes into creating a world-class team of horses that stand about 6 feet tall and weigh approximately a ton each? As one might expect, it entails a lot of long days and hard work.

Just getting a six-horse hitch prepped and ready takes about three hours and a handful of people to achieve.

The process begins around dawn with breakfast. From there, stalls are cleaned, horses are groomed and they are tacked up with all the necessary equipment. Horses are then hooked to the wagon, taken through their practice regimen, and once finished, they’re unhooked from all of their equipment, washed off, and eat once again. Throughout the process, both the horses and the equipment are meticulously maintained by Sparrow and his crew.

“I get a lot of attention because I am the driver, but I can’t do this without my crew,” Sparrow said. “They work hard, long hours. They make sure these horses are well taken care of and everything is up to par, and the support from Young Living is great.”

From about the age of 10, Sparrow knew his heart was with horses.

“I grew up on a farm in central Iowa,” Sparrow said. “We raised about 15 Belgian horses and about 50 head of cattle. My father and grandfather hooked a 40-horse hitch every summer for a parade.”

After graduating from high school, his love of horses brought him to work on the farm of a family friend in Plainview, Minnesota, where he met his wife, Brittany, who is now also the assistant driver on Sparrow’s draft-horse team. Their love blossomed through showing horses and milking cows together on the farm. He interviewed with Gary Young for the position he now holds with Young Living in June of 2017, and began working in August of the same year.

Much like athletes on a sports team, each horse has a mind of its own.

“You need to know the best way to motivate your team, each individual on your team,” Sparrow said. “It takes time, different circumstances and different situations to see how horses tend to respond. They’re always evolving and learning.”

During the heat of practice, drivers often work with their horses six days a week. About four or five days before a performance, teams frequently relax to allow time for the horses and drivers to recover. “And then, you can drop the hammer at the show,” said Jason Goodman, Percheron program manager and driver of Young Living’s exhibition team — a separate outfit from the competition team.

According to Sparrow, the competition team competes in about 12 shows a year. Most shows take place in the Midwestern United States, where the draft horse industry has its deepest roots in this country. “Young Living did the least amount of shows among other hitches, but still placed in the top four Percheron teams nationally,” Davies explained.

The season begins in January with the Big Thunder Draft Horse Show and National Western Stock Show. The Young Living team typically takes the springtime off and competes mostly in the summer and fall. In the ranking system they use, points accrue from Labor Day to Labor Day each year.

Much like maintaining these horses, taking them on the road is also no small feat.

“You’ve got to be very cautious with the horses,” Sparrow said. He explained that he takes 10 horses and two semitruck trailers to each show — one trailer for horses and the other for equipment.

“The hauling can be very taxing over the show season,” he said. “Horses aren’t resting when you’re hauling them; a horse has to hold themselves up in the trailer.”

In terms of being an award-winning draft-horse hitch, the key is in the details.

“As a general rule, you’re looking for a uniform hitch,” Sparrow said. He explained that if you’re looking at a six-horse hitch from a profile view, the goal is just to see three horses. The aim is for each horse to be totally in-step with the others, from their hoof steps, their speed, to how they hold their head and how the equipment hangs on them.

In competitions, several draft horse teams simultaneously take several laps around the arena as judges inspect the hitches several qualities.

“There’s no set rules; it’s very subjective,” Sparrow said. Upon completing their laps, hitches line up and judges examine the physical shape of the horses and meticulously inspect the wagon and equipment — all the way down to ensuring all of the horses’ hooves are uniform.

“Just like people, sometimes they don’t respond at the show; they have a bad day, they aren’t feeling good or they’re inexperienced,” Sparrow said of his team of Percherons. “So when it does go right, it’s special.”

The competition team also has to keep a steady pace as it shows to judges, not too fast and not too slow. This is the place for composed, team-oriented horses, not renegades.

However, that’s where Goodman comes in.

“I can use some of those horses that don’t quite fit that,” Goodman said. “That might be some of the renegades. But what we do is a little more on edge, and a lot of those renegades fit that.”

With Goodman’s exhibition team, it’s less about being calm, cool and collected, and more about putting on an exciting show for audiences.

“I’ll take six of them on that wagon just as fast as they can run,” Goodman said. “We’ll throw the wagon sideways — a 3,000-pound wagon behind 12,000 pounds of horses.”

Despite the brawny demeanor of draft horses, Goodman attests that they’re just as nimble as the most athletic of horses.

“Everyone sees a barrel-racing horse or a roping horse and they’re real athletic, and they know how to lay down in the corners and stop on a dime,” Goodman said. “Well, these big guys can do the same thing.”

Young Living raises their own draft horses. At 2 years old they begin training. By the age of 4, they’re placed on either the competition or exhibition teams, or do work on the lavender farm itself, depending on what work best suits them. Among the horses used in the breeding program and the workhorses themselves, Young Living has about 52 gentle giants, according to Goodman.

Besides wowing crowds, Goodman’s routines with his hitch also aim to inform people about the history of draft horses.

“We do a driving demonstration to try to show people what these draft horse hitches used to do in 1800s,” Goodman said. “Semitractor-trailers have only been around since the early 1900s, so before that all freight was hauled in these big wagons. These days all the semitractor-trailers have fifth wheels. Where do you think that came from?” Goodman asked, nodding to a nearby wagon equipped with a fifth wheel.

Goodman explained that the fifth-wheel came to be to help hitches towing large loads be able to maneuver the tight streets of the era’s big cities, and allowed them to back up to loading docks just as modern-day semis do. “We actually do what we call a docking portion of our exhibition where we replicate that,” Goodman said.

Whether it be preserving the history of the draft horse industry or the local history of Gary Young and Young Living, the lavender farm’s Percheron draft horse teams aim to continue to excel in competitions and to captivate a growing number of people into having an appreciation for the horse world’s gentle giants.


AP
Abortion, immigrants, LGBT rights top high court's new term

WASHINGTON — Abortion rights as well as protections for young immigrants and LGBT people top an election-year agenda for the Supreme Court. Its conservative majority will have ample opportunity to flex its muscle, testing Chief Justice John Roberts’ attempts to keep the court clear of Washington partisan politics.

Guns could be part of a term with plenty of high-profile cases and at least the prospect of the court’s involvement in issues revolving around the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump and related disputes between the White House and congressional Democrats.

The court also could be front and center in the presidential campaign itself, especially with health concerns surrounding 86-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Its biggest decisions are likely to be handed down in late June, four months before the election.

If last year was a time for the court to maintain a collective low profile following Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s stormy confirmation, the new term marks a return to the spotlight.

“The court seemed to do everything it could to rise above the partisan rancor,” said David Cole, the national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. “This term, it’s going to be harder for the court.”

How far the court is willing to go in any case that is likely to divide the liberal and conservative justices probably will come down to Roberts. He is essentially the court’s new swing justice, a conservative who is closest to the court’s center. He also has spoken repeatedly against the perception that the court is a political branch of government, much like Congress and the White House.

Last term, on the same day in late June, Roberts joined the conservatives in ending federal court challenges to partisan electoral maps and sided with the liberals to block the administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The new term might pose the sternest test yet of Roberts’ stewardship of the court. Roberts also would preside over any Senate trial of Trump, if the House impeaches the president.

The justices return to the bench today with cases about whether states can abolish an insanity defense for criminal defendants and allow non-unanimous juries to convict defendants of some crimes.

The next day, they will take up two cases about whether federal civil rights law protects LGBT people from workplace discrimination. They are the first rights cases since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who provided the fifth vote for and wrote the court’s major gay rights decisions.

With Kavanaugh in Kennedy’s place and Trump’s other appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, also on the bench, the outcome is far from certain. The Trump administration also has reversed the Obama administration’s view that LGBT people are covered by the Title 7 provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex.

“It would be huge for the LGBT community to have protection in the private sector from employment discrimination,” said Paul Smith, a veteran Supreme Court litigator who has argued past gay rights cases.

Legislation is pending in Congress that would remove any doubt about Title 7’s application in cases of sexual orientation and gender identity, but is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

In November, the justices will hear arguments over the Trump administration’s plan to end the Obama-era program that has protected roughly 700,000 young immigrants from deportation and provided them with permits to work in the United States legally.

Lower courts have so far blocked the administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

As in the LGBT rights cases, the court fight over DACA could be made irrelevant by congressional action authorizing the program. But Congress seems unlikely to do anything before the court rules.

The abortion case probably will be argued during the winter and is another test of whether the change in the court’s composition will result in a different outcome. The Louisiana law that forces abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals is virtually the same as a Texas law the court struck down in 2016, when Kennedy joined the liberal justices to form a majority.

Roberts dissented in 2016, but he voted with the liberals in February to block the Louisiana law, at least temporarily. It was a rare vote against an abortion restriction that could point up the tension between Roberts’ legal views on abortion and his institutional interests in upholding even prior decisions with which he disagrees.

Apart from its lineup of big cases, the court itself could be an issue in the unfolding presidential campaign. Some Democrats and liberals are talking about structural changes to increase the size of the court or limit the terms of future justices.

The 2016 campaign played out amid a Supreme Court vacancy following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February. While Senate Republicans blocked any consideration of President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, Trump released a list of potential nominees and about one-quarter of Trump voters said the Supreme Court was the most important factor in their vote for him.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said Republicans would confirm a Trump nominee to the Supreme Court, even if a vacancy arose during 2020.

Election-year retirements are very unusual, and the two oldest justices, Ginsburg and 81-year-old Stephen Breyer, would not want to give Trump a third high court seat to fill. Both were appointed by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

But Ginsburg has had two bouts with cancer in less than a year, including radiation treatment in August for a tumor on her pancreas. She has kept up a steady stream of public appearances to signal that she is still here. The events, she said, energize her. “When I am active, I am much better than when I am just lying about feeling sorry for myself,” she said at an appearance in New York.

She’s hardly alone on the lecture circuit. Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Gorsuch have been out trying to drum up sales for their new books. Even the newest justice, Kavanaugh, will raise his profile somewhat. He is scheduled to be the principal speaker at the Federalist Society’s November dinner in front of more than 2,000 people.


Faith
featured
LDS Church announces 2020 bicentennial celebration, temple recommend questions update

SALT LAKE CITY — During the last talk of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson announced both an update in temple recommend question wording and that the April 2020 conference will “different from any previous conference.”

Speakers from around the globe encouraged members to stay true to and follow the teachings of the faith during the Sunday morning session of the conference.

Thousands gathered in downtown Salt Lake City, and many more watched around the world, as prominent leaders of the church shared specific ways that members can remain true and grow closer to God — from service, to obedience, holiness and sharing the gospel with others.

The Sunday afternoon session ended with a cliffhanger of sorts, courtesy of Nelson.

In his closing remarks, Nelson designated the year 2020 as a bicentennial year, marking the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s experience known as the “First Vision.”

He said that in celebration, April will yield a general conference different from those in previous years.

“In the next six months, I hope that every member and every family will prepare for a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel,” Nelson said. “… general conference next April will not only be memorable, it will be unforgettable.”

In the moments prior, Nelson also announced the amending of temple recommend questions — the questions asked of members to determine worthiness to enter the church’s temples. The questions, Nelson said, were edited for clarity purposes.

Morning session

Nelson also highlighted the church’s many charities and expressed the joy of helping others around the world, no matter their circumstances.

Nearing the end of the Sunday morning session, Nelson talked about the many services that the church and its members have provided around the world.

“My dear brothers and sisters, the activities I have described are merely a small part of the growing welfare and humanitarian outreach of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Nelson said. “Giving help to others — making a conscientious effort to care about others as much or more than we care about ourselves — is our joy.”

Other speakers provided personal stories and even references to a well-known bit of pop culture to inspire those to stay close with God.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, from Germany, likened the lives of many to the popular novel and film, “The Hobbit.” Though Bilbo Baggins enjoyed his life of living in a neat, tidy hole; when given the chance to go on a great — though dangerous — adventure, he leaves comfort behind. He leaves at a moment’s notice, leaving his home untidy and with little in his hands.

“We could spend a lifetime waiting for that moment when everything lines up perfectly. But now is the time to commit fully to seeking God, ministering to others, and sharing our experience with others,” Uchtdorf said. “Leave behind your hat, walking stick, handkerchief and messy house.”

He went on to encourage those already walking the path to have confidence and press on. For those who have maybe left, he asked for them to return.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong, of the Quorum of the Twelve, was among the first to deliver a message, and he encouraged members to seek belonging in the covenant. Though one could lose faith in God along the path, God never loses faith in us, Gong said.

“However often we stumble or fall, if we keep moving toward Him, He will help us, a step at a time,” Gong said.

Sister Cristina B. Franco, second counselor in the Primary General Presidency and a native of Argentina, told heartwarming stories of those spreading the gospel and finding joy in doing so.

She asked if members of the church should be always willing to spread the gospel to others, or perhaps share a copy of the Book of Mormon with them.

“Can we be more like our Savior Jesus Christ and share with others what brings us joy to our lives?” Franco asked. “The answer to all of these questions is Yes! We can do it!”

Elder Gary E. Stevenson, of the Quorum of the Twelve warned others of being swayed by false prophets, while using lighter stories of a mischievous child painting a dog and kids being told to beware of nearby skunks.

“These stories about innocent children discovering something about life and reality may make each of us smile, but they also illustrate a more profound concept,” Stevenson said.

He advised of those adjusting truth to be portrayed as what they want to see, and the dangers of Satan’s deceit.

“Satan, the father of lies and the great deceiver, would have us question things as they really are and either ignore eternal truths or replace them with something that appears more pleasing,” he said.

Afternoon session

The afternoon session reflected a caring tone, with love, hopefulness and happiness as some of the topics discussed.

The session kicked off with President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, addressing the crowd about the value of holiness and happiness in people’s lives.

Overall, Eyring said he hoped to communicate to everyone that true happiness comes from holiness.

“My prayer for today is that I may help you understand that greater happiness comes from greater personal holiness so that you will act upon that belief. I will then share what I know for myself about what we can do to qualify for that gift of becoming ever more holy,” he said.

Elder Hans Boom added to the theme of hope with a story about a gong as it was transported to a Tabernacle Choir concert in Europe, noting its large size. Though it had a minor role in the concert, it was important and necessary nonetheless.

“Sometimes we might feel that we are, like that gong, only good enough to play a minor part in the performance. But let me tell you that your sound is making all the difference,” Boom said.

Large or small, everyone plays an important role in life, he said.

“Wherever you are on the path of life, some of you might feel so overburdened that you do not even consider yourself on that path. I want to invite you to step out of the darkness into the light,” Boom said. “The Gospel light will provide warmth and healing and will help you understand who you really are and what your purpose in life is.”

Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles M. Russell Ballard encouraged love in his talk about death, and submitting one’s spirit to the Lord. He spoke specifically about the death of his wife, Barbara. He encouraged everyone to make the most of the time they have.

“Brothers and sisters, please do not miss an opportunity to look into the eyes of your family members with love. Children and parents, reach out to each other and express your love and appreciation,” Ballard said. “Like me, some of you may wake up one day to discover that the time for such important communication has passed.”

During his remarks, Elder Peter M. Johnson warned to not be discouraged and to have hope.

“My dear friends, please do not let anyone steal your happiness. Do not compare yourself to others. Please remember the loving words of the Savior: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,’” Johnson said.

Elder Neil L. Andersen, of the Quorum of the Twelve provided hope for those who have sinned, with an offbeat topic for his talk that caught some off guard and made others hungry — fruit. Not the physical fruit, per se, but he said that during Jesus’ early ministry, he compared good fruit to eternal worth.

“This precious fruit symbolizes the wondrous blessings of the Savior’s incomparable Atonement,” Andersen said. “Not only will we live again following our mortality, but through our faith in Jesus Christ, our repentance and keeping the commandments, we can be forgiven of our sins, and one day stand clean and pure before our Father and His Son.”

Nelson concluded the two-day conference with his best wishes for members, “I leave with you my love and my blessing, that each of you may become happier and holier with each passing day.”