Archive for Youth Profiles

Cristy Nurse – Standing Tall

An unfortunate injury sidelined Cristy Nurse from competing in the London Olympics.  (For those of you who wish to know more about Cristy, check out our article Cristy Nurse: From Show Ring Beauty to World Class Rower).  However, the part that has inspired this article is not that she did not compete but rather the class and dignity that she handled it with.

I have had the fortunate opportunity to know the Nurse family for almost 25 years.  One of my first recollections of them is Kenda (Cirsty’s mother) judging me during 4-H dairy competitions.  Kenda was the first female judge I had ever showed in front of and I was extremely impressed.  Women like Kenda and Nancy Hazeleger have been great role models for many of the young female 4-Hers who were looking to make their way in a male dominated industry.

The fine examples set by Kenda and Jeff (Cristy’s father) are probably a big part of why Cristy has been able to handle this very challenging time with such class and dignity.  The passion the Nurse family puts into everything they do is outstanding.  Whether it is dairy cattle, Clydesdale horses, or rowing, there is always a focused effort to achieve a very specific goal.

christy and robThat is why the way Cristy has handled this only amazes me more.  Imagine all the time and effort she has dedicated while putting her life on hold to train for the London Olympics. “To be named to the team is great, but to be sitting in the starting gate on race day was what I have been striving for, so yes, it’s a real mix of emotions”, comments Cristy in an email.  “I am still very proud to be part of the Canadian contingent in London, but of course it’s extremely disappointing to have gone through all the selection and to have been successful but ultimately not be able to race,” she said. Her boyfriend, Rob Gibson, was a member of the Canadian Men’s eight Team.  She is there seeing all the success of others around her realizing their Olympic dream.  It could bring most people down.  Cristy stands tall.  A beaming and passionate support of both teams.

During the interviews that aired during the coverage, the team members were asked what makes London 2012 different from Beijing in 2008, where the Canadian team suffered a heart breaking 4th place finish.  Each and every one of them said that it was the “seat race” they had internally to determine who would be on the team.  No one was guaranteed their seat.  Everyone had to prove themselves.  Cristy was selected to be the London 2012 team.  What a testament to how far she had developed since taking up rowing in 2006.

On her Facebook page, she said, “The power of sport – hundreds of crazy Canadian fans in tears (of joy) this morning at Eton-Dorney.  So amazing to be there and so proud of Rob and the boys.  Spontaneously bursting into tears every few minutes.  Back tomorrow to watch the girls give it their everything – Go Canada.”  Wow!  It shows the quality of person, friend, and athlete that Cristy is.  All of these attributes she humbly says are ones she learned from her parents and growing up on the dairy farm.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It’s interesting in our first interview with Cristy she pointed out “Work ethic is engrained pretty early on.  Few things can harden your resolve to improve like being left on the outside of the ring in a showmanship class or not making the cut at a major show.” Well Cristy, I would think that this is another.  Your handling of this has shown once again, how classy you are.  I am sure we will be seeing you at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil or wherever your passion leads you.  You have achieved many amazing things and no doubt there are many more to come.  Thank you for being an exceptional Canadian role model and showing us how to stand tall!  Olympian indeed!!

KIDS, CALVES and COMPETITION: Safety in the Dairy Ring

dairy cattle showing youthOne of the outstanding benefits of living on a dairy farm is that it provides the opportunity to learn how to compete in the dairy ring. Working with dairy animals improves physical fitness, coordination, self-discipline and teamwork, but these beneficial activities can also put participants at risk for injury.

Show-related injuries are preventable.  It is a matter of protecting bodies, while they are still growing and just beginning to understand the skills involved in working with animals. Unlike sports such as baseball or hockey where flying objects can cause injuries to the face, the danger in the show ring  most often lies in the child’s awareness of the living, and sometimes unpredictable, animal at the end of the lead.

Training of both the child and the animal is the key to avoiding injuries to both participants.  Of course, it is up to the adults in charge to make sure that youth participating in the events are safe from foreseeable harm.

Dairy Show Injury Prevention Tips

  • Dress participants in appropriate protective equipment. Most sports teams require participants to have specific equipment that is the proper size and adjusted to each athlete. We should do the same for young cattle show persons. Footwear that can withstand tromping on and that is safe from slipping in wet, muddy or messy conditions. Steel toed work boots are the safest choice. Flip flops, clogs and bare feet are strictly unacceptable when working with cattle.  If proper protective equipment isn’t available, it is NOT alright to go ahead.  It teaches two incorrect things: a- the rules don`t count  b- rules can be broken.
  • Proper halter size. A halter that is too big is dangerous as it can be easily pulled off. The halter should not cause discomfort to the calf. As well, make sure the lead shank is neither too long nor too short. This is where experience will be the best teacher but don`t let the handling of the halter or lead become a bigger job than moving easily with the calf.
  • Maintain safe show ring conditions. Wherever, cattle are being shown, basic safety precautions should be in place. Clear the area of debris. Beware of broken glass, rusty nails, used syringes, rocks and other items that would increase injury if a child fell or slid on them. If this will be an outdoor event, watch weather forecasts; have a set of guidelines for postponing the event, if necessary.
  • Have an emergency plan for injuries during shows. If at all possible have an adult trained in first aid techniques on hand. At least have an adult with a charged mobile phone. Provide the adult supervisor with a notebook of emergency phone numbers for parents or guardians of all participants. Carry a well-stocked first aid kit.
  • Enforce basic sportsmanship rules. This is the beginning of learning how to care for animals, prepare them for showing and putting forth their best feet forward in the ring. By all means, prevent bullying of competitors by adults or children. Young show persons need to focus on showing, not on their shame, embarrassment or humiliation.
  • Ensure children drink plenty of liquids. In the excitement of participating in this highlight of dairy cattle this may be overlooked and could result in dehydration. This is especially important in high heat, high humidity or high altitudes or with children who are novices and may not have experience in maintaining control of their animal for an extended time.
  • Provide proper training and skills building for young show people. Select a calf that will be a suitable size for the child to work with and show. Begin training as soon as possible. Training is not something that can be done in a couple of days! As the child builds fundamental skills, they will gain confidence in handling the calf and in presenting it for the judge`s consideration.
  • NEVER wrap the lead rope around the hand, arm, wrist or any body part. If they are bound like this and the heifer moves away quickly, the child could be seriously hurt.


When children are properly prepared to show dairy cattle, the skills they learn and mentors they meet will last them a lifetime. Safety first.  Memories forever.

Cristy Nurse: From Show Ring Beauty to World Class Rower

Whether it`s at the Royal Winter Fair or The World Rowing Championships Cristy Nurse aims high! In September 2011 she was part of Canada’s women’s eight team and brought home the silver medal from the World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia. Today she is giving everything she’s got to earn a spot on the team that will compete in the 2012 Olympics in London, England. Focused, excited and committed to standing on the podium, she modestly gives a lot of credit to her farm background for the opportunities that have opened up for her.


Cristy Nurse ShowingTwenty-five year old Cristy grew up on her parent’s dairy farm, Monteith Holsteins, in Georgetown, Ontario. “My parents exhibit both dairy cattle and Clydesdale horses, so I became involved with competing at an early age. I also began competing in hunter/jumper competitions when I was young and continued to keep a horse and compete until late in high school. Through 4-H my sister and I also acquired and began breeding and showing sheep, so we truly had a well-rounded experience in terms of animal care and competition.”


Cristy is well aware that many kids from farms don’t get to compete in a lot of sports or activities because of their responsibilities at home and then she adds, “For me, it was the exact opposite. My dad would always say ‘You can milk cows for the rest of your life if you want to, but you only get a chance to do these things once. He often stayed home and would do chores alone so my mom could take my siblings and me to our practices and games. I really could not have achieved much in sport without that kind of support from both my parents.”


Jeff and Kenda Nurse deflect praise saying, that “From the time she was a little girl, Cristy always gave 110%.” Both parents are qualified judges but they are quick to note. “Cristy started showing young but we never pushed her into it. She started showing at several small fairs, where it was fun and she was successful. She would get nervous but not frightened. We always had Cristy show her own calves at all the major open shows we went to as well.” Jeff feels strongly, “I think it is a mistake to bring in a ‘ringer’ to show a 4-H member’s calf. This gave her confidence that we believed in her ability.”


Beyond their obvious family fondness for livestock, the Nurse family enjoys watching and participating in sports and have always been big fans of the Olympic Games. Cristy recalls that “Rowing was a sport we watched together and I always found it exciting to see how much the country gets behind its athletes during those big Olympic moments but I never had access to a club.” Fortunately, as Cristy proceeded toward her career goal of becoming a lawyer she was able to give rowing a try. “In 2006, I got a summer job interning at a Mississauga law firm that was reasonably close to the Don Rowing Club, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity.”

As Cristy Nurse prepares for the Olympics she shares three medal winning success secrets:


After playing a year of varsity basketball at the University of Guelph, I was looking for a new sport and a new challenge. At the Don Rowing Club Cristy recalls, “I took to the sport very quickly and began to have race and physiological testing results that caught the attention of the national team coaches. By 2010 I was invited to move to the National Training Centre in London, Ontario.” This has meant raising the bar on her goals. “Right now, I am in Olympic Selection Camp, which is essentially a narrowed-down group of athletes who are still in contention for spots on the Olympic team. I won’t know until the end of May if I will be on the Olympic team, so my biggest goal right now is to be re-selected to the women’s 8. And, of course, to stand on the podium at the London games if I do so.”


Cristy points to her farming background as the place she first learned her work ethic. “Work ethic is engrained pretty early on. Few things can harden your resolve to improve like being left on the outside of the ring in a showmanship class or not making the cut at a major show.” Far from being discouraged by these experiences, Cristy is grateful. “My parents were always very big on sportsmanship and they definitely would not indulge us if we wanted to pout after getting beat, whether it was at a cattle show or in athletics. “ She advises those who are following their dream: “Learn to take criticism from a coach or teammates and use it to improve rather than get upset about it. This has been crucial in my development, and that’s something that a childhood of competition prepared me for.”


Everything is a competition. You are constantly being watched and compared to your peers. I try to remember that – every workout is its own “race”, and I just keep trying to be the best competitor I can be. One of Cristy’s early coaches, Paul Westbury, told her “You are only limited by what you are willing to put into the sport. To which this rising medalist adds, “He taught me to never settle for small results – to believe that I could wear the maple leaf one day and always keep striving for that.”

Cristy Nurse : Sportsnet magazine - The Beauty Issue

Cristy Nurse : Sportsnet magazine - The Beauty Issue


Cristy’s focus at present is totally on intense training. “The summer is closing in so fast. I train 5-6 hours a day, eat and try to rest as much as possible so I can perform my next workout.” She admits that this schedule doesn’t leave a lot of time for fun, in the usual sense, but says she feels fortunate that several of her close friends from undergrad, who are also the girls she grew up showing cattle with, live and work relatively close by. As her focus narrows to Olympic tunnel vision, the media focus is shifting to Cristy herself and she was included in Sportnet Magazine’s “30 Most Beautiful Athletes on the Planet” in its March 12 issue. “I hope the photo helps bring some attention to rowing leading into the summer Games, because we have a very strong team on both the men and women’s sides, who deserve the coverage.” Having said that, she immediately restates where her full focus is at the present: Training for the Olympics!


“I try to make sure every decision I make at this stage puts rowing first so that when I’m sitting in the start gate of the Olympic final: I will have absolutely no regrets” – Cristy Nurse

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