By Elissa Maudlin
HANCOCK COUNTY — When Caden Nation saw Hadley the pig, he said he didn’t like her. She didn’t want to work with others, would hide in her pen and “didn’t like anybody.” Jillian Ulrey, Nation’s mom, said at one competition Hadley jumped the gate and ran down the aisle to get away from Nation.
However, when Madi Engleking met Hadley, the two instantly connected, Ulrey said, and Nation said the two were “a perfect match.”
“It was Madi’s pig,” Megan Engleking, Madi’s mom, said.
On June 19, Madi and Hadley competed in the Hancock County 4-H swine show. In an arena of mulch, 10 gates like bull pens opened one by one and welcomed pigs of different colors and looks into the center, followed by the competitors. Walking in a hunched-over position and with a fistbump from the judge, the competitors tapped the sides of their pig, navigating them while the judge walked around and watched. Nation said the judge looks for “basically everything and anything … ” including the presentation, how good their legs are, if they can set them right, top size and chest size.
At this competiton, Hadley didn’t jump the fence and run away. Instead, Madi and Hadley became the Gilt Grand Champion for the swine show. Before this competition, Madi had shown Hadley at the Showdown competition a week prior and also won.
She had never shown pigs before at 4-H until this year and her decision to show came while she was helping a pig give birth with Ulrey and pulling babies out.
“She was with me. I threw her in there and coached her how to do it,” Ulrey said. “And right then, she was like, ‘I want to show a pig.’”
When it came to training pigs, Ulrey said they start by giving them marshmellows to feed them as a treat. After that, they hand feed them, sit in the back of the pen so the pigs get used to them being around and rub the whip around them so they get used to it. Finally, they slowly walk down the aisles and walk all around the property.
Hadley came from a package deal from the Harveys, the breeders Ulrey and Nation use. They could get two pigs at a discounted rate and Ulrey said Hadley “was [her] baby,” and came to her first, flopped down and let Ulrey love on her. Hadley was 30 pounds and around two months old at the time.
Nation liked the other pig, a 10-pound pig Ulrey told him “he was crazy” for wanting, named Briley.
He said “a lot of work and special words” went into raising Hadley, including frustrated nights leaving the barn.
“She threw us for a loop, that’s for sure,” he said.
Madi never expected to get a bond with a pig, despite having made bonds with the cows she’s worked with.
“I thought pigs were just something people showed,” Madi said. “But they all have their great personality …”
She said a bond with an animal includes Hadley being super excited to see her, wanting to work for her and wanting to give her all 24/7, all the time.
Ulrey said Madi has a goal of showing every animal before her 10th year in 4-H and other animals she has shown include goats, cows and horses. As a future veteranarian, Madi said she wants to learn the most about all animals and how to do things before going to veteranarian school.
“When she puts her mind to something, she does it,” Megan said.
Megan and Ulrey have been friends for 10 years and were friends as kids while Ulrey also grew up around Madi’s dad through 4-H. When both Megan and Ulrey went through a divorce at the same time, Ulrey said “it drew [them] a different kind of bond,” and she views Madi as her own daughter.
“She’s blossomed and we’ve seen her grow into who she is,” Ulrey said.
Nation and Madi developed a friendship as children and Madi said they used to hang out all the time but grew apart slightly. When she decided to show pigs, their friendship reignited.
“[Nation] and I just clicked,” Madi said. “We became best friends again and now we’re super close.”
When Madi and Hadley won grand champion, Madi held the banner and Nation held the trophy for pictures, with Hadley at their feet and Ulrey attending to her. Ulrey said she asked Nation how he would feel if Madi and Hadley won with it being his 10th and last year in 4-H: he said he would be happy because it’s still a pig from his farm.
Nation also said Madi is a hard worker and has dedication, which he’s proud of.
Madi “always wants to be with her animal,” Megan said, and spends long hours at 4-H, where she started as a kindergartener.
“I absolute love these animals,” Madi said. “I love everything about them. I love working with them 24/7, they just have my whole heart.”